Team Suzuki Press Office – June 27.
Gino Rea: GSX-R1000R (SBK Class) – 11-13-11th
Danny Kent: GSX-R1000R (SBK Class) – DNF-14-DNF
Tim Neave: GSX-R1000R (Superstock Class) – 5th
It was a tricky opening round to the 2021 Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Oulton Park, though valuable lessons were learned and there were positives to take away for Buildbase Suzuki’s Gino Rea and Danny Kent, while Tim Neave got his season off to a solid start after finishing fifth in the National Superstock 1000 race.
Despite a strong and productive pre-season for the two GSX-R1000R Superbike-mounted riders, Oulton Park was always going to be a challenge for Rea and Kent due to their combined lack of experience at the taxing Cheshire circuit, especially for Moto3 World Champion Kent.
Rea chalked up three point-scoring finishes, twice finishing 11th and once in 13th, but the results don’t tell the whole story, as setup changes saw a big improvement in his pace from race one to race three.
Kent carded a 14th place finish, but crashed out of races one and three, unhurt. However, he too leaves Oulton Park with more experience and more knowledge, and a clear area of focus: Not enough engine braking meant difficulties stopping the bike when grip levels dropped, resulting in the need to trail-brake deeper into turns, risking a crash.
In a competitive National Superstock 1000 class Neave scored solid championship points to start his 2021 campaign. Circulating in the group behind the leaders, he took fifth place.
“The weekend had its ups and downs but the results don’t tell the full story. We struggled with the bike over race distance: once the rear tyre dropped off it was just so physical to ride and to hang on to. We made a big change to the bike overnight from Saturday to Sunday and we improved our pace in warm up and finished P2 on the times. But that was a 10-minute session, low fuel load. Once we had a full tank for Sunday’s first race we really struggled and I was feeling a bit down at that point, it felt like when we changed something and improved somewhere we’d find a problem somewhere else.
“We made another big change for the final race to compensate – we changed spring rates and ride height – and improved our pace massively. I was in the group battling for sixth but got stuck behind [Kyle] Ryde and couldn’t get by and I was just losing a tenth or two a lap to that group, but I think if I was with them I could have stuck with them.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and if we had the bike we had in race three in race one we’d have had a better weekend. But we knew this weekend would be difficult, there are positives to take and we’re going away feeling happier after the changes we made. We know there’s potential there.”
“In a way it’s been a productive weekend. I learned a lot more about riding a Superbike, and we know exactly where we need to work. I’ve never really had to worry about engine braking before and adjusting it. It’s not something I had to on other bikes I’ve ridden in the past. And during testing when the team asked me about it and if it was okay I said it was. But in a race situation we struggled. It was fine with a new tyre and when I had the grip, but once the grip dropped off I struggled to get the bike stopped and had to trail brake a lot, and we crashed twice.
“We’re not coming away disappointed. Our one lap pace was respectable given my lack of experience at Oulton Park and we’ve definitely got positives to take. I also rode the bike in the wet for the first time and finished the session P5 and felt really comfortable to the point I was hoping the races would be wet. So while the crashes weren’t ideal we hadn’t set ourselves unrealistic targets and we know where to work for Knockhill.”
“It would have been nice to have been further up, we had good pace over one lap, just struggled to put 14 together in the race. But I’m not too disappointed, we got some good points on the board, and I improved my lap time, I just dropped off in the closing stages. I had a bit of arm pump – but that’s not much of an excuse – and I was just riding a bit tight. We could just do with improving the setup to get a bit more front end feel in the faster corners. I’m looking forward to Knockhill though: I like it there, we had a good test there and put together a good race run, so we’ll go again there.”