The RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki team got their 2018 Bennetts British Superbike Championship season up and running at Donington Park over the Easter weekend and although poor weather conditions threatened to ruin proceedings, Jake Dixon was able to score some valuable points with 11th and 12th place finishes.
After wet weather affected Saturday’s free practice sessions, Easter Sunday dawned dry but with very cold temperatures and a fall early in the final practice session at Starkey’s put Jake and the team on the back foot with qualifying taking place immediately afterwards. Nevertheless, the team did a superb job to get him back out on track and despite missing the majority of the session, the 22-year old qualified in 11th place for the first race of the season which was held later in the afternoon.
A slightly sluggish opening lap, later traced to a problem with the clutch, left him down in 17th place and with plenty of work to do but by lap four he was running inside the points having moved up to 14th. Race conditions were again far from ideal but the Ashby resident continued to chip away throughout the 18-lap race and was rewarded for his efforts with 11th at the chequered flag and five hard-earned points.
It meant he started Easter Monday’s race in tenth place and in the middle of the fourth grid where he was eager to improve upon the previous day’s result. Heavy rain looked like the race may fall foul to the weather but the track was drying when the race got underway and by half race distance, Jake had moved forward well and was lying in sixth position. However, trying hard to close in on the battle for fourth, he made a slight mistake and ran straight on at the Melbourne Loop and with only a handful of laps to go, he could only claim 12th at the chequered flag although the nine points from the two races could prove to be valuable come season’s end.
Team-mate Jordan Weaving was also in action in the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 Championship where he was riding the Briggs Equipment Kawasaki for the second successive year. With three races on the schedule, it was a busy opening round for the South African and eighth place in qualifying was a good start to proceedings prior to Easter Sunday’s two 15-lap races. However, he was denied points when he crashed out at the Old Hairpin in the first race which meant he was unable to start the second and a lack of grip in Easter Monday’s race kept him down in 16th place..
Jake Dixon: “Both of the results stemmed from the tip-off I had at Starkey’s in the third free practice session on Sunday morning and with only three laps in qualifying, I was playing catch-up from that moment on. I had a clutch issue in the first race which left me with no engine braking and back in 12th place whilst Monday was looking a lot better when I’d moved up into sixth place. It was difficult overtaking as it meant you had to go off line to do it and I ended up running straight on at the Melbourne Loop whilst chasing Danny Buchan and Shane Byrne. I got back up to 12th so whilst nine points from the two races is far from ideal, I’m in one piece and we can go again at Brands.”
Lee Hardy, Team Owner: “The weather this weekend has certainly made it a challenging few days for everyone and Jake’s crash in the final free practice session when he got caught out by a cold tyre, made it that little bit harder. The team did a great job in rebuilding the bike to get him out in qualifying and although a clutch issue in the race saw him slip back initially, he regrouped well to bring the bike home for a half decent result. Obviously, Jake doesn’t want to finish 11th but a lot of people have crashed this weekend so it was almost a case of damage limitation.”
“Monday saw sketchy conditions which required a lot of concentration and discipline and the dry line was very narrow but Jake moved steadily forward and had good grip, something which we haven’t always had in the wet. He was pushing hard to close the gap to fifth and unfortunately ran off the track and back down the order so nine points probably doesn’t reflect our true form or pace.”
“Jordan qualified really well and was happy with how the bike was working but experienced a problem with the brakes in an identical manner to what happened at Donington here last year. It caused him to crash but we changed the discs for Monday’s race although he encountered both a lack of grip and confidence. The bike was set up the same as it had been on Saturday but he just missed out on points although, on a positive note, he had a good feeling in the dry which bodes well for the rest of the season. It could have been worse this weekend but we feel we’ve made good progress and will get our heads down at Brands to make sure both riders come away with a good haul of points.”
The next round of both championships takes place at Brands Hatch, Kent on April 13-15.
Pictures by Tim Keeton – Impact Images
Bennetts British Superbike Championship Points (after round one)
1 Bradley Ray (Suzuki) 50pts
2 Shane Byrne (Ducati) 31
3 Dan Linfoot (Honda) 29
4 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki) 27
5 Luke Mossey (Kawasaki) 19
6 Glenn Irwin (Ducati) 19
13 Jake Dixon (RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki) 9
Pirelli National Superstock 1000 Championship Points (after round one)
1 Billy McConnell (Suzuki) 41pts
2 Keith Farmer (BMW) 37
3 Joe Collier (Aprilia) 31
4 Josh Elliott (Kawasaki) 29
5 Andrew Reid (Aprilia) 25
6 Michael Rutter (BMW) 20
Jordan Weaving (Briggs Equipment Kawasaki) 0
Jake leads Richard Cooper in race one.
Jordan was out of luck at the opening round.