By Giles Spencer
Gino Rea stormed to two top-10 finishes at round nine of the British Superbike Championship at Silverstone last weekend.
With the red-hot temperatures of the last couple of months behind us and the British round of the MotoGP being cancelled recently due to a flooded circuit, the Tooting racer was always going to be playing the weather lottery as the competition rolled into the troubled Silverstone circuit.
This was a last chance for riders to try and get vital points to push themselves up the leaderboard before the top six battle it out for the Championship in the last three rounds.
Rea previously stated the track should suit his Suzuki GSXR1000 bike although the international layout was changed to the shorter national circuit, fearing flooding around the back of the track if it rained.
Rea did well in every session, wet and dry and progressed to the second round of qualifying, putting the OMG Racing UK machine firmly in the middle of the pack, 13th on the grid.
A perfect launch off the line saw him claim three scalps to cross the line in 10th after lap one of Saturday’s race.
Putting the mechanical gremlins of the last couple of rounds behind him, the South Londoner looked fast, aggressive and confident as he battled with Honda Racing’s Jason O’Halloran and the Smiths Racing BMW of TT star Peter Hickman.
Mid race saw Rea pass Ulster’s Andrew Irwin on the Be Wiser Ducati, inherited from injured Lambeth star Shane “Shakey” Byrne. By the flag, Rea had opened up a 0.666 second gap over the Moto Rapido Ducati of former race winner Tommy Bridewell, who got the better of Irwin in the dying stages, to take a career best finish of ninth, only 7.701secs off runaway Championship leader Leon Haslam’s after 30 laps.
Sunday’s opening race was a role reversal off the line with Rea shuffled back to 17th by the end of the opening lap.
But he proved Saturday was no fluke and with two laps to go he was closing down Bridewell for ninth. His luck took a change for the better as Hickman retired with a mechanical problem before Jake Dixon (RAF Regular & Reserves Kawasaki) and Tarran MacKenzie (McAMS Yamaha) slid off in unison.
It gifted Rea seventh place, which he held to the line by fending off the close intentions of JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider Luke Mossey by 0.003secs.
The final race of the day saw the Suzuki man hold his 13th place starting position as they crossed the line for the first time only for Mossey to go down hard at Copse corner, bringing out the red flags.
A good getaway on the shortened 26 lap restart counted for nothing as Andrew Irwin collided with another rider at Brooklands on the opening lap, going down in front of Rea, leaving the 28-year-old nowhere to go but off onto the grass. He rejoined the track in last place but climbed 11 places for 14th.
Lapping considerably quicker than the group ahead, he finished 14th, just behind the WD40 Kawasaki of Mason Law.
Rea said: “Results and race pace exceeded my expectations by a long way. Going into a track I half knew I was already hoping it would be our season best but to break into the top 10 with a ninth, then to go one step further and get a seventh with the pace for a top-five finish is very positive. It was just our starting position that held me back.
“The whole weekend I’ve had great pace and we’ve been getting better and better. The biggest change we made was engine specs; the power was a bit more manageable.”
The championship resumes at Oulton Park this weekend.
Rea said: “I hope we can carry that momentum forward, that’s the goal.” Rea’s best results of the season have lifted him to 19th in the Championship ahead of the test of the technical Cheshire track.
Pics by Ian Hopgood