Niall Mackenzie Column - Sep 2005

Young guns having fun

Posted: 1 September 2005
by Niall Mackenzie

Niall Mackenzie Column

With Jonathan Rea qualifying on the front row for the third race in succession the Celts are on a roll at the moment. Fellow countryman Michael Laverty hopped onto the rostrum at Knockhill after storming through to third place in race one. Two weeks later he consolidated his arrival in BSB with a stonking second place in race two at Snetterton. I'm pleased for Paul Bird's Stobart Honda Team, as things looked bleak earlier in the season.

Michael earned my 'Bennetts Rider of the Day Award' at Knockhill and on receiving the champagne quipped, "I can't believe I've won this - I'm not even on a Suzuki". How could he think I would ever be biased? Actually, young James Buckingham was also in the running on the Quay Garage Suzuki. He's one of the best privateers in the series, doing a brilliant job and it's not going unnoticed.

Back to the Celts, and the star of the 125 British Championship this year is 16-year-old Kev Coghlan from Perth. A first place at the season opener at Brands Hatch followed by a second at Thruxton then a broken leg while testing a week later meant he sampled all the highs and lows of racing in a very short space of time. There seems no stopping him though, as he bounced back with another victory on home soil at Knockhill but then chucked it away at Snetterton again fighting for the lead. It was only a few years ago when I first met Kev at a cold and wet Red Bull Rookies try-out day at Mallory Park. That day he struggled, mainly because he was so small his fingers could hardly reach the levers. Kev is on his way to great things and I hope he can soon become Scotland's answer to Jonathan Rea.

Smart move

The split with Scott Smart and the Rizla Suzuki Team was in everyone's best interests. Since his departure some people have been quite vocal in criticising me and the team for being unable to provide him with a competitive package. I have to disagree. The GSX-R1000 K5 is dominating superbike championships elsewhere in the world, and with the same level of support available to Rizla Suzuki there is no reason why it can't do the same in BSB. Apart from the absence of Paul Denning very little has changed within the team from past years when we were winning races - and championships. With JR breaking his leg there was probably more pressure on Scott to deliver results but we all believed he could get the job done. Scott wasn't gelling with the bike or the way our team works so with Suzuki and sponsors expecting results a decision had to be made. I was pleased when the Vivaldi Kawasaki team signed Scott immediately, putting him back on a bike he had much success on last year. I'm sure this young, forward-thinking team will benefit immensely from Scott's hands on-method and his experience with the ZX-10R Kawasaki. I wish him all the best.

Feelin' good

As with the other three MSV-owned circuits, Snetterton is now much smarter and much friendlier. Jonathan Palmer has convinced his staff to take pride in their work, so the feel-good factor there is very much in evidence. But feeling good didn't stop Michael Rutter, Ryuichi Kiyonari, Gregorio Lavilla, Leon Haslam, Karl Harris, Jonathan Rea, James Haydon and Glen Richards sampling the improved run-off and kitty litter. I'm sure this was partly due to a desire to take home a glowing report card before the summer break.

Snetterton, with only two long straights and a few corners at each end, has only one proper left-hand turn, and the left side of your tyre struggles to get up to temperature. Word in the paddock was that Michelin built a tyre with qualifying rubber on the left side to solve this problem. How things have moved on from when the trick solution was a few cuts with a Stanley knife to get the temperature up! Anyway, no one suffered any major injuries so the troops will be back and fully fit at Silverstone on 21 August. Can't wait.

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