The start of the 2012 British Superbike season also means a return for the support classes. The undercard produced some dramatic action and as it turned out, directly affected the main event itself.
Motorpoint British Supersport Championship
Sam Warren caught and passed Ben Wilson to take victory in the opening race of the season with Pauli Pekkanen in third but the Finnish rider's crash in race two would have major repercussions for the full programme. Pekkanen crashed at Clearways and subsequently remounted but his Triumph was dumping fuel on the already-slippery track. Race leader Wilson slid off at Surtees and after frantic gesticulations from his fellow riders, the race was red flagged.
After a lengthy clean-up operation, the race was restarted but as the riders plunged into Graham Hill bend, it became plainly obvious that the efforts had failed to improve grip levels. Wilson was the first to go down, wiping Billy McConnell. Four other riders slid helplessly on the greasy track and the red flags came out again this time for good. No more racing took place on the Monday afternoon. Jack Kennedy was declared the winner, although only half points were awarded, with Warren and McConnell joining him on the podium.
Metzeler National Superstock 1000
In just his second British Superstock 1000 race, Keith Farmer was victorious after taking advantage of John McGuinness' crash. Steve Brogan, back in the championship after two years in BSB, finished second for Buildbase BMW while Jason O'Halloran took it easy early on before coming through to third.
Farmer admitted the result surpassed his own expectations and gave particular thanks to his Paul Bird Motorsport team.
“That’s just the way we roll! I was hoping to get into the points at the first few rounds and get stronger as the year wore on so to be sitting here with a win at the first race is unbelievable. I got the perfect start from the sixth row and pushed as hard as I could, it was the only way you were going to make up places. I kept the shoulders wide and pushed on so a big thanks to Paul and the team, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime for me and this is just the perfect start.”
Metzeler National Superstock 600
This was another race to be punctuated by a red flag after Simon Napier crashed on the exit of Graham Hill bend. The Moto-Breakers Yamaha team sealed a 1-2-3 finish with 16 year old rookie Jake Dixon leading James Rose and James Lodge. Josh Wainwright (below) finished fourth and later admitted that “it was a relief to see the race end early!”
Monster Energy British Motostar
The first race in the new class which combines 125cc bikes with the new Moto3 machines was cancelled, having become one of the victims of the Supersport carnage. Last year's British 125GP Champion Kyle Ryde started as favourite promptly took pole by four tenths of a second from Bradley Ray. They will have to wait until Thruxton to kick off their challenge for real though.
Ducati 848 Challenge
The opening race of the season descended into chaos with six riders going down on lap one, four of them at Graham Hill bend. The safety car was called but it didn't appear to calm the riders down, as further mayhem ensued later on in the tricky conditions. Marty Nutt slid out at Paddock Hill bend and with oil dropped on the circuit, the race was halted. Mike Edwards was awarded his first win although he only got half points due to the early stoppage.
Race two was another dramatic affair with four leading riders going down at Clearways on lap one, Edwards among them. Byron Beckett took the lead before giving it away with a crash and the fight for victory eventually came down to the last corner when Robbie Brown made it past Woolsey Coulter, beating him by a tenth of a second. The 23 year old admitted he had to keep his head early on before stepping up his aggression at the end.
“The conditions out there were treacherous. I got a good start and looked to hold my position for the early parts of the race while others were falling all over the place. Once I got into my rhythm I felt I could push on, and that last lap was do-or-die for the win. It’s a good way to start the season.”
Triumph Triple Challenge
125GP stalwart Rob Guiver marked his debut in the Triumph Triple Challenge by winning race one on Sunday. The Essex rider led from start to finish with Tom Hayward four seconds back in second. The theme of red flags continued in Monday's second race when Kelvin Hoare suffered a heavy crash at Paddock Hill. Hayward was declared the winner in a race reduced to five laps with Chrissy Rouse and Tom Ward completing the top three.
Eastern Airways British Sidecar Championship
Roger Lovelock and Rick Lawrence left it until the final four laps before overtaking Ben and Tom Birchall in race one. Defending champion Tim Reeves, along with his partner Ashley Hawes, led early on but spun after being passed by the Birchalls, falling back to seventh.
After Monday's mayhem and the cancellation of the BSB and Motostar races, the sidecars did at least provide some entertainment for the fans with their second race going ahead. The Birchalls would be denied again, this time by Reeves and Hawes who atoned for their slip-up the day before.