MSS Kawasaki's Stuart Easton continued his impressive start to the 2011 British Superbike Championship after claiming two podium finishes at Oulton Park.
The Scotsman overtook pole man Michael Laverty five laps from the end of race one to claim the first top three finish for the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, just ahead of new championship leader Shane Byrne.
In race two, Easton looked well placed for his first BSB win in 12 months before a spectacular accident for 2nd placed Josh Brookes brought out the safety car. With the field closed up, John Hopkins capitalised to take his maiden BSB win, with Easton just 0.221s behind in second.
The Hawick rider was frustrated at losing a possible victory, but admitted things could have been much worse when Brookes' Suzuki flew in his direction.
“For us and Kawasaki that's two podiums and I led the second race for a long time, so I can't complain, but I'm just a bit disappointed that the pace car came out. Having said that I count myself lucky that Josh's bike didn't hit me, it was like a plane crashing over my head and was so close. We've had a fourth, sixth, third and second so far this season which has given the team so much confidence, we are really in the mix. Croft is a good circuit for me and I'm going there second in the championship (11 points behind Shane Byrne). ”
Teammate Gary Mason was left to rue a poor qualifying session which forced him to start race one from the fifth row of the grid. But the team made a breakthrough with the set-up of the ZX-10R, allowing the Lichfield rider to charge through the field to ninth.
In race two, Mason was unable to keep up with the leading group and fell back to tenth, but feels his improved performance will stand him in good stead when the series moves to Croft in two weeks time.
“Yesterday was hard for us and we didn't qualify well. Overnight we completely altered the bike for warm-up and found a setting that I absolutely loved and from that we have just got stronger and stronger. The pace was a lot faster in race two and I was trying to hang in there but unfortunately the tyre went off a cliff, but we can work with that and with this new setting I'm really looking forward to Croft.”
The Colchester based squad also continue to lead the National Superstock 1000 championship after Danny Buchan's second place finish. The youngster came within 0.042s of the perfect 18th birthday present after Tristan Palmer snatched victory on the final lap.
The Basildon rider was still pleased with the result, and leads the championship by four points over Palmer.
“That was a good race and I felt really comfortable out there but Tristan has a lot of experience and that counted for him today” Buchan admitted. “I knew I was faster than him through the last sector so I thought I'd have a go there on the last lap but he protected his line well and to be honest I was thinking about the championship. Last year we had a few early non-scores and it affected our championship – two podiums in two races is a tremendous start to the 2011 season.”
Buchan's lead came at the expense of his teammate Howie Mainwaring, who crashed out of the lead on lap 11, leaving him 34 points off the championship lead.
“I'm pretty gutted, as a team we had everything covered, first and second place, before my crash. I don't think I did anything differently to the last lap but the rear let go and came round on me. Croft isn't usually a good circuit for me but I'm going to make it one this year!” he added.
Easton and Buchan will both look to continue their sparkling early season form at the Croft circuit when round three of the British Superbike and Superstock 1000 championships take place on May 15th.