Josh Brookes just misses out on Race 1 podium at Oulton Park

After a difficult opening Bennetts British Superbike Championship round two weeks ago at Silverstone, Josh Brookes put a smile back on the faces of the MCE Ducati team this afternoon as he posted a fine fourth place finish in the opening race of round two at Oulton Park.

The result saw the Australian former double champion pick up a confidence-boosting 13 points whilst teammate Tom Sykes battled to 15th place for the Penrith-based team after a challenging race saw him lose ground in the early laps.

Dry conditions yesterday gave way to rain for qualifying this afternoon but both Brookes and Yorkshireman Sykes benefitted with strong pace in the wet around the 2.69-mile circuit and the two riders looked strong as they advanced into the crucial Q2 session which determined the grid for the afternoon’s race.

Indeed, both riders ran in the top six for the majority of the 12-minute session and it was Brookes who shone the most on the factory-supported MCE Ducati Panigale V4R to take second place and a front row position. Former WSBK champion Sykes ran similar pace for much of the session but was unlucky to get shuffled back to 11th after a late flurry of quick laps from other riders.

Three hours later, the conditions were again dry for the race and although Josh slipped back to fourth on the opening lap, he was well in contention for a podium position as he battled with Rory Skinner, Kyle Ryde, and Peter Hickman for second place.

The battle looked like it would go all the way to the chequered flag, but the race was stopped early, on the 12th of the scheduled 14 laps, after a crash meaning Josh, who was getting stronger as the race wore on, had to settle for fourth place.

Sykes, meanwhile, suffered in the early stages when he dropped back to 16th and he was unable to recover any ground; by the time he moved up to 15th, the group ahead of him had pulled clear and he missed out on fighting for a potential top ten finish.

Josh Brookes (MCE Ducati #25) - 4th
“We made a good step forward in FP3 and the lap times were both a lot quicker and more consistent meaning I was closer to where I need to be. I’m still a few tenths down on being able to fight for the win and we need to get dialled in earlier in the weekend as you can’t afford to be way back in the pack on the opening day. But we made good improvements and I was getting stronger and getting myself into a position to attack with a podium on the cards, but the red flag ended the race early. Fourth is a lot more like it so we’ll look to improve again tomorrow and get on the podium.”

 Tom Sykes (MCE Ducati #66) - 15th
“We’re running with a few limitations at the moment with the main issue being not being able to get on the gas like we need to. The bike’s a bit unstable and if you can’t use the gas when and how you need to, it means you lose ground each lap and in the dry that equates to quite a lot of time. I was strong in the wet and felt comfortable on the bike and felt unlucky not to be higher up the grid, but I didn’t make the greatest of starts and it’s hard to claw the gap back. Some of the boys are a bit special round here but the team are working hard, and we’ll aim to be a lot stronger tomorrow.”

John Mowatt, Team Co-ordinator
“It’s been a bit more promising so far this weekend and Josh got a good result and some good points on the board. A strong performance in the wet qualifying session was a good boost and, again, it emphasised the importance of being on at least the front three rows. He lost a bit of time in the first half of the race, but he rode well to close the gap to the second and third placed riders and going into the final laps, he was definitely in with a shout of the podium. For Tom, he was unlucky to drop down to 11th in qualifying when he could have been on the front row with Josh and a bad start didn’t help his race. That meant the pack got away and instead of fighting it out with the group in sixth to tenth, he was instead in 15th. We’ll make a few changes overnight though to try and improve the lap times further and help him get higher up the leaderboard.”

Sunday’s races, held over the longer distance of 18 laps, are scheduled to get underway at 13:30 and 16:30.