Sunday, October 01, 2006

BSB Brands Hatch: Kiyo is Champion

Race 1
Leon Haslam started from pole, and was leading the race from Shakey Byrne and Ryuichi Kiyonari when rain started to fall and the race was red flagged. Haslam was visibly annoyed at this, as he needed the win to keep his title hopes alive.
When the race restarted, Haslam and Kiyonari were battling it out at the front. The other title contender, Gregorio Lavilla, had a heavy side by side contact with Kiyo's teammate Karl Harris. Lavilla did not realise that the collision had damaged his brake lever, and when he went for the brakes there was nothing there. It was a hair-raising moment for the Spaniard, who was forced to lay the bike down and hop off on one of the fastest parts of the circuit, destroying his championship hopes.
Kiyonari overtook Haslam as rain started to fall again, and the young Englishman seemed content to wait for an opportunity in the late stages of the race. However, further back, Shakey Byrne was on the exit of the steep Paddock Hill Bend when he barely touched his back wheel onto the rain-soaked white line at the edge of the circuit. The bike highsided violently, hurling the former MotoGP star into the air. As Shakey tumbled and rolled to a halt and lay motionless on the tarmac, the organizers had no option but to immediately throw the red flag. He was heavily concussed, but will make a full recovery.
Haslam was distraught, as he was denied the chance to re-pass Kiyonari, who took the victory. This left 2nd-placed Haslam with a mountain to climb to win the title.
Race 2
Haslam had no option but to win the race, while a 3rd place or better would seal the title for Kiyonari.
It was the Japanese Honda rider who took charge of the race at first. The typically English weather was now glorious sunshine and heavy rain at the same time. However, Kiyo had a big moment, losing the front and running very wide, allowing Haslam through into the lead.
Haslam put in a series of fast laps to dominate the field. Meanwhile, Lavilla's day turned into a nightmare when gearbox failure put him out of the race. Kiyonari was content to settle for 2nd place, while fellow Honda riders Rea and Harris beat each other up for the last step of the podium.
The red flag came out for the 3rd time when a backmarker crashed heavily. Haslam had won the race, but the title went to Ryuichi Kiyonari.
Kiyonari deserved the title, he is clearly a wickedly fast rider on his day.
Haslam was unlucky, but all of the top 3 had their fair share of bad luck across the year and these things do even themselves out. A couple of memorable wins towards the end of the season have cemented Haslam's reputation.
Reigning champion Gregorio Lavilla was in the title race right to the end, and it was only horrible luck that relegated him to 3rd place in the standings.
This was Honda's first British Superbike title for 20 years, although admittedly they did not enter the championship for 14 of those years, concentrating on the World Superbike series. They are looking to extend their involvement in BSB next year.
Ducati took the manufacturers title, thanks to having 2 title contenders. Their 999 is an awesome machine, and looks stunning in the black livery adopted in the last 2 meetings.
It has been an excellent year of racing. Congratulations to Kiyo, HM Plant Honda and Airwaves Ducati on their victories.

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