BY GILES SPENCER
Gino Rea ended his debut British Superbike Championship season on a high with seventh place at Brands Hatch on Sunday.
The triple header to close the competition saw appalling conditions for the two Sunday races. Rea banked more points to finish 19th in the final standings with a total of 46.
Saturday’s qualifying and first race were mercifully held in 25 degrees and sunny, all be it, blustery conditions.
Tooting-born Rea started the weekend well, climbing as high as eighth quickest in the practice sessions on the OMG Suzuki before having to settle for 14th on the grid.
After initially launching well off the line in race one, Rea got shuffled back to 17th by the end of the first lap.
The South Londoner clawed his way back up the table into the points, attaching himself to the back wheel of JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider Luke Mossey, matching his pace with apparent ease but unable to find the extra one mph needed to pass him.
At the chequered flag Rea followed Mossey over the line to take 13th place and three points.
The skies opened just before the start of race one on Sunday, Rea climbed to ninth five laps in and was on the tail of BSB race winners Richard Cooper (Buildbase Suzuki) and James Ellison (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha). Lapping faster than the top three, he went eighth a lap later.
Disaster struck rounding Clearways as Rea, only five seconds behind the leaders, lost control of the back of the bike and slid out.
For the last race of the season, Rea held eighth across the line to start the second lap.
With 12 laps out of 20 down, Rea dropped Peter Hickman and passed Australian Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) to pile serious pressure on the McAMS Yamaha of Josh Brookes.
Rea finished in a career-equaling best of seventh place in race two.
Rea said: ”It was nice to end the season on a high after a couple of disappointing end results in the last few races.”
“The bike has changed quite a bit since I came here earlier in the year. It helped that I’d already done one race here before and I got my fastest-ever lap here on the Friday afternoon.
“The result in Saturday’s race wasn’t quite what we wanted but the pace was good. I had a coming together at turn two (Druids) on lap one and four or five riders went past. I got stuck behind a slower rider. The first half of the race wasn’t great but the potential was there.”
“It was a shame I had a crash but apart from that it’s been positive. It’s a track that doesn’t really suit my riding style, so I’ve had to work hard to go fast around here.
Before the first race it started to dry up so we had a different setup to the wet and it lashed down on my out lap so the team were in a massive rush to convert the bike back to wet settings and we didn’t have time to change the rear shock and it was too hard.
“Considering that we did a good job to be where we were but because of that it made it very hard to ride and I got caught out. I was on the edge but when you’re set up like that the edge is so hard to find and feel.”
“That [Sunday’s second race] is possibly my best of the season. I worked hard for that one. Brookes is a BSB champion and I went with him the whole race until I decided to bring it home safely and not do a repeat of race one.
“From the outside it’s easy to look at the end result and say it’s not what people expected or what I’m capable of but people in the know, know what goes into being successful in BSB.
“As a team to be in their first year in the British Superbike Championship and getting top-seven results, I think speaks for itself. We’ve done a solid job, especially the second half of the season.”
Rea plans to be back next year with the OMG Racing UK squad in the same event.
Photos by Ian Hopgood