Donington BSB: Ray extends lead as Irwin brothers podium

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Picture: Impact Images

Bradley Ray put one hand on this year’s Bennetts British Superbike Championship with victory in the final race of the weekend at Donington Park, the win giving the Rich Energy OMG Yamaha rider a 66-point lead ahead of the final round.

Ray saw off the challenges of Andrew and Glenn Irwin, the latter looking on course for the win until he lost a foot peg, with the Synetiq BMW of Andrew taking second. Honda Racing’s Glenn managed to get the better of Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Products Ducati) on the final lap for a hard-fought rostrum.

The race started with yesterday’s podium finisher Peter Hickman (FHO BMW) at the back of the grid after a technical issue prevented him from taking his second-row position and at the end of the lap, the running order was Tom Sykes (MCE Ducati), Andrew Irwin, Glenn Irwin, Bridewell, Jason O’Halloran (McAMS Yamaha) and Bridewell but the red flag was quickly out due to a crash involving Chrissy Rouse exiting Goddards.

Re-started over 18 laps, and with original grid positions – which allowed Hickman to line up in sixth – Sykes again got the holeshot and he led the field round the first lap, leading from O’Halloran, Ray, Glenn Irwin, Andrew Irwin and his Synetiq BMW teammate Danny Buchan.

O’Halloran briefly took the lead on lap two, nipping ahead at the Melbourne Hairpin, but Sykes quickly got back ahead, the front five immediately pulling away, their cause aided slightly by Lee Jackson (Cheshire Mouldings FS-3 Kawasaki), Bridewell and Hickman running wide at Melbourne.

Glenn Irwin then pushed O’Halloran down to fourth with brother Andrew doing the same at Redgate at the start of lap four, the same lap seeing Ray take the lead from Sykes at the Old Hairpin. Sykes was then relegated to third by Glenn Irwin at the Foggy Esses.

Ray led Glenn Irwin by half a second starting lap six, with Sykes now a second adrift and falling into the clutches of the battling quartet of O’Halloran, Andrew Irwin, Buchan and Bridewell.

But drama followed with O’Halloran losing it on the brakes going into the Melbourne Hairpin on the sixth lap, hitting the back of Sykes and crashing out. The safety car was soon out as the injured O’Halloran was stretchered away and Sykes was also out of the race, pulling into retire a lap later, with damage to the back of the Ducati.

Glenn Irwin had taken the lead just before the crash and the running order behind him was now Ray, Andrew Irwin, Buchan, Bridewell and Danny Kent (Buildbase Suzuki). The latter was soon relegated a spot by Hickman and Ray was back in the lead on lap ten after slipping up the inside of Glenn Irwin at the Old Hairpin.

The front three were separated by just half a second and had opened up a gap of 1.5s over new fourth-placed rider Bridewell, Ray setting a new lap record of 1’28.597 as he tried to make a break. The two Irwins were going with him though as the race reached two thirds race distance.

By lap 13 though, Ray and Glenn Irwin appeared to have the upped hand and began to break away from Andrew Irwin, Glenn taking the lead once more at the Foggy Esses. That allowed Andrew to close back up to the duo with five laps to go. Fourth placed Bridewell was now 2.5s adrift.

Glenn then made a mistake going into Melbourne Hairpin on lap 14, dropping back to third, and with three laps to go Ray led Andrew with Glenn in third despite having lost his footpeg. Bridewell was still in fourth with Hickman, Buchan, Kyle Ryde, Jackson and Ryan Vickers close behind.

Going into the final stages, Ray’s lead over Andrew Irwin was close to two seconds and he duly took the win, his ninth of the season, but Bridewell moved up to third on the penultimate lap and looked like he’d claim 16 crucial points.

A determined Glenn Irwin had other ideas and retook the place with three corners to go, meaning Bridewell had to settle for fourth ahead of Buchan and Ryde. Jackson, Vickers, Kent and Leon Haslam completed the top ten.

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