Tommy Hill takes a slender two points advantage over Australian Josh Brookes into the triple race eighth round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch with the former two-time winner of the crown Ryuichi Kiyonari in close contention.
These races come at a crucial time of the campaign with all of the riders focussed on scoring strong points in their efforts to be in the top six in the overall standings after the following round at Cadwell Park and while the leading trio are seemingly well placed to progress to the shoot-out for the title, they cannot afford any slips.
The points scoring system, introduced this season, is achieving the intended effect of concentrating the action, and ensuring the title fight goes down to the last race, although that is piling the pressure onto the riders who have to ensure consistent form, something that is not lost on Hill.
“We know that we need to get back to winning ways as although the focus is on the top six, the podium credits are vital and extra points at this, my home round, could mean the difference between winning or losing the title,” said Worx Crescent Suzuki rider Hill, who is back to form after a tough couple of rounds.
“We needed podiums last time out at Snetterton after two disappointing rounds before that and that is what we did with three podium finishes. It is a good feeling to go into these Brands Hatch races leading the standings, but Josh and Kiyo showed that Honda will be up there too, and you can’t rule anybody out,” added Hill.
He had last weekend off, but the HM Plant Honda duo of Brookes and Kiyonari were in World Superbike action at Silverstone gaining more experience and information that could be vital to them when they race in the penultimate round of BSB there in September.
Both are now fully focussed on strong performances to move ahead of Hill and keep their title hopes firmly on track as Brookes, who raced on the Grand Prix Circuit in World Supersport action in 2008, explained.
“I want to be winning and I missed out on taking all three victories in the previous round at Snetterton, so hopefully we can put that right this time,” Brookes said. “I have always had good feelings of this circuit and I think that puts you in a good position ahead of the races.”
Brookes will be pressed all of the way by Kiyonari who knows what is expected of him.
“It is important for the championship that we have three good races as we need to get on the podium as many times as possible before the Showdown,” Kiyonari said. “I know what we need to do so I will be working hard with the team to get the results for the championship.”
The leading trio will be hard pressed throughout, with their rivals eager to secure points, and placings in the top six, with the Michael Laverty and his Relentless Suzuki team-mate Alastair Seeley riding strongly, as are Michael Rutter aboard the RidersMotorcycles.com Ducati and John Laverty on the Buildbase Kawasaki.
Piling on the pressure will be strong front running challenges from the Swan Honda duo of Stuart Easton and James Ellison who are both keen to put their title bids back on course after problematic times.
“I am going out there to win races. Mathematically, it is still possible for me to get into the top six, but I am not going out at Brands Hatch thinking about points and positions, my attitude is simply that I am going out there to win, doing my best as ever,” said Ellison.
Adding further spice to the action is the return to BSB action for the weekend by popular Yorkshireman Tom Sykes aboard the factory World Superbike Kawasaki while in the chase for the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO title BMW riding Steve Brogan aims to extend five points advantage over Hudson Kennaugh.
Also at Brands Hatch, MotoGP star Alvaro Bautista will be joined by twice British Superbike Champion John Reynolds to give demonstration laps aboard Suzuki MotoGP bikes while Leon Haslam and Sylvain Guintoli will be fast lapping aboard their World Superbike machines as Suzuki celebrate 50 years of racing and the 25th anniversary of the GSX-R.