Round 5 of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship and Round 6 of the Pirelli National STK1000 Championship took place in glorious Norfolk sunshine last weekend as the 2017 race season headed to the former USAAF Air base just outside Thetford. As is almost traditional with the Snetterton 300 round now, the weather was absolutely perfect for racing and the action didn’t disappoint.
It was a full strength showing for the #FuelledByXpressCoffee riders as the young Ulster pair of Josh Elliott and Andy Reid found themselves as team mates in Tyco BMW’s BSB team. Reid, who has been hunting for a ride since the end of last season, has been drafted in to replace the outgoing former WSB star Davide Giuliano who continues to recover from injuries sustained at Round 2, while Super Sub Elliott was slated to continue on the STK bike, deputising for the injured Ian Hutchinson. However, the late withdrawal of Christian Iddon meant that the Fermanagh man was thrown in at the deep end to make his premier class debut for the Moneymore team.
The regular #FuelledByXpressCoffee BSB pairing of James Ellison and Michael Laverty continued to get to grips with their McAMS Yamaha R1 machines around the fast and flowing Snetterton 300 layout. After podium success last time out, Ellison was keen to continue the momentum found in Scotland, backing up his confidence-inspiring ride north of the border with a scintillating display in Qualifying that saw the Cumbrian trade lap records with Shane Byrne to take 2nd spot on the grid.
Across the garage it was a story of continued woes for Laverty, the search for front end feel and confidence continues apace, however the small breakthrough achieved at Knockhill didn’t translate to the fast, open Norfolk countryside and the Northern Irishman again struggled to get the best from his package. 12th in race one and 15th in race 2 are not the results Laverty and his crew deserve for their efforts, the team even entering Ellison’s settings to try and dial out the issues but to no avail.
If Laverty was struggling then lady luck was laughing in the face of James Ellison once again. While Laverty returned 5 points for his toils, the twice European STK Champion had two races to forget. A bright start and early race lead in Race 1 was curtailed by a problem with his R1, causing early retirement from proceedings before a crash at Ritchies in Race 2 completed a miserable weekend that began with such promise.
Down pit lane the Tyco BMW boys were getting to grips with their factory BMW S1000RRR machines. Reid tested his bike the previous Monday at Kirkistown circuit in Northern Ireland before making his way over to the Fens while the short-notice call up for Elliott meant the four laps completed in FP1 before an issue with his BMW were the first laps ever turned on a Superbike-spec machine.
Both youngsters made solid impressions across the weekend, improving in time and feel with every lap. Qualifying saw the pair almost locked together on times with Elliott shading it by 0.1s to take the higher qualifying position as Reid tipped off uninjured in the closing stages. Qualifying is one thing but racing is quite another, and as the lap record pace from Qualifying showed, it was going to be a baptism of fire for the new boys. To their credit both riders battled hard and gave a great account of themselves with Josh taking his first ever BSB point and Andy coming home just a couple of places behind. Race 2 saw Reid improve on his lap times from Race 1 and finish closer to the leaders while an problem with his Tyco BMW saw Elliott retire to the garage before mid-distance, ending the weekend early.
In STK1000, rookie Jordan Weaving took his best dry result of the season with 8th place after a weekend of positivity for the South African youngster. The difficulties of Knockhill were forgotten in the sunshine of Snetterton and all now bodes well for the rest of the season in the ultra-competitive championship. Fellow championship runner Tom Tunstall qualified 15th and finished 13th in Sunday’s race, a quieter weekend than of late for the STK1000 contenders before they return to a three race weekend at the next round on 21th – 23rd July at Brands Hatch.