Jake Dixon and the RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki team’s hopes of winning the 2018 Bennetts British Superbike Championship were dealt a cruel blow at Assen on Sunday when a mechanical issue forced them to retire from the second race at the Dutch circuit.
Having taken a strong second place in the opening race, they were well placed to reduce the gap to Championship leader Leon Haslam in the second before the aforementioned problem and with their Kawasaki rival winning both races, they now find themselves 61 points adrift in the title race with just 75 more points available.
The meeting had been going well with Jake fast throughout the weekend, despite suffering with a cold, and he claimed a brilliant pole position in qualifying for Sunday’s opening 18-lap race with a lap of 1m35.639s around the 2.82-mile Dutch circuit and it put him in confident mood for race day.
With perfect conditions again on Sunday, a strong start saw him grab the holeshot to lead although by the end of the lap he’d been pushed back to second by Tarran Mackenzie. From this moment on, the race became a four-way fight for supremacy with Jake, Mackenzie, Haslam and Peter Hickman contesting the race win.
No more than a second ever covered the quartet with Jake running in second up until half race distance when Haslam pushed him back to third. Hickman then got the better of him on the penultimate lap and although he made a mistake soon after, allowing Jake to claim third once more, he was running out of time to get to the front once more.
He quickly got past Mackenzie though and with his fastest lap of the race coming on the 18th and final lap he closed right in to Haslam only to agonisingly lose out by the miniscule margin of 0.086s on the run to the chequered flag.
Starting the second race from fourth on the grid, the 22-year old immediately slotted into second place behind Hickman and with Haslam back in sixth, he was keen to push home his advantage. Hickman continued to lead the way with Jake never more than half a second behind him but just after half race distance his race came to an end as he was forced to slow and ultimately retire to the pits.
Jake Dixon: “I felt really comfortable in the first race and was just biding my time behind Leon before making my move in the closing laps but when Hicky came by me it pushed me wide and I lost a lot of ground. I was a bit annoyed but he was riding his own race and I would probably have done the same but it left me with a lot of work to do and not much time to do it. I pushed as hard as I could, as seen by my fastest lap of the race coming right at the very end, but ultimately I just fell short which obviously allowed Leon to add five more points to his lead.”
“I was feeling good for the second race and keen to make amends but sadly it didn’t work out that way. I tried my hardest all weekend so when your all doesn’t seem to be good enough it makes it harder to deal with but it will also make me stronger. This weekend didn’t end the way we wanted it to but I’ll go to the final round with the same grit and determination as always and look to finish the season in the best way possible.”
Lee Hardy: “It’s gutting for today to have ended like it did and whilst we know these things can happen in racing, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. We’re only a relatively small team and everyone’s put in a fantastic effort all year long so it means a lot to all of us to have been fighting for the Championship all year long. It’s not over yet but the mechanical issue that forced us out of race two has hit us hard and a 61-point gap is a huge deficit to try and pull back at the final round.”
“All we can do is regroup and keep doing the job we’ve been doing all season. We’ll approach the meeting as we have done all the other eleven rounds and although the title look’s to be a long way out of our reach now, we’ll go to Brands and look to end the season with some good results and in the best fashion possible.”
The final round, where three races are on the schedule, takes place at Brands Hatch on October 12-14.
Pictures by Tim Keeton – Impact Images Photography
Bennetts British Superbike Championship race one (18 laps)
1 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
2 Jake Dixon (RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki)
3 Tarran Mackenzie (Yamaha)
4 Peter Hickman (BMW)
5 Glenn Irwin (Ducati)
6 Tommy Bridewell (Ducati)
Bennetts British Superbike Championship race two (18 laps)
1 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
2 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
3 Peter Hickman (BMW)
4 Glenn Irwin (Ducati)
5 Richard Cooper (Suzuki)
6 Andrew Irwin (Ducati)
DNF Jake Dixon (RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki)
Championship standings (after eleven rounds)
1 Haslam 654pts
2 Dixon 593
3 Brookes 557
4 Irwin 554
5 Hickman 549
6 Ray 533