Qualifying took place on Friday evening as the light started to fade due to a rain-affected schedule. Forced to miss free practice with starting issues, Kenny Gilbertson (AOR/Boast Plumbing) was immediately on the pace and would eventually go on to set the pole lap with a time of 1:34:76, with Mike Edwards (MSKWorks.com) less than a tenth second behind, and Morris completing the front row.
With his trademark start, Morris got off the line first and led the field up Coppice with Edwards, Gilbertson, Darren Fry (Buildbase/JHP Ducati) and Robbie Brown (Ducati Manchester) giving chase, but both Edwards and Gilbertson passed Morris going into Mansfield, relegating the Championship leader to third place at the end of lap 1. Further back the Italian rider Andrea Padovani (Mercedes Vito Sport/Ducati UK) clipped the wheel of Clinton De Tarnowsky (Ohlins P&H Motorcycles) through the new chicane on lap two, forcing both riders out. Gilbertson was right on the tail of Edwards, and on lap three put in a hard pass on the way into Charlie’s to take the lead and quickly opened up a gap of 1.5 seconds. In the later stages of the race Edwards started to close the gap, making up nearly a second the final three laps but it was Gilbertson who took the race win, his third of the season, with Edwards and Morris taking the remaining podium places.
Gilbertson was elated to get back on the top step, “We had a fantastic race at a circuit I know I can go quick at. After the troubles we had in free practice it’s a perfect way to put those behind us.”
Again it was Morris who got into Coppice first, followed by Edwards and Fry who got a great start from the second row. Gilbertson lost two places as Brown tucked in behind Fry, while Jamie Poole (Moto Rapido) and Mark Cheetham (Shorrocks Motorcycles) followed close behind. Aiming for his first race win, Edwards quickly took the lead on the approach to Park, as the front seven bikes started to open a gap, but in the same corner on lap 2 Morris restored the lead. Brown eased himself up to third on lap 3 as he passed Fry on Park Straight, and Fry was to lose yet another place at Chris Curve as Gilbertson came past. The front five rode in close formation to thrill the capacity crowd until lap 5 when Edwards again tucked himself up the inside braking into Park to take the lead. As the race drew on, Brown started to pick up the pace, and on lap 8 passed both Morris at Park then Edwards at Mansfield, capitalizing on the Harrogate rider’s unfortunate false neutral. And so the front five were to finish the race in those positions, Brown taking only his second win of the season ahead of Edwards who for much of the race looked odds-on to get that first victory, and Morris settling for the vital Championship points for third.
Commenting after the race Brown said, “The race today was a dream come true. We made some drastic changes after yesterday and as the race went on the bike felt better and better so I pushed on and got the win. A great reward for the whole team.”
The Rapid Solicitors Ducati 848 Challenge now heads to Castle Combe on September 3rd for what could be a title-deciding round. With a lead of 42 points, and only 100 up for grabs, Morris looks to be favourite but the demanding Wiltshire circuit might yet mix things up.
Race 1 Result: 1. Gilbertson, 2. Edwards, 3. Morris, 4. R Brown, 5. Poole, 6. Cheetham, 7. A Brown, 8. Connolly, 9. Keen, 10. Jordan, 11. Holden, 12. Poyser, 13. Cope, DNF: Poll, Hopkins, Andrew, Dry, De Tarnowsky, Padovani
Race 2 Result: 1. R Brown, 2. Edwards, 3. Morris, 4. 5. Gilbertson, 6. Fry, 7. Poole, 8. Cheetham, 9. Connolly, 10. A Brown, 11. Jordan, 12. Holden, 13. Poyser, 14. Keen, 15. Padovani, 16. De Tarnowsky, 17. Poll, DNF: Andrew, Cope
Championship standings (Top 10): 1. Morris (243pts), 2. Edwards (201), 3. R Brown (182), Gilbertson (180), Fry (150), Poole (86), A Brown (75), Holden (69), Hopkins (62), Cheetham (58)
Remaining rounds: Castle Combe (3 Sept), Silverstone GP (24/25/26 Sept)