MCN's Michael Neeves in Henderson R1 Cup - Round one Brands Hatch
As you know, last weekend’s British Superbike round at Brands Hatch was cancelled due to the snow.
I’ve never seen Brands under four inches of snow before, let alone in the spring, and it was a big disappointment for all the teams, fans and riders alike. It also meant that the first ever Henderson R1 Cup race will have to wait until the next British Superbike round at Thruxton in two weekend’s time.
It’s a miracle that the R1 Cup motorcycles even made it onto the track for Saturday free practice and qualify as the Yamaha truck carrying the bikes was involved in a pile-up on the M25 en-route to Brands Hatch.
All the bikes were damaged and the R1 Cup mechanics, who will keep the bikes in tip-top condition throughout the year, burned the midnight oil to get all the bikes fixed in time for Saturday morning, when the likes of Sean Emmett, Gary Mason, Adrian Coates....and me, turned up to ride.
Saturday’s 25-minute free practice session was the first time we got to ride the bikes in the dry, as our test session at Croft was wet. It rained later in the day for qualifying, so as it stands, that’s all the riding we’ve actually done in the dry.
Despite the lack of dry time the pace was immediately hot, which highlights the sheer quality of the riders battling for the title.
Superstock runner Jon Kirkham set the pace with a 1:30.54, with Superstock runner and ex-European 250 champ Adrian Coates, Supersport charger Marty Nutt and ex-British Superbike rider Ben Wilson rounding up the top five. I finished up 15th fastest.
The heavens opened for qualifying and with control Metzeler wet tyres fitted everyone had to go for it in the freezing, slippery conditions.
Sean Emmett rode his Yamaha R1 like it was dry and scorched to a pole position time of 1:37.342, followed by Jon Kirkham (1:38.059), road racing rookie and British Supermoto champion Sam Warren (1:38.977), Gary Mason (1:39.000) and Jack Kennedy (1:39.095). Team MCN qualified in 14th with a 1:44.622.
With the live televised race cancelled these qualifying positions will count for the reschedule race at the Brands Hatch GP circuit on May 10-11.
R1 Cup boss Rob McElnea said: "My guys have worked so hard to get the show on the road, they have had to repair every bike ahead of today after the crash, it's a credit to them all.
“Practice and qualifying has already thrown up a few surprises, Sam Warren has put in a notable performance today, proving that no rider can rest on their laurels.
“We are looking forward to some great racing from the Henderson Yamaha R1 Cup this season, the series receives fantastic support from Henderson Insurance Services and the rest of our partners, now it's time to showcase the depth of this exciting new series."
Hopefully the weather will be kind to us for the next round (which is officially now ‘Round 1) on April 19-20 at Thruxton. See you there!