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The Netherlands and South Africa, 23/09/2015, BMW Motorrad Race Trophy

BSB podium in Assen

“Title Showdown” in the Netherlands, finale in South Africa

More news of the week at a glance: The “Title Showdown” in the British Superbike Championship (BSB) began with a podium for BMW rider Michael Laverty: he finished third on his Tyco BMW S 1000 RR in Assen. Meanwhile, the final round of the South African SuperGP Champions Trophy (RSA SBK) was held in South Africa.

First BSB podium of the season for Laverty

The “Title Showdown” in the 2015 British Superbike Championship began with a trip to Assen in the Netherlands. A BMW rider had good cause for celebration in the “Cathedral of Speed”: Michael Laverty claimed his first podium finish of the season on his Tyco BMW S 1000 RR. The Brit, who won in the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup in Assen back in 2002, came home third in the first of the two races.

Laverty was in good spirits after qualifying on Saturday. His RR had been fitted with a new swing arm for Assen, and he immediately felt very comfortable on his bike in free practice. Fourth place on the grid put him in a good starting position for Sunday’s races. In race one, he benefitted from a bold, but correct, tyre selection. Unlike the majority of the field, Laverty opted for the harder rear tyre. This proved to be beneficial on the abrasive surface at the “TT Circuit”. As his rivals began to struggle with tyre wear in the second half of the race, the Tyco BMW rider was able to start moving through the field. On lap 13, he climbed from fifth to third – a position he defended brilliantly through to the finish.

“It was a good race for me; we made a bit of a gamble and went for the harder rear tyre, while everyone else seemed to be on the soft. We knew we would struggle to hang on in the early laps, but towards the end of the race it started to come back,” said Laverty. “It was nice to get my first podium of the season just as the Showdown starts and it's all down to the Tyco BMW team. I said after the last round that there was something quite not right with my motorbike, so they've built me a new bike this weekend and from the first laps of FP1 it was finally a motorbike I knew I could race.”

In total, four BMW riders crossed the finish line in the top ten in race one in Assen. The second best-placed RR rider behind Laverty was Richard Cooper (Buildbase BMW Motorrad), who finished sixth. Tommy Bridewell was eighth on the second Tyco BMW S 1000 RR, followed by Peter Hickman (RAF Reserves BMW) in ninth. Billy McConnell (Smiths Racing BMW) and Lee Jackson (Buildbase BMW Motorrad) also finished in the points, in 11th and 12th places respectively. Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW) skidded off the track on the final lap and failed to finish.

Weather chaos ahead of second BSB race

The typically unpredictable Assen weather reared its ugly head in perfect time for the start of race two. The race had already been delayed, as the track needed cleaning, but the weather played havoc just as the BSB riders took to the grid for the second race. While the vast majority of the sky above the Assen region was bright blue, a black raincloud took up residence exactly above the “TT Circuit” and promptly started to spit. The start was delayed for safety reasons, while the race stewards waited to see how the weather would develop. It looked set to remain dry, but the rain started to pour down just as the riders started their warm-up lap. The red flag was waved immediately, and everyone returned to the pit lane.

When the race finally got underway, one hour later than scheduled, it did so as a “Wet Race” and was reduced to 15 laps. The conditions were far from easy, as parts of the track were still wet. As intermediate or wet-weather tyres degrade dramatically as soon as the rough surface starts to dry out, most riders opted for slicks. Bridewell led the BMW contingent in the early stages. He had climbed into fifth place by the end of the opening lap. However, Bridewell suffered a big highsider on lap five and ended up in the gravel bed. “That’s what can happen in racing in those tricky conditions, and the boys in the garage are as disappointed as I am,” said Bridewell. “We still have five races left to show what we are capable of and, as I said on the run up to Assen, anything less than podiums are not good enough at this stage of the year.“

Following Bridewell’s crash, Cooper took up the pursuit of another podium for the RR. At one point he climbed as high as second place, but eventually crossed the finish line fourth to claim his best result on the Buildbase RR. Meanwhile, Laverty set about launching a fightback after a poor start. He was initially reluctant to take too many risks in the tricky conditions and then left the track when he got a false neutral. After the first lap, he found himself down in 16th place. However, he was able to work his way into ninth by the end of the race. Hickman and Jessopp also picked up points, ending an eventful race in 13th and 15th places respectively.

In the “Title Showdown”, Laverty is fourth with 523 points after the races in Assen – 80 points behind championship leader Josh Brookes. Bridewell is fifth with 515 points.

Season finale in South Africa

The seventh and final round of the South African SuperGP Champions Trophy took place in South Africa last weekend. The venue for the final was the Dezzi Raceway in Port Shepstone, on the Indian Ocean – a racetrack that was new territory to all the riders and teams. Lance Isaacs was the only BMW representative in the field this time. He finished sixth in both races on his Black Swan Energy BMW S 1000 RR.

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