Tough battles at Brands in the 848 Challenge

The racing was close at Brands, with one race on the Indy circuit and one on the GP

The unique prospect of racing on both the Indy and GP circuits at Brands Hatch meant that Round 5 of the Rapid Solicitors Ducati 848 Challenge was very much a tale of two halves. Having already raced the Indy circuit earlier in the season, the first part of the weekend was going to be reminiscent of previous rounds, while the switch to the GP circuit would favour those few who had previous race experience on the longer track.

A full schedule on the opening day of the round saw Mike Edwards (MSKWorks.com) top the qualifying table to claim his first pole position of the season with a storming 48.86 sec lap, despite a low-side reminder of how slippery Druids can be in early morning free practice. He would start Race 1 on the front row with Kenny Gilbertson (AOR/Boast Plumbing), a resurgent Darren Fry (Buildbase/JHP Racing), and Robbie Brown (DMC Racing). Keeping a low profile, Championship leader Leon Morris (Buildbase/JHP Racing) could only manage a second row start, with Dan Hopkins (Havoc Racing), Mark Cheetham (Shorrocks Motorcycles) and Jamie Poole (Moto Rapido) alongside him.

From pole it was Edwards who lead the bikes down Paddock Hill and through Druids, and he would lead the race until Gilbertson made a move on lap 3. By now the leading pack of Edwards, Gilbertson, Brown, Morris, and Fry had opened up a 1.5 second gap over Cheetham as the rest of the field started to spread out. Edwards retook the lead on lap 6 as he and Gilbertson started to pull away from the chasing pack. Further down the field Hopkins and Poole had got themselves into a four way battle with Cheetham and Aaron Brown (Ladybirds Ducati), soon to be joined by Steve Jordan (Team Global Robots) and Ricky Holden (Holden Racing). At 2/3rds distance, Gilbertson again took the lead and would hold off the increasing pressure from Edwards, including a last lap lunge at Surtees, to take the chequered flag. Edwards crossed the line for second, and the battle for the last podium place saw Morris pip Brown by .5 sec.

A switch to the 2.4-mile GP circuit meant a brief free practice session on day two, and then the long build-up to Race 2 on the final day. With the fastest lap time from Race 1, Brown took pole position with Edwards, Morris, and Fry completing the front row. Having got the best of the starts, Morris set about his strategy to kill off the race in the first two laps and had all but done that with a 1.5 sec lead over Brown at the end of the second lap. The race was to lose paddock favourite Cheetham on lap three with a massive highside on the way out of Sheene Curve, but otherwise the race was to remain largely incident free. Making great progress on his Ducati this season, Hopkins rode his way through four places to get himself into sixth, and having got a dreadful start, Poole made his way through from the very back of the field to eleventh. Morris eventually took the race win in commanding style with a gap of 3.5 secs over the chasing Edwards and Brown.

Commenting after the race, Morris said “We had a quite Race 1, more about getting the Championship points really, but in Race 2 I knew I could go well on the bigger circuit so just went for it on the opening laps with new tyres on. It was great that it paid off.”

Morris now takes an extended 50pt lead into Round 6 at Cadwell Park BSB on 25/26/27 August, and with only three rounds remaining must be confident of his Championship chances.

Race 1 Result: Gilbertson, Edwards, Morris, Brown, Fry, Hopkins, Poole, Cheetham, A brown, Jordan, Holden, Wilson, Skipper, De Tarnowsky, Connolly, Hasler, Poyser, Pearce, Keen

Race 2 Result: Morris, Edwards, Brown, Fry, Gilbertson, Hopkins, Jordan, Holden, Brown, Wilson, Pool, De Tarnowsky, Pearce, Poyser, Connolly, Cruickshank, Hasler, Keen

Championship Standings: Morris 211pts, Edwards 161, R Brown 144, Gilbertson 142, Fry 139, Poole 65, Hopkins 62, A Brown 59, Holden 59, Jordan 41, Cheetham 39, Northover 38, Poll 38, Connolly 31, Poyser 28, De Tarnowsky 21, Ivanov 17, Hasler 17, Keen 16, Skipper 16, Cruickshank 10, Wilson 10, Hoyles 8, Langford 7, Cope 7, Linsdell 5, Pearce 4, Walker 2

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