Monday, October 15, 2007

BSB Brands: Lavilla Doubles, but Kiyo is King.

The final meeting of the British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch saw Airwaves Ducati's Spanish star Greg Lavilla take a hard-fought double win, but HM Plant Honda's Ryuichi Kiyonari did enough to wrap up his 2nd BSB title in a row.

Lavilla started the season in spectacular style, but suffered a drop-off in form after being run over at Oulton (quite a coincidence). Now that GSE Ducati have announced that they will not race in BSB next year, Lavilla had to advertise his services to other top teams. (GSE claim that the Ducati 1098RR's stock pistons are too dangerous to race, although I reckon they're just trying to avoid "Piston broke" jokes in the press). There's no better way to showcase your talents than to take your second double of the year at Brands, and Lavilla had laid down his marker by taking pole position on the grid.

Race One saw the HM Plant Hondas of Rea and Kiyonari make incredible starts, proving that when it comes to sheer talent, there's no substitute for a hundred grand's worth of electronics. Tom Sykes made his usual good start on the Stobart Vent-Axia Honda and slotted into 3rd in front of the Airwaves Ducatis of Lavilla and Haslam. The Spaniard was in a racy mood, and soon overtook Sykes for 3rd place. The young Stobart rider pushed hard to keep up, but lowsided out of the race. He was straight onto his feet, but the bike decided to bounce around a bit before coming to rest. Still not satisfied, the Honda then burst into flames, probably adding two zeroes to the damage bill. Sykes may have stopped smiling for a few seconds, but it's unlikely.

The safety car was brought out while the most expensive barbecue at the track was extinguished, closing up the gaps and getting Lavilla close to the Hondas in front. He picked off Kiyonari first, then gave Johnny Rea a fright as he shot past at Clearways. The Spaniard won by over 2 seconds from Rea. Finishing 3rd was enough for Kiyonari to win his 2nd BSB title on the trot, ending the hopes of both Rea and Leon Haslam, who finished 4th. Cal Crutchlow took 5th on the Rizla Suzuki ahead of Shakey Byrne, then came the crocked Chris Walker, who was moving like something from Night of the Living Dead after a bruising highside in practise.

Race Two was another barnstormer, with the HM Plant Hondas making exactly the same starts that they had in the first race, almost as if controlled by some kind of computer. Wierd. This time the Stobart Honda in 3rd was Shakey Byrne, followed by Lavilla and Sykes. Crutchlow was keen to improve his wage packet for next year, and he overtook Sykes, whose number 2 bike wasn't as hungry for fame as the other one. Lavilla was also on the move, taking 3rd from Shakey.

Privateer James Buckingham's Honda blew up and left a line of oil around Paddock Hill bend, dumping him in the gravel, followed by fellow privateer Gilbertson. With that corner being scary enough without oil, the race was red-flagged to allow marshals to clean up the spill.

The restart saw the HM Plant Hondas of Rea and Kiyonari shock nobody by making perfect starts just like the first two times. Shakey Byrne was immediately on the pace as he took 3rd, with Crutchlow 4th. Greg Lavilla was 5th, but wasn't hanging about, and soon overtook the Rizla Suzuki. In front of him, Byrne had taken 2nd and was hassling Johnny Rea for the lead. The pair slowed each other down, letting Lavilla sneak in and nick 2nd place before snatching the lead from Rea.

Shakey Byrne was in a fine 3rd place, and was still on the pace of the guys in front when he lost the rear down Paddock Hill, possibly having touched the line of cement dust. He lowsided and tumbled through the gravel trap, just yards from where he had highsided and landed on his noggin this time last year. He was battered and bruised, and staggered off with marshals holding him up.

Lavilla again led Johnny Rea over the line. Cal Crutchlow was promoted to 3rd by Byrne's crash, and clung on for his first BSB podium. Kiyonari wasn't pushing too hard and settled for 4th. Brands Hatch is a bit of a bogey track for Haslam The Younger, and he could only manage 5th, while Chris Walker had perked up after managing to plug his new book on live TV and took 6th place. Tom Sykes had to make do with 7th.

Kiyonari is a worthy champion for the second time. He might not say much, but he's staggeringly quick and has won more races than anybody else. What do you do with a Japanese rider who has proven he has what it takes to win championships, and is the only Japanese rider on the planet who can win on Michelins? Send him to Ten Kate in World Supers to race on Pirellis of course! It will be great to have him back on British tracks when WSBK comes to visit, and hopefully MotoGP in the future. Greg Lavilla has proven that he still has it, and should bag the World Superbike ride that he deserves.

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