It proved to be a challenging weekend at Oulton Park for reigning BSB champions Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki with Glenn Irwin taking a best finish of 22nd and Ben Currie missing the races due to injury.
The weekend got off to the worst possible start in the opening free practice session on Saturday morning when Ben crashed heavily at Shell Oils Corner resulting in multiple breaks in his left foot as well as damage to the knee ligaments in the same leg.
That left Glenn and James Hillier to fly the flag in the two Superbike races, the latter continuing his preparations ahead of the international road racing season, but Glenn also found the going tough and qualified for Monday’s opening race in 24th place with James five places further back in 29th.
Race day at the Cheshire venue dawned cool and wet but by the time the riders came to the line for the 17-lap race at 1.30pm, the sun was shining and the circuit was completely dry. Glenn made a good start immediately making up two places, which set the trend for the next few laps, and by lap five he was in 16th and on the edge of the points.
Unfortunately, just when it looked like he’d move up into the top 15, he was cruelly forced to retire at half-race distance. James, the sole rider left from the team, finished in a good 20th place.
Starting the second race from the more advanced position of 17th, Glenn made a good showing in the early stages of the race to put himself in contention for the points but on the eighth lap, he overshot the Hizzy’s chicane which dropped him all the way back to 27th and in close company with James.
Undeterred, he carried on pushing all the way to the end and, although 22nd wasn’t the ideal result for either him or the team, it was vital to get a full race distance under his belt in order to make further progress with the Kawasaki ZX-10RR. Hillier went on to take 26th place.
Glenn said: “Although on paper the results don’t show it, I was happier on the bike than I’ve been all year, so I feel like we’ve made some good progress in the two races today.
“It had been wrecking my head not being able to pinpoint the problem, but now I know where the issues lie: with the braking and the chassis, and what we need to do to fix them. I enjoyed riding the bike again today and hopefully, my season will get started properly at Donington.”
Ben added: “I’m so disappointed to have got injured so early in the season and the weekend. I really was looking forward to riding the bike at Oulton Park and was feeling strong in the short time I was out there.
“I’m sorry to the team and all my sponsors but I will be working hard to move things forward and do everything I can to get back out on track as soon as possible.”
The meeting also saw the opening round of the Molson Group British Sidecar Championship where former champions Ricky Stevens/Ryan Charlwood were joined by new teammates Ben Holland/Lee Watson.
The duo qualified in third and eighth respectively but unfortunately, they were both forced out of the 12-lap race early on in proceedings.
Ricky said: “We’d had a really good weekend and qualified in P3 so we were feeling confident but unfortunately when it came to the race the bike developed an issue on the out lap.
“We made adjustments on the start line and visually everything looked good but once we got going, we realised the issue with the clutch was still there and it became too dangerous to carry on.
“Obviously we’re disappointed but there were a lot of positives to take away from the weekend so we’re looking forward to the season starting properly at Brands Hatch in Round 2.”
Ben said: “We had such a great start to the weekend, qualifying in P8, which was better than expected, owing to my collar bone injury, but then we suffered an electrical misfire during the race and had to retire.
“We’re absolutely gutted but it’s just one of those things. We now need to regroup and hopefully, both teams will have better luck in Round 2.”
Team Manager Jack Valentine said it was another tough weekend: “We’ve made a lot of changes; we’ve used the weekend as a test session, and we made progress in both the races today.
“We made some slight changes for race two from the opening race, but we weren’t where we wanted to be on the grid and Glenn had a lot of work to do to get through the pack. Unfortunately, Glenn made a couple of mistakes trying hard, but he kept his head and didn’t give up, he stayed out there and got his best time of the weekend.
“Glenn is gaining in confidence again. He was making some good clean passes in race two and we know what we need to work on to move forwards for Donington and get back on the map.
“It was disappointing that Ben got hurt so early in the weekend. He was riding well, and we wish him all the very best for a speedy recovery and hope to see him back on the bike soon.”