BRITISH SUPERBIKES ROAR INTO CROFT!
Britain's premier motorsport series makes a welcome return to the race-starved North East when round ten of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship rolls into Croft Circuit near Darlington this weekend (11/12/13 August).
And with the championship precariously poised and as close as it's been all season, the North Yorkshire venue is sure to play a pivotal role part in deciding the destiny of the prestigious title.
Just 14 points separate the top three riders in the standings following three dramatic rounds in recent weeks and early season pace setter and defending champion, Spanish ace Gregorio Lavilla, has seen his healthy lead slashed following just one podium finish in the past five races aboard his Airwaves Ducati F06.
Taking over at the head of the standings is the on-form Japanese rider Ryuichi Kiyonari who has won six out of the last eight races. Riding a factory Honda for the HM Plant Racing team, the 23 year old has just returned from racing to fifth place in the Suzuki 8 Hour race in Japan and 'Kiyo' will be hungry for more victories this weekend.
But the man who could really upset the apple cart is Britain's Leon Haslam -- son of the legendary 'Rocket' Ron - who despite not winning a race so far this season, has been the most consistent rider in the series with only one non-finish to his name when he crashed his Airwaves Ducati in the very first race of the season at Brands Hatch.
Ex MotoGP star Shane 'Shakey' Byrne will be racing at Croft for the first time aboard his Rizla Suzuki and having won this season, he could well be a threat once again, as could the resurgent Yorkshireman Karl Harris (HM Plant Honda) and young Ulsterman Jonathan Rea (RedBull Honda).
Croft will form the local round for two teams eager to get their 2006 seasons back on track. Guisborough based Hydrex Honda, run by ex racer Shaun Muir, will see Australian Glen Richards and Midlander Gary Mason hoping to challenge further up the leaderboard, as will the Stobart Motorsport team run by Penrith businessman Paul Bird. His riders Michael Rutter and Michael Laverty have good form around Croft and they could be the dark horses this weekend.
Virgin Mobile Yamaha have local connections and their star rider Tommy Hill is another not to be discounted, as aren't the Hawk Kawasaki squad with Leeds-based Aussie Dean Thomas who will return from injury, and the Vivaldi Suzuki team headed by York's Scott Smart.
Hoping to maintain local interest in the British Supersport Championship is Guisborough rider Dennis Hobbs aboard the Team Padgetts Honda and already this season, the 23 year old has lifted the silverware with a second place at Knockhill and another local rider hoping for success is Middlesbrough's Paul Veazey who races in the Metzeler Racetec National Superstock Championship aboard his 1000cc Astro GVD Kawasaki.
As well as the two, twenty lap feature races, a full support race programme is included during the weekend. Wiltshire rider Daniel Cooper (KRP Honda) leads the 125cc class whilst Shiptonthorpe's Chris Martin hopes to make the most of his main rival James Buckingham's absence through injury to consolidate his lead in the British Superbike Cup. Coventry rider Cal Crutchlow (Northpoint Ekerold Honda) leads the British Supersport Championship comfortably as main rival Eugene Laverty (Red Bull Honda) makes his comeback after a couple of rounds out with a broken hand.
Australian Brendan Roberts could wrap up the Metzeler Racetec National Superstock Championship aboard his Suzuki at Croft with Londoner Bob Collins hoping to maintain his lead in the Superstock Cup whilst Beverley teenager Tom Grant leads the Virgin Mobile Cup.
Saturday's action sees the all-important 'Audi Performance Qualifying' for the Superbikes, whereby points are scored on grid positions and the winner gets to take home a £50,000 car at the end of the season and also the first of the weekend's seven races takes place.
Due to stringent noise restrictions and to comply with local authority regulations, the action cannot commence until after 12.00 noon on Sunday whereby the action kicks off with the warm up sessions before the first race is scheduled to start at 13.10. However, during the morning, as well as there being an open paddock, there will be an hour-long 'Pit Walk' for fans to meet the riders and that is scheduled for between 10.00 and 11.00am .
Admission costs £12.00 per adult on Saturday and £25.00 per adult on Sunday with a weekend ticket costing just £32.00 per adult and limited grandstand seating (£8.00 per person) is still available. Children aged 15 and under are admitted FREE and for further information call Croft Circuit on 01325 721815.
-credit: croft circuit