Leon Haslam celebrated his first Bennetts British Superbike Championship title at Brands Hatch on Saturday, Race 1. Crossing the line in sixth place, it gave Leon an unassailable lead in the championship and the edge over fellow title rival Jake Dixon. It was Glenn Irwin who proved victorious for the first time this season with Dixon and Tarran Mackenzie completing the podium.
At the start of the race Glenn Irwin launched off the line to lead the pack into Paddock Hill Bend from Dixon and Mackenzie with Peter Hickman and Andrew Irwin in close contention. Superbike rookie Mackenzie had a big moment on the McAMS Yamaha on the third lap and that dropped him down the order.
The race quickly turned into a race of attrition though with several riders going down early doors. On the fifth lap Richard Cooper and Tommy Bridewell crashed out unhurt at Druids, the pair had been running inside the top eight, with Jason O'Halloran crashing out a lap later at Graham Hill Bend.
Meanwhile at the front Andrew Irwin moved into second place on the seventh lap to put both of the Be Wiser Ducatis ahead of the chasing pack. Dixon wasn’t giving up without a fight though and passed the younger Irwin brother with a decisive move with four laps to go.
Mackenzie then had Andrew Irwin in his sights too and quickly dove down the inside at Surtees with two laps remaining to fire the McAMS Yamaha back into podium contention. At the front though Glenn Irwin held onto to edged out Dixon and Mackenzie to the chequered flag as Andrew Irwin equalled his best finish of the season in 4th.
Peter Hickman held on to fifth place for Smiths Racing BMW ahead of Haslam who had done enough to become British champion with 2015 title-winner Josh Brookes and James Ellison with Danny Buchan edging out Michael Laverty to complete the top ten.
Glenn Irwin took a special win aboard the PBM Ducati for the last time and it was very fitting that as Glenn took his first BSB win, the bike he will be riding in 2019 took the title with Leon Haslam aboard. The race belonged to Glenn but the day was Leon's! and a huge congratulations goes out to him and the whole JG Speedfit Bournemouth Kawasaki racing team from everyone at Muc-Off.
Race 2, As 'Storm Callum' arrived at the West Kingsdown circuit, chaos soon reigned! With riders crashing out in the torturous conditions. Newly crowned BSB champion, Leon Haslam, conquered the conditions to finish the attritional race in 1st place, following home by Tommy Bridewell, 2nd, aboard the Moto Rapido Ducati Panigale and Jason O’Halloran, 3rd, aboard the Honda Racing CBR1000RR.
Race 3, As the stormy clouds abated, the race started with the track still wet but drying. Richard Cooper became the 7th and final race winner of the 2018 Bennetts British Superbike Championship, dominating the 3rd and final race of the year, winning by 7.493s.
On the opening lap Cooper led Jason O'Halloran, Leon Haslam whose bike was adorned in a special championship winning livery. Haslam had some huge moments to save, including an incredible moment on the exit of Graham Hill Bend and Clearways, but despite dropping him to back fifth, he regained his composure to fight back.
Haslam had Christian Iddon ahead of him and after getting back into a rhythm he made a pass at Paddock Hill Bend on lap nine, followed by Jake Dixon a few corners later. Cooper and Bridewell were heading the field but by lap ten Haslam was into third as he dove down the inside of Jason O'Halloran, claiming another position.
Dixon was then hunting O’Halloran and he moved into fourth with a move at Graham Hill Bend, Iddon then pushing the Australian back a further place. Haslam having regaining momentum from his earlier escapades on lap 12, he again flirted with disaster with a massive moment on the run to Graham Hill Bend, saving it only just!
As Cooper held the position at the front Bridewell was still leading Dixon, Haslam and Iddon. Josh Brookes was closing and he moved ahead of Haslam on the final lap to claim fifth. Gino Rea equalled his season-best result to finish in seventh ahead of O’Halloran, Peter Hickman and team-mate Sylvain Barrier.
A fantastic final race of the British Superbike Championship and a fitting way to see out the championship in 2018 with racing up and down the field till the last corner. A new very worthy champion crowned in Leon Haslam and championship winning team in Bournemouth Kawasaki. We look forward to seeing Leon in KRT colours in 2019 in the WorldSBK championship as much as we look forward to following the progress of Jake Dixon as he moves up to Moto2!
Thanks for another fantastic year of racing in the British Superbike Championship and to all those riders, teams, staff and marshalls involved in making it happen.
Roll on 2019, we look forward to seeing you there!