Henderson R1 Cup: We've finally made it

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After what seems like an enternity the first ever race of the inaugural Henderson Yamaha R1 Cup kicked off at Thruxton at the weekend in front of a huge British Superbike crowd. But best of all the sun even came out allowing us to thrash our R1s in anger in the dry for the first time.

It’s been a pretty damp and depressing start to the year for us. Our shakedown test at Croft at the end of March was wet and so was our qualifying session at the cancelled race on the Brands Hatch GP circuit.

The free practice and qualifying sessions at Thruxton were on a soaking track and so was our Sunday warm-up session.

I’ve never been to Thruxton before, but it’s a strange place in that the track surface is akin to Shellgrip and is as grippy as hell. It’s only right at the end of my wet practice session that I realised you can ride almost as hard in the wet as you can the dry – the difference between the wet and dry lap times of the leaders is just four seconds!

The sighting lap for the race was my first ever dry lap of the circuit and in the race I was learning every lap, knocking seconds off my lap times as I realised where I could go faster.

I set my fastest time on lap 13 of 14 and finished up in 17th place. I’ve fallen in love with this track, it’s so fast, especially the 140mph flick into Church corner; I was still buzzing off the adrenalin of it all long after I’d got home.

What an amzing experience, riding these bikes, on this track in front of a big crowd, sharing the grid with some very special riders.

Talking of which, it was Jon Kirkham who dominated qualifying and the race, winning by 6.569 seconds in front of ex-GP and British Superbike rider, Sean Emmett.

Next up was a superb battle for thrid between British Supersport and ex-BSB Cup rider, Marty Nutt, ex-British Superbike runner Gary Mason and ex-European 250 runner and current National Superstock runner Adrian Coates.

2006 Supermoto champ Sam Warren showed his class by qualifying on the front row in fourth place and rounding up the top six in the race; not bad for a new comer to road racing!

After the first round series organiser, Rob McElnea, said: “It’s fantastic to finally see the show on the road; it seems to have been a long time coming since the planning stage back in October.

“Jon Kirkham has been confident since he signed his form in the winter; he knew he’d be strong. A lot of the guys out there will be working out their set-ups now that they have had a chance to see how the bikes behave in the dry, it will give a chance for them to catch up the leading pack who have had some dry track time in other classes.

“So far the weather has been a nightmare, for a few of the grid today it is the first time they have ever ridden on slicks! It is definitely going to be a close championship, offering some thrilling racing.”

Jon Kirkham said: “I knew that I had to get a good start and get away ‘cause they’d be hunting me down. I could see what kind of gap I had as the laps went by but then the oil flag came out which slowed my times down a bit till I worked out where exactly the problem was.

“I’m pleased to take the first win, I think the bike is fantastic but a few tweaks with my set-up can make it even better, bring on the next one!”

Sean Emmett said: “What fantastic racing, I thoroughly enjoyed that race, the bike is superb, for a bike pretty much straight out the crate the performance is fantastic.
“All credit to Jon (Kirkham) who rode a great race, I know what kind of pace we can all carry at the front and am looking forward to the next one.”

Marty Nutt said: “That was good fun, good clean racing at a really competitive pace. The bike worked really well and the tyres felt good all race.

“It’s the first time we’ve ridden them on slicks and they are impressive bits of kit. I’m confident to stay up at the front end of the championship and obviously happy to be on the first podium.”

Thruxton Henderson Yamaha R1 Cup race result:

1. John Kirkham
2. Sean Emmett
3. Marty Nutt
4. Gary Mason
5. Adrian Coates
6. Sam Warren
7. Jack Kennedy
8. James Cox
9. Shannon Etheridge
10. Phil Bevan
11. Rod Lynn
12. Stu Wilson
13. Brendon Clarke
14. Robert Kennedy
15. Charlie Bishop
16. Paul Shoesmith
17. Michael Neeves
18. Joseph Symonds
19. Steven Cusick
20. Neal Garside
21. Kyle Kentish

DNF: Ben Wilson

Next round: Oulton Park 4/5 May.