Motorcycle Racing Online
Ryuichi Kiyonari takes double win at Croft BSB
By Dan Moakes
August 12 2007

© Raceline Photography

HM Plant Honda riders had secured eleven race victories in the season to date, as the British Superbike series arrived at Croft for round ten. Experienced Ryuichi Kiyonari had the better of the equation, with seven wins and a sixteen-point lead over team-mate Jonathan Rea, and now he returned to a circuit where’d he been successful twice before. Would Rea turn the tables?

Croft is a fast but technical venue, calling for the widest range of virtues from the motorcycles, and skills from the riders. Except, as a former airfield, the course is one without noticeable gradient. It was not a case of the battle for out-and-out speed between Honda and Ducati here as, for the first time in 2007, a Suzuki rider qualified on the front row of the grid. That meant a best yet performance for Rizla rookie rider Cal Crutchlow, as he in fact secured pole position with the GSX-R1000.

There was a margin of only 0.4s between the eight fastest riders, with Honda, Ducati and Yamaha also in that group. The Honda FireBlade men still managed to occupy more than their fair share of the leading positions, with six of the top eleven. Rea and Kiyonari were in there, of course, second and seventh respectively. Stobart riders Tom Sykes and Shane Byrne joined them, with the younger man fourth, and Byrne in P11 after two qualifying crashes.

Bike Animal Honda (Leon Camier, eighth) and Hydrex Honda (Karl Harris, tenth) were the other representatives, ranged against the other marques. Championship challengers Leon Haslam and Gregorio Lavilla had their Airwaves Ducatis in the mix, with Leon third. Gregorio would still be riding with pain killers, and would start sixth. Tommy Hill was fifth for Virgin Yamaha, his best since round two; Chris Walker was ninth for Rizla Suzuki, and Michael Rutter followed Harris and Byrne on the first Kawasaki, complete with a new engine.

The start of race one went well for Honda, with Rea leading, ‘Kiyo’ third and Sykes fourth. Crutchlow on the Suzuki was relegated from second when Kiyo passed him at the Complex, a left-right sequence before the final Hairpin corner. Lavilla was fifth, from Walker, Hill, Haslam, Camier, Simon Andrews, Byrne, Rutter and Harris. Gregorio was looking to restart his season, after a recent lean spell, and was setting fast times and soon going by Sykes, on the inside into the left-hand Hairpin.

The first five seemed to be getting clear of the rest, Rea from Kiyo, Crutchlow, Lavilla and Sykes; but that changed when Haslam became the first man with a 1min 19sec lap time in race conditions, and he moved up and latched on to the group. Walker led the pursuit, but getting more and more out of touch. Rea was using a relatively wide entry to the Hairpin, not defensive enough to stop Kiyonari going to the inside to pass for the lead.

Kiyo set about his task and was into a one-second lead before too long. The next five battled over second, with Lavilla the one to lose out. He was passed for fourth by Sykes, on the inside for the first right-hander Clervaux. Gregorio soon lost out to Haslam and dropped off the group, and meanwhile Sykes got past Crutchlow, on the inside for heavy braking right Tower Bend, at the end of the fast back straight. Each of the 21-year-olds was after a first SBK podium.

Behind the Japanese leader, on his way to victory, Rea now led Sykes, Crutchlow and Haslam. Following Lavilla, Camier now headed Walker, from Byrne, Hill, Harris, Andrews, Rutter, Scott Smart and Chris Martin. The penultimate lap saw Rea just creep clear of Sykes, to secure second. Crutchlow attacked at the Complex for the final time, but was just headed by Sykes at the line, and with Haslam right behind. Lavilla, Camier, Walker, Byrne, Hill, Harris, Andrews and Rutter took the next spots.

The odd spot of rain was falling as race two was getting going, but it came to nothing. This time Kiyonari did not have such a good getaway, leaving Rea in front, from Crutchlow, Sykes, Haslam, Hill, Kiyo, Walker and Byrne. Tommy got as far as the third corner, the fairly quick right-left Chicane on to the back straight, where the original start-finish line was sited. Just beyond the exit apex, his Yamaha’s rear wheel slid, then gripped and threw him over the highside. Walker was behind, and in going to the outside was delayed and lost a few places.

The first five once again began to stretch out an advantage, with Byrne and Lavilla leading the pursuit. Gregorio moved up one with another move at the Hairpin, and now Camier, Harris, Walker, Rutter, Andrews, Dean Thomas, Smart and Aaron Zanotti followed. Another repeat move came when Sykes passed Crutchlow at Tower, and soon after Kiyo dived inside Haslam to get through at the Hairpin, putting up a hand to apologise for a fairly robust manoeuvre. The order was Rea, Sykes, Crutchlow, Kiyonari, Haslam.

But Ryuichi was in determined mood, and he went for the inside of Cal at the Hairpin. Somehow there was enough of a gap for him to late brake and find his way to the inside of Tom as they turned for the straight, making it into a double pass. It was now a one-two for HM Plant, and the Airwaves riders swapped for fifth as Lavilla forced his way through at the Hairpin.

Kiyo’s journey from fifth was complete when he overtook Rea on the inside for the first left-hander at the Complex. The following right would see Haslam try and re-pass his team-mate, only to get it wrong and run into the escape road. He recovered for eighth, but now with a gap to the group. At about the same time, Walker and Harris collided at the Hairpin. The Suzuki man was on the inside when he lost the front, but Chris was able to remount whilst Karl was not.

Kiyo was setting new fastest lap times as he moved into a handy lead, leaving a group now consisting of Rea, Sykes, Crutchlow, Lavilla, Camier and Byrne - the last two having homed in. Gregorio was moving closer to Cal when the Suzuki rider ran wide on the way out of the Complex, losing the place. Sykes was about to try and get by Rea on the outside at the Hairpin, but that didn’t work. Lavilla followed up with another place gain on the inside at the Hairpin, almost pushing past Sykes as well as Crutchlow.

Camier was now a threatening member of the group and, at half-distance, he went for it against Crutchlow at Tower, but ran wide. He was helped out as Cal managed to crash out at the Complex but, like Walker, he was able to get back in the race. The Rizla pair were back in 12th and 13th. This action left Kiyo out on his own, now with two groups of three in the next positions. Rea led Sykes and Lavilla, with Camier, Byrne and Haslam not far behind.

As the leaders worked their way through backmarkers in the later stages, Kiyonari let his 3.8s lead start to dwindle - rather than crash out when pushing too hard, as at Mallory Park. Haslam’s recovery took him into sixth as he went by Byrne on the inside at Tower, and meanwhile Sykes was really pushing to get a shot at Rea in second. The penultimate lap saw Jonathan just start to ease away, though, and there was more action behind fourth man Lavilla, between Camier and Haslam.

Kiyonari completed the double, with Rea second, and Lavilla just behind third man Sykes, as the first race podium was repeated. Haslam had tried to get by Camier at the Complex, but the yellow-clad Honda rider fought back and retained fifth. Byrne had dropped into a solitary seventh, with Rutter into eighth, then Andrews. Walker’s recovery secured him tenth, from Smart, Thomas and Crutchlow.

Ryuichi Kiyonari was unstoppable once again, recording his third double of the season, but five rounds after his second. These wins, though, took him to a total of 34 in the series, which moves him just ahead of Steve Hislop’s tally with Superbikes on short circuits. Jonathan Rea was the next best runner each time, but that of course meant that Kiyo’s lead in the points grew by ten, to 26. Of course, two podium results was by far the best job done by Tom Sykes so far this season, on a day when team-mate Shane Byrne seemed a bit off the boil, and Tom moved up to sixth in the table at the expense of Leon Camier.

All in all it was a day for Honda, with the marque taking all the podium places in each race. This made it the worst meeting for Ducati so far, with no top-three finishes at all. At Snetterton and Oulton it had only been in one race that they missed this accolade. But Croft looks a lot like a Honda circuit. Since the BSB series arrived in 2004, Honda riders have won six of the eight races here. But the next stop is Cadwell Park, where they haven’t really looked so good in the same period.

Standings after twenty races: Kiyonari 348; Rea 322; Haslam 288; Lavilla 269; Byrne 244; Sykes 203; Camier 199; Walker 165; Hill 116; Harris 107.

BSB notes: Leon Camier’s brother Alex rode the second Hawk Kawasaki at Croft, but multiple BSB race winner James Haydon, the current ITV television summariser for the series, is to test for the team before Cadwell. James has ridden Honda, Suzuki, Ducati and Yamaha machines in the series, and won with them all, but could now return on the green machine for the first time. Meanwhile, the projected revised upper capacity limit for twin-cylinder bikes will happen for 2008, with Ducati therefore able to run a 1200cc Superbike in the UK.