The final round of the 2019 Bennetts British Superbike Championship this weekend (18th to 20th October) ended in a frustrating fashion for Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki as neither Héctor Barberá or Ben Currie were unable to add to their points tally.
Practice and qualifying at the Kent venue saw a variety of conditions with the damp weather seeing Currie excel, setting the quickest time on the Kawasaki ZX-10RR in the third free practice session on Saturday morning.
However, by the time qualifying took place a few hours later, the 2.43-mile Grand Prix circuit was dry all the way round with lap times almost ten seconds quicker and a time of 1m 27.402s put the Australian in 14th place with team-mate Barberá back in 27th as he again found the undulating circuit tough to master.
The first of the three races took place later that afternoon although the initial start was red-flagged after seven laps due to a three-bike crash. The re-start, held over 12 laps, saw Ben run inside the points for much of the race but in the closing stages he was pushed back and he crossed the line in 16th place with Héctor claiming 20th.
The duo were both looking to improve in Sunday’s races but the first 20-lap encounter ended early for Ben as he was forced to retire at the end of the first lap, and while Héctor improved his personal best lap, he also improved his position as he crossed the line in 19th place.
Sunday’s third and final race of the weekend and season, saw former MotoGP rider Barberá make further improvements but he agonisingly missed out on the points in 16th while Currie was again forced to retire, this time on the 12th lap when his knee slider took off which severely limited him on the bike.
Héctor said: “It was a difficult weekend but every time I went out, I was learning and each time I was able to take a big chunk of time off.
“At some circuits it’s very important to have the experience as they are very difficult to learn and Brand Hatch GP is a good example! I’ve had some big crashes and nasty injuries and I wanted to finish the season well.
“Sorry we didn’t get the results this weekend but thank you to Pete for this opportunity in the British Championship and the fans for welcoming me so well. I think it’s necessary in BSB to learn the tracks and have the knowledge and experience.”
Ben added: “It’s been such a bad end to the season. We were going so well in practice and I even managed to top the time sheets. I thought we would end the season with our best results of the year so far, but it just wasn’t meant to be here.
“I had a mechanical problem in the first two races then another problem in the final race and I’m just gutted we couldn’t end it well.
“I know the boys should be very proud with what we have achieved; it’s not been easy, but they have all worked so hard and I’d like to thank them for that. I wish them all the best for the future.”
Team Manager Jack Valentine said it’s been the end of a very frustrating year.
““I’ve had some tough years in my time,” explained Jack, “but this is probably one of the hardest to take. Our best position has been sixth place and that was back in May; it’s just been frustrating.
“The team have worked as hard as ever, as if we were leading the championship, and I can’t fault them. We choose to go with a rider who was third last year in the championship and an up-and-coming rider from Supersport with Ben; that was the best combination we could put together.
“It just didn’t work out this year; we tried everything, but it just wasn’t to be. I hope if we can come back next year we can improve and prove a point but that depends on the sponsors and getting the right rider.”
The meeting also saw the final two rounds of the Molson Group British Sidecar Championship but the opening race spelt disappointment for the team as both Ricky Stevens/Ryan Charlwood and Ben Holland/Lee Watson were forced to retire.
Unfortunately, the pairing didn’t fare any better in Sunday’s race with Holland/Watson unable to start and former champions Stevens/Charlwood going out early on in proceedings. The latter ended the year eighth in the overall standings with Holland in 15th.
Ricky said: “It’s been one of the most challenging seasons of our career to date and this round was no different. We felt confident going into race one on Saturday and everything was going well until the engine misfired and we had to retire with one lap to go!
“In race two we had to line up at the back of the grid but unfortunately we never actually made it that far as we suffered engine failure on the out lap and were unable to compete! To say we are devastated is an understatement but to be honest this weekend sums up the luck we’ve endured all year.
“It’s going to be a long winter, but we’ll come back stronger and more determined than ever next year!”
Ben added: “We enjoyed our strongest free practice and qualifying to date finishing second in free practice one and fourth in qualifying despite the tricky weather conditions.
“The first race was going well and we were well inside the top ten but we were forced to retire early owing to engine failure; a lack of engines meant we were unable to make the grid for race two.
“We’re feeling thoroughly despondent, but we’ll pick ourselves up, start preparations for 2020 and hope to be in a much better position this time next year!”