In spite of the treacherous conditions it was a day to remember for Tommy Bridewell and Peter Hickman as they both scored debut wins in the British Superbike class at a sodden Cadwell Park.
|Bridewell dedicated his win to brother Ollie
Photo: MCE BSB.com
Bridewell timed his move to the front to perfection in a damp race one as he led Shane Byrne across the line by 0.005secs on the tenth lap, only for the red flags to come out moments later as the rain started worsening.
Meanwhile Hickman showed a consummate level of cool to ease home ahead of a steady Byrne by 3.3 seconds in the second affair, which saw just 15 riders finish in awful conditions.
A poignant note was struck in the aftermath of each race as firstly a tearful Bridewell dedicated his maiden win to brother Ollie before the podium ceremony. Just hours later Hickman said, “This one’s for Simon,” referring to Simon Andrews, who started 2014 with the RAF Reserves Honda squad before his untimely death at the North West 200.
Although he failed to stand on the top step of the podium on both occasions, Shane Byrne came away from Lincolnshire with an increased championship lead thanks to two second places. Title challengers Josh Brookes and Ryuichi Kiyonari both endured a difficult day – the Australian scored a single fourth place before crashing out on the warm up lap just hours later, while Kiyonari didn’t finish either race.
It was left to Chris Walker to take his third podium of the season in race one, while Bridewell backed up his first win with a distant third place in the second.
The first race started under grey skies and rain fell intermittently around the back of the 2.1 mile circuit in the early stages. The lead group rode cautiously as Byrne, unwilling to risk everything at the front, led a group of nine riders in the first half of the race.
Having declared himself confident with his race set up the day before, Kiyonari made his way from fourth to second in short order and was poised to snatch the lead on lap six before engine issues forced him out on Park Straight.
A lap later Bridewell briefly took his turn at the front while team-mate Brookes, starting from tenth on the grid, carved his way through the pack to sit fourth, behind Walker. A tightly packed group of Josh Waters, Jon Kirkham, Hickman and Dan Linfoot followed.
The decisive moment came at the close of lap ten. As Byrne exited the final turn he hit a neutral, allowing Bridewell to draft past to the line. By the time the leaders approached Park Corner marshals were showing red flags as the rain worsened.
Their warning didn’t come soon enough as Brookes, Hickman and Linfoot ran off track with Kirkham and Waters both falling. Although the Australian was heavily winded he made the line for race two.
|Hickman was a popular winner of race two
Photo: MCE BSB.com
Results were therefore declared from the end of lap ten, giving Bridewell his first win by the narrowest of margins. “It’s fantastic to get the win,” he said, holding back the tears. “It’s hard as I pushed so much and put so much effort in. On the bad days I ask myself, ‘what am I doing?’ But to get the win is great. What I’m emotional about is that I can dedicate my first win to my brother.”
Byrne was full of support for Bridewell but couldn’t hide his annoyance at having made a mistake at a crucial time. “It’s tough for me to take on the chin,” he said. “I led most of the laps, ‘Kiyo’ had his problem and it started to get sketchy. I put my hand up for the fist time and then hit a neutral at the last corner.”
Behind Walker, Brookes got fourth. Race direction counted back a lap for the final results, giving Waters a richly deserved fifth ahead of Hickman, Linfoot and Kirkham.
The rain continued to fall throughout the afternoon, meaning race two started in atrocious conditions. And the drama started as early as the warm-up lap. Caught out by the poor grip and visibility, Brookes slid off at slow speed ascending The Mountain. He was unhurt and his bike undamaged, but current rules dictate riders can’t rejoin once they have fallen. The Milwaukee Yamaha man made the restart but was subsequently black-flagged.
Hickman got away with Byrne when the lights eventually went out and Bridewell and Linfoot slotted in behind. Kiyonari was in determined mood to make amends for the first race DNF and he jumped to the final podium spot, having set the fastest lap of the race at the third attempt.
His progress, however, would end there as he high-sided on the exit of the Hairpin on lap five, leaving Hickman and Byrne in the clear. “A little bit too much exciting – too much open gas,” he said after the race.
At first Byrne seemed content to consolidate his championship lead and let Hickman ease clear before slashing the lead to several tenths on lap eight. But by the twelfth lap the Staffordshire rider had 2.2 seconds in hand.
“The pace wasn’t a great deal different but the willingness to push was,” said a philosophical Byrne afterwards. “Josh had a black flag, Kiyo went out and I thought second isn’t bad. He [Hickman] got a bit of a gap at turn one and he rode great.”
Hickman was lost for words after clocking his maiden triumph in his 185th race in the class. “It couldn’t have been in a better place. We were top seven all weekend. Sixth was good in race one but I felt we had more in us. To get a podium is a massive thing, to win one is unbelievable!”
Bridwell confirmed his place in the ‘Showdown’ with a solid third place and Gary Mason scored a monumental fourth place, ahead of Josh Waters. Another returnee, Glen Richards, came home seventh, a place behind Kirkham.
The results leave Byrne 96 points clear of Brookes in second, while Bridewell’s fine day saw him close to within 19 points of Kiyonari in third. Dan Linfoot’s seventh and eleventh places all but guarantee his ‘Showdown’ place with the Quattro Plant Kawasaki man needing just six points at Donington Park to be totally sure. Chris Walker remains sixth overall.
To see the full results of both races click here.