When you’ve got two or more equally matched racers, the deciding of a title can come down to so many things – a little mistake, your choice of tyre, or even a little help from lady luck herself.
This weekend three Golden Era titles were up for grabs at Donington, as Thundersport prepared for an epic season finale in the shadow of Storm Brian.
With a win a piece at Oulton Park, 18 points still separated Ritchie Thornton and Ryan Strafford heading into the final round. Qualifying saw Ryan back in 6th place with his rival at the front of the pack, but after Thornton’s Kawasaki suffered gearbox issues and relegated him to 4th in the opening race, Ryan was able to take advantage as he took 2nd place. However, in Race Two his rival was able to undo the damage as he took a win, with Ryan taking 3rd. The weather on Sunday drenched the track, and although it had started to dry ahead of Race Three, black clouds loomed. Thornton gambled on slicks, while Ryan went for a ContiRaceAttack Rain front and ContiSportAttack 3 rear to act as an intermediate. Things were going well until a clear dry line began to appear, and suddenly Thornton was able to cut his way through the pack to take the win. The gamble earned him 2nd place, but with that the RS Racing championship dream was officially over, although it didn’t stop Ryan from having one last hurrah on the already sold RC-51 SP2 as he won the final race of the season, earning him our ‘Rider of the Meeting’ award. After failing to finish the opening race, some consistent results helped his teammate Andrew Meachen to secure 6th in the championship in his maiden race season.
Things were even tighter in the Golden Era Supersport class, with RAP Racing’s Richie Harrison in scintillating form this year of the team’s R6. An ultra-competitive opening race saw Richie take 6th, behind fellow Continental rider Ian Lawton who went on to take the first of four 2nd placed finishes on his Newsham Motorcycles backed Yamaha. Disaster struck in Race Two, as Richie lost the back end while clinging to the rear wheel of Robert Goodall. Both riders went down, putting an end to the latter’s race weekend. Continental newcomer Andrew Batner would go on to take his first ever podium, as he capitalised to take 3rd, and Liam Vella broke into the top ten on the first of three occasions that weekend. Overnight repairs were made to the RAP bike, and with a broken hand and loaded up on pain killers, Richie soldiered on with the lure of the title too much to ignore. A 4th place in the penultimate race ensured that things came down to the final contest, and as things would eventually transpire, the final corner. Richie would lose out on the title by just 0.226s as he battled all race long with Luke MacRae, the pair trading blows lap after lap in an exciting dogfight.
Dave Langley gave himself an outside chance of Golden Era Steelsport glory with victory at Oulton, but Jon Wright was still odds on for the title. Despite putting his Tyres 4 Bikes backed Honda on the front of the grid, Dave finished second in the opening race as Wright worked his way through the pack. Two further 2nd places followed, and a 3rd in the final race of the season. Jon may have secured the title, but even he couldn’t match Dave’s season long run of podium finishes – thirty four in total, including three race victories.
Army teammates Jason Markham and Ryan Redman were both looking to cap off a very successful season, each securing three podium finishes in the Stocktwin class at Donington. With two 2nd places and a win, Ryan may have got the better of Jason on the day, but with three third places and a consistent record all year long, Markham secured a very well deserved 3rd in the championship despite missing a round due to Classic TT commitments. Tom Collinge is another rider who has missed a round or two this season, as the Yorkshireman made his Oliver’s Mount debut. However, in the Sportsman 600 finale he would take a hard fought 3rd in the opening race, along with two further top six finishes.
Last but not least, it’s the turn of the ever competitive Pre-National Sport 600 class, where packed grids make for some very exciting racing. Coming off the back of a great win at Oulton, Alun Brooks from Welshpool qualified in 7th place but fought his way to the head of the pack in Race One, setting a fastest lap in the process as he took an impressive victory. Alun followed it up with a repeat performance later that day, but a difficult first race on Sunday saw him drop to 9th. However, he more than made up for it in the final race as he led from the front to make it three wins from four, securing 3rd in the championship. Rich Baker also joined him in the top ten, but a difficult weekend for Jeremy Watson saw him fail to make the grid for the last race. Texas native AJ McDaniel also secured 3rd in the Freshman class on his RS Racing Honda, an excellent result in his first season.
We’d like to congratulate everyone involved in the Thundersport paddock this season including the volunteer orange army – it has been a fantastic year!
We’ll be back in 2018, and we’re already counting down the minutes…
Photo credits to Ian Boldy Superbike Photography.
You can find out more about the Continental race tyre range here.