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Lavilla and Kiyonari share BSB Oulton Park wins


Raceline Photography

By Dan Moakes
May 14 2007

The contest between Ducati and Honda was already well underway in the 2007 Bennetts British Superbike Championship, with overseas racers Gregorio Lavilla and Ryuichi Kiyonari, the last two champions, having shared all the race wins for their respective employers.

Round four was held on May Bank Holiday at Oulton Park, where the dramatic flowing and undulating parkland circuit was treated to somewhat drab weather conditions. After a strong Silverstone, HM Plant’s Kiyonari was looking to eat even further into Lavilla’s 32-point lead with the Airwaves Ducati. And these two were the quickest pair in qualifying, together taking the top two grid places for the first time in their two-and-a-bit year rivalry. Gregorio’s pole position was the first for the Ducati 999 this season.

Leon Haslam joined them on the front row, third with the other Airwaves machine; and for the first time Tom Sykes also started right at the front, his Stobart Honda pushing Jonathan Rea into fifth on the second HM Plant bike. Shane Byrne was sixth for Stobart, and the first Suzuki of Rizla rider Cal Crutchlow got in ahead of two more Hondas - Leon Camier (Bike Animal, eighth) and Karl Harris (Hydrex, ninth). Dean Thomas (Samsung Suzuki), Michael Rutter (MSS Kawasaki), Tommy Hill (Virgin Yamaha) and Chris Walker (Rizla Suzuki) were next.

Race one started with Kiyonari and Lavilla leading away, and Haslam soon went past Sykes for third. Camier moved into fifth from Byrne with a move at the fast left curving Island Bend, with Crutchlow, Walker and Rea next. Camier moved up another place to fourth, making a pass on Sykes at the right-handed first corner, Old Hall. Rea also moved ahead of Walker, who led Harris, Rutter and Hill.

Camier was soon setting the early fastest lap as his form looked more like it had at Brands Hatch than it did in qualifying. He progressed further to third, going to the outside of Haslam round Island Bend, and then being on the inside on the brakes for the following banked right-handed Shell Oils hairpin. It was Honda versus Ducati in the top four, now getting away from Sykes and the rest, with Kiyonari leading Lavilla, Camier and Haslam. Walker managed to come off the Suzuki at this stage, without being able to get restarted.

Lavilla was looking for another win, and he took the lead from ‘Kiyo’ on the outside at Old Hall, completing the move he’d started at the final right-handed Lodge Corner. Before these two could start to get away from him, Haslam passed Camier at Lodge, and the leading group resolved into a threesome. Rea had improved the fastest lap in his pursuit of Sykes, Byrne and Crutchlow, and soon dealt with the Suzuki man. Then he cleared Byrne as the group caught up to Camier.

Rea’s next move saw him pass Sykes into the right-left-right Hizzy chicane, down the slope from Hill Top, and he was soon leaving Camier, Sykes and Byrne to race for fifth, with Crutchlow having lost touch. Camier would go on to lose out to both the Stobart Honda riders, falling into a battle with Crutchlow and Harris.

But the most compelling action in the latter stages was to be found in the race between the three leaders. Getting good drive out of Lodge and up over the left curving Deer Leap, Kiyo passed Lavilla on the inside for Old Hall, only for the Spaniard to cut back in at the Cascades left hander, downhill from the first turn. Haslam also went by Ryuichi, braking on the inside at Lodge, with the Honda man trying to counter attack at Old Hall.

Haslam passed team-mate Lavilla at Lodge, as the Ducati pair looked to prevent a Honda win, but a very tight moment changed the order yet again. This came at the Shell Oils hairpin, where Gregorio braked late and was right on Leon’s rear wheel. The number 91 machine drifted out and, half way round the bend, Lavilla dived through on the inside of Haslam to lead again.

The trio were together onto the last lap, and Haslam tried to overtake Lavilla on the inside as they started this final stretch, at Old Hall Corner. The Spaniard defended this move, and he was ‘on it’ throughout the lap, enough to hold off both his pursuers to the flag - and especially by half covering the inside line at Lodge. Lavilla, Haslam and Kiyonari were the top three, as so often in 2006.

Rea’s charge through from ninth resulted in fourth place, with another pair of Hondas next home, as 21-year-old Sykes took fifth ahead of experienced Stobart team-mate Byrne. Crutchlow had taken P7 from early front runner Camier, and they were ahead of Harris and Hill at the close of the race.

Race two took place with damp track conditions, and the odd spit of rain in the air, although the tarmac would become drier as the action progressed. This time Sykes made an even better start to lead them away, in front of Kiyonari, Haslam and Byrne. Hill was up to fifth off the start, and he put the Yamaha on Pirelli tyres into some useful positions on the track through the first couple of corners - enough to pass Kiyo for second at Shell Oils! Thomas passed Byrne for fifth, from Harris, Walker and Camier. Lavilla and Rea had dropped out of the equation to begin with.

Hill’s quick progress saw him take the lead half way into the first lap, with a move on Sykes into Hizzys. Haslam also demoted the Honda man at Lodge, and soon the first two were getting away from the rest, prompting Kiyonari to also pass Sykes. Walker passed Harris at Old Hall, but these two would change places again at Lodge. Tom would make quick backward progress from the lead, with Byrne going to the outside of him for Island and therefore ahead into Shell.

The first four now started to move clear of Sykes and the rest, with a fastest lap from Kiyo bringing him and Byrne up to the two ahead. Haslam pulled ahead of Hill on the left hand side along Lakeside, the blast before Island Bend. Sykes now led Thomas, Walker, Camier and Crutchlow; and the slightly tricky conditions saw Lavilla now up to tenth, leading Guy Martin and Ollie Bridewell.

Kiyonari repeated Haslam’s pass on Hill, with the smallest of gaps then opening between the first two and the next duelling pair. Byrne was also attacking Tommy’s third place, on several laps at Island Bend, and at one point he made it by into Shell Oils, only to find his pace too hot and that he was running wide, gifting the Yamaha rider the inside line to move back ahead. In the end ‘Shakey’ made the pass stick.

Meanwhile, Sykes had slipped into a solitary fifth, with the race on for sixth between three men behind him. Walker and Thomas had dropped back on their Suzukis, so that Camier and Crutchlow found Lavilla on their tails for the position. Gregorio passed Cal at Lodge, and Leon soon after, and set a new fastest lap as he tried to catch up to the leaders.

Kiyonari, Haslam, Byrne and Hill had started to get spaced out in the leading positions, but Lavilla was soon onto Sykes, and he passed on the inside at Lodge. He kept his speed up and was homing in on Hill, making a similar manoeuvre to take over fourth. The first two places were established by these late stages, but on the final lap Gregorio was catching Byrne in third, although he didn’t manage to get there in the end.

Rea had been making strong progress again, and had quickly dealt with Thomas and Walker earlier on. Soon after, Crutchlow had been forced to pull out, with his smoking GSX-R1000 also dropping oil, so Rea’s next victim had been Camier. The last moments saw the works Honda rider right with Hill and Sykes, and the final lap had seen an unusual pass as Jonathan went by Tom on the inside into the fast double apex right Druids Corner. Following on towards Lodge, Rea was inside Hill, with Sykes going to the outside, and at the flag the battle resolved with Rea from Sykes from Hill. Camier, Walker and Thomas completed the top ten.

The day might have been Gregorio Lavilla’s, if not for a cautious looking opening to the damp second race. But Ryuichi Kiyonari’s third and first, to the one-four of his rival, brought the points lead down by just three points. Meanwhile, Leon Haslam’s championship was properly kick-started by his first pair of podium results, with Jonathan Rea’s two fight back rides allowing the Ducati rider to close in. Both Leon Camier and Tommy Hill had looked good in the early stages of one race, and yet both of them ended up outside the top six positions. And finally, the Stobart Hondas looked to be ‘best of the rest’, especially with Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne’s third in race two. Next stop is Snetterton.

Standings after eight races: Lavilla 169; Kiyonari 140; Rea 109; Haslam 104; Camier 96; Sykes 80; Byrne 71; Walker 62; Hill 52; Rutter 45; Harris 43.


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