IMS Road Race Recap — Brands Hatch

Brands Hatch is one of those World Superbike (WSBK) rounds where, before the spec tire days, the regular racers in that series would face an onslaught from riders in the domestic series riding as "Wild Cards." The British Superbike Championship (BSB) is one of the most competitive championships in the world and produces an abundance of talent. The last time a BSB rider rode as a Wild Card at Brands Hatch in the WSBK series, it was Shane Byrne and he took both race wins in a stunning performance over the regular WSBK riders.

This year BSB is running on spec Pirelli tires like the WSBK championship, which allows BSB riders to run as Wild Cards at the British WSBK rounds. Tom Sykes on the Rizla Suzuki was the top BSB rider to run as a Wild Card in the WSBK Brands Hatch round. After running with the lead pack in race one, he was forced to retire with mechanical issues. In race two his bike held together and he finished a respectable seventh.

While a current BSB rider didn't make the podium, the fans at Brands Hatch got to cheer on a former two time British Superbike Champion in Ryuichi Kiyonari. Kiyonari won the BSB Championship in 2006 and 2007 on the HM Plant Honda team before moving to the Ten Kate Honda team this year in WSBK. Besides the one podium Kiyonari scored at Monza, he hasn't done much in his first year in the series. He lacks a lot of track knowledge compared to his veteran competitors, but he was on level playing field at Brands Hatch.

The Japanese rider came through the pack in the first race to stalk the overall WSBK points leader, Troy Bayliss, on his factory Ducati 1098 + 100cc F08. The two traded the lead several times in the second half of the race for Kiyonari to win by only 0.137 of a second over Bayliss who had Max Biaggi just 0.043 behind him. Biaggi ran down the leading pair with two laps remaining in the race and had the speed that made it appear that he could beat them both. However, many think it was a wise decision on Biaggi's part not to try putting a hard pass on points leader Bayliss, since Biaggi wants Bayliss's seat on the factory team next year after the dominant rider retires. Playing nice now could pay off in the end for the Roman Emperor.

Race two saw Bayliss slip far, far backward through the pack after the opening laps with tire troubles. He finished 11th, again just ahead of Biaggi in 12th. Biaggi ran way off track in one of the first few laps, but kept it up and rejoined the race to score a few championship points in the end.

With those two Ducatis out of the picture, the race became a duel between two Japanese riders — Kiyonari and the Samurai of Slide, Noriyuki Haga on his Motor Italia Yamaha R1. The race was an incredible one between the two Japanese riders; Haga representing the veteran riders, with Kiyonari representing the new crop. Would old age and treachery win out over youth and exuberance? Not this time. Kiyonari didn't crack under the pressure Haga put on him as Haga hounded him lap after lap. Eventually Kiyonari got the upper hand and pulled a small gap on Haga to win by 1.8 seconds at the line. Haga's teammate, Troy Corser, crossed the line third, almost nine seconds back and not a lap too soon as he was about to come under the clutches of the factory Suzukis ridden by Max Neukirchner and Fonsi Nieto.

Kiyonari impressed everyone with his wins, but can he back it up on another track he knows from his BSB days in a month's time when they reconvene at Donington Park? We'll have to see.

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