Bradley Ray has admitted he didn’t expect to clinch his debut Bennetts British Superbike victory in today’s opening race of the year at Donington Park.
The 20-year-old took the lead from Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha’s James Ellison on the sixth lap and didn’t look back despite attacks from the Cumbrian and six-time champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne.
The first race of the year kicked off almost 24 hours ahead of schedule after race bosses brought it forward in light of weather warnings for Easter Monday. While cold track temperatures had caused issues in the earlier qualifying session, an improvement in conditions led to the track being warmest it’d been all weekend.
After missing out on the win by 0.1 seconds when clinching his debut podium at Oulton Park last year, Ray’s first BSB victory was surely on the cards in 2018 but even the Buildbase Suzuki rider himself says he was shocked to achieve it so early in the season.
“From qualifying and from the practice pace we had, I knew we could run the pace of the top five but I did not expect to lead a race from the third or fourth lap in to the end of the race and win in,” he confessed.
“The last two laps I was thinking ‘this is real now, we’ve got to try and concentrate and get the job done’ and I did make a few mistakes getting a bit excited but honestly I can’t thank the team enough for the effort they put in through the winter and getting the bike set up and changing the areas that I struggled a lot last year, so I’m hoping we can be up with the front boys for the rest of the year and be challenging for podiums more often.
“The bit that got me, the second to last lap I came round with +1.2 and I thought ‘if I can keep this pace to the last lap we should be okay’ and I came round onto the last lap and I had +0 and I heard a bike behind me and I thought ‘oh no’ but I tried to keep my cool through the whole race, and I had a big moment out of the Foggy Esses on the last lap and I thought ‘oh no’ and I could hear a bike coming up the inside so I braked as late as I could and just went straight to the apex and stopped the bike, and the coming out I heard a different bike, I heard a Ducati, and I thought ‘I know exactly who that is’ so I just went straight to the apex again for the last corner, stopped it and just fired it out and hoped it would be enough and luckily it was. It was just an unbelievable feeling to cross the line first, and to lead that many laps with a fairly good pace was quite good and an eye-opener for us and the team.”