Sep 19, 2011
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HOPKINS AND HILL LEAD SHOWDOWN SCRAP FOR SUPREMACY
John Hopkins defends a slender three points advantage over Tommy Hill as they power into the penultimate Showdown round in the battle for the MCE Insurance British Superbike crown at Silverstone this weekend.
The two critical races at the Northamptonshire circuit will be vital for the six Title Fighters ahead of the final three races at Brands Hatch as the pressure mounts to become the 2011 champion.
Samsung Crescent Suzuki's Hopkins took the lead in the Showdown with a double win at Donington Park despite suffering intense pain from finger injuries and believes he will be back to full fitness for these crucial races. He has undergone further surgery back home in California between races to stabilise the finger crushed in a crash while competing as a wild-card rider in the Brno round of MotoGP.
Hopkins said: "I could feel straightaway that the finger was much stronger and it has improved every day since. I am not very confident that I will be able to ride at near-enough 100% at Silverstone." The American has already raced at Silverstone, gaining useful data and an insight into the circuit during the recent World Superbike meeting for which he gained the pole position start.
Swan Yamaha's Tommy Hill is just three points adrift of his American rival ahead of this weekend and admits he is not too concerned that Hopkins has already raced this season at Silverstone and prefers to concentrate on his own performances.
"We know that John will be strong there, but so will we," said Hill. "For me every race is important. I don't think too much about the championship, rather trying to enjoy each race by race. I had two good results at Donington in the Showdown opener but unfortunately for me John won both of them to leave me three points down. Some say at this point it is better to be second and chasing the leader down as that puts the pressure on him. The boys have been working hard on my bike. These are races everyone wants to win and hopefully we can and then crack on for the final."
Pushing them hard in a determined effort to close the 25 points deficit will be HM Plant Honda's former double champion Shane 'Shakey' Byrne. He arrives at Silverstone determined to return to the podium to close the advantage in the standings after a tangle with Michael Laverty during the second race of the Showdown at Donington Park saw him lose ground. That incident also left Swan Yamaha's Laverty now with an uphill task among the Title Fighters, a further 11 points down on Byrne and only two clear of Relentless Suzuki's Josh Brookes while the reigning champion Ryuichi Kiyonari is sixth overall and 50 points down on Hopkins.
Laverty though believes he now has nothing to lose: "I am looking forward to Silverstone, obviously what happened at Donington Park wasn't what we needed but it is just one of those things and we can't dwell on it. I am approaching Silverstone the same way I did for Donington Park and now I think there is less pressure on me as I lost points at the last round. If anything I need to be less cautious as I just need to go for it as I don't have an advantage to defend. I have to win every race and the pressure is on the leading three as they now have more to lose. I feel relaxed going to Silverstone; we have proved we have the pace so I will be fighting all the way for Swan Yamaha."
Whilst the Title Fighters have the championship crown in their sights there will be a pack of other riders keen to prove a point as they aim for seventh place in the final standings, and with it the Riders' Cup. Jon Kirkham riding the second Samsung Crescent Suzuki will be strong following his podium finish at Donington Park as will the Rapid Solicitors Bathams Ducati duo of Martin Jessopp and Michael Rutter, who is bidding for a return after suffering broken ribs from a crash at Cadwell Park.
In the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class Glen Richards expects to take another step towards securing that title though he will be hard pressed in the races to head off his WFR Honda team-mate Graeme Gowland who took the double at Donington Park.
MCE INSURANCE BRITISH SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS GOING INTO SILVERSTONE
1 John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki) 568
2 Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) 565
3 Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda) 543
4 Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) 532
5 Josh Brookes (Relentless Suzuki by TAS) 530
6 Ryuichi Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda) 518
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More, from a press release issued by Swan Yamaha:
SWAN YAMAHA SET FOR SILVERSTONE TITLE FIGHT BACK
The Swan Yamaha team are preparing for the penultimate round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship Showdown as Tommy Hill and Michael Laverty target victories this weekend (23-25 September) as the title fight reaches Silverstone.
Hill took a double podium finish at the first Showdown round at Donington Park and currently lies just three points adrift of John Hopkins who leads the standings with five races still remaining. Laverty meanwhile is aiming to close the deficit as he sits fourth overall, 36 points behind the championship leader. He had taken a strong second place in the opening race of the Showdown but finished fourteenth in race two following a clash on the opening lap that saw him crash and then rejoin with a determined ride.
Hill said: "I am ready for Silverstone and the next two races; coming from a consistent last round at Donington Park I want to go better again this weekend. The points and two podiums were important there for the championship but at this point of the season we need to be winning and staying ahead of the other Title Fighters. We need to find a little bit extra for Silverstone, but we know from the World Superbike round that the Yamahas had a good pace there, so hopefully we can replicate that when we kick things off with free practice. Again, it doesn't worry me that other teams have been to Silverstone already, as we know we have a good starting point and we will only improve before the races. It is important now that we step up the game again and move forward to try and takes those two wins. If anything finishing second at the last round has made me even hungrier for wins at Silverstone."
Laverty said: "I am looking forward to Silverstone, obviously what happened at Donington Park wasn't what we needed but we know that the Swan Yamaha has potential for strong results at Silverstone. I like the circuit and what has already happened in the Showdown is now behind us as it is just one of those things and we can't dwell on it. Hopkins has a bit of a head start after competing there earlier in the season at the World Superbike event, but I am sure it won't take us long to get up to speed. I am approaching Silverstone the same way I did for Donington Park and now I think there is less pressure on me. If anything I need to be less cautious as I just need to go for it as I don't have an advantage to defend. I have to win every race and the pressure is on the leading three as they now have more to lose. I feel relaxed going to Silverstone; we have proved we have the pace and the potential so I will be fighting all the way for the Swan Yamaha team."
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More, from a press release issued by Honda:
MCE INSURANCE BRITISH SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP
ROUND 11 SUNDAY 25 SEPTEMBER SILVERSTONE
MUST WIN RACES FOR BOTH BYRNE AND KIYONARI AS SHOWDOWN CONTINUES
Ryuichi Kiyonari and his HM Plant Honda team-mate
Shane Byrne power into the penultimate round of
the chase for the 2011 MCE Insurance British
Superbike crown at Silverstone knowing that they
need race winning performances to stay in contention.
Both riders are on the back-foot after a
problematic start to the seven race, three round
Showdown sequence that decides the outcome of the
country's premier crown. Byrne, twice the winner
of the title prior to graduating onto the World
scene in MotoGP and Superbikes, is the better
placed of the two after the Donington Park action earlier in the month.
At the Leicestershire circuit he took a hard
earned fourth place, and then after tumbling in a
first corner first lap tangle with fellow
"title-fighter" Michael Laverty as they duelled
for the lead Byrne managed to re-join the action
at the back of the pack, carving through in a
brilliant damage limitation ride to finish in eighth place.
Even with those heroics, Byrne is 25 points down
on the series leading Suzuki rider John Hopkins
who opened a three point advantage over Yamaha's
Tommy Hill as he took his first winning double in
the series and that despite the pain from fingers
on his right hand which were dislocated and
broken in a tumble the previous month.
With five races to go the final round at Brands
Hatch next month hosts three there are 125
points at stake and Byrne is fired up for the
challenge of getting back into the mix to take
the title for third time to match the record of
his team-mate Kiyonari and former Grand Prix rider Niall Mackenzie.
Kiyonari meanwhile has an uphill task. Currently
placed sixth among the half a dozen
"title-fighters," he is already a massive 50
points down on Hopkins in the standings and
cannot afford a repeat of the problems he encountered at Donington Park.
He pulled off at half distance in the first of
those races, reporting engine problems, with the
team changing the engine in his bike ahead of the
second race, and later examining it fully back at
their base. Kiyonari, whose immediate targets in
the standings are Suzuki's Josh Brookes and
Yamaha's Laverty, made good use of that in the
opening stages of the race, running third, but
then dropping back to finish in sixth as he
experienced front end vibration issues.
That puts the pressure on to him, and to Byrne to
a lesser extent, as they go into these races on
the Northamptonshire Grand Prix circuit on which
their main rival, Hopkins, has amassed useful
data and know-how with his "wild-card" appearance
there in World Superbikes in July when he claimed Superpole start.
However in the chase for the "back to basics"
BSB-EVO class title, Honda riders are in the driving seat.
Aussie Glen Richards, riding for the WFR Honda
team is edging ever closer to adding that crown
to his title successes in previous years in both
Supersport and Superstock. His team-mate Graeme
Gowland, recovered from the arm injuries that
spoiled the first half of his season, is up to
second place in the standings having won seven of the last eight races.
Quotes from Honda riders ahead of the Silverstone round:
Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda): "I am looking
forward to Silverstone. Basically this weekend we
are taking everything we have learnt so far this
season and condensing it so that we can start in
a stronger position. The team have been working
hard since Donington Park to see what else we can
try, but we have a few changes to refine in
practice and then we will be focused on the races
and doing everything we can to be back on the podium again."
Ryuichi Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda): "The title
will not be easy to win now, but I have not given
up as anything can still happen as we did at
Donington with my team-mate Shane and Michael
Laverty. That first round of the Showdown was
disappointing as I did not score any points in
the first race and so now at Silverstone we have
to try and catch up points to be in a better
position for the final round. The problems we are
having are not easy to solve, but I still think
it is possible to fight with the other Title
Fighters. I will be trying to be back on the podium as I want to win."
More, from a press release issued by Samsung Crescent Suzuki:
HOPKINS TAKES CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD TO SILVERSTONE BSB
The Samsung Crescent Racing team head to Silverstone this weekend, with the lead in both the British Superbike Championship and BSB Riders' Cup to defend. John Hopkins reports his hand injury is vastly improved after further corrective surgery, while team-mate Jon Kirkham is looking forward to capturing further podiums to add to his season's tally.
Jack Valentine, team manager: "We're certainly ready for this next penultimate round. The last round Donington Park was the best round of the year so far for us and both riders have certainly hit their top form at just the right time in the championship.
"Hopper's been very vigilant as to the condition of his injured hand and with further surgery last week he's confident he's in the best condition to face this weekend's racing. JK meanwhile will be ordering 'more of the same' as the form he's enjoyed since Cadwell Park has made hi m a real headache for the other Title Fighters. He's doing everything a team-mate should in support of a championship contender. I couldn't ask for more.
"As well, the team is as prepared as it can be. We know Silverstone well after our WSB wild card appearance there earlier this year. We took from that a lap-record-beating set-up that is also strong for the full 14-laps of a BSB race. It's a high speed circuit so we've been working on the engine to find a few more horsepower ideal for those long straights.
"It's going to be a testing weekend, though. We're not complacent and we know we need to be there at the end of every race, ideally at the top of the podium."