Whatever challenges the Buildbase Suzuki team riders will face in the British Superbike season that starts at Easter, being the first rider in the team in each race is going to be the first priority, judging by the performances in the Buildbase Mallory Trophy races on Sunday. The grid lined up with all three Buildbase team bikes on the front row, and it was Richard Cooper who took the early lead, but Luke Stapleford took over on lap three and held on with Brad Ray chasing him until the penultimate lap when Brad came through leading by one-twentieth of a second and stretched that to just over a quarter of a second by the end. Cooper was third, local racer Leon Jeacock taking fourth ahead of Barry Burrell. The second race saw Stapleford take the lead at the start with Ray close behind and that set the pattern for the whole race with the Hinckley rider finally winning the race by 0.8 seconds, which was the furthest apart the two team mates were at any time in the race. Kirby Mallory’s Leon Jeacock was only a quarter of a second down on Ray at the end with Nuneaton’s Dean Brown just beating Lee Wilson into fifth.
The team were all out in the first of the Tamworth Yamaha Allcomers races, and after getting past Richard Cooper on the second lap it was Stapleford all the way, but Cooper was always close behind while Ray got caught in a scrap with Leon Jeacock and even setting the best lap of the day at 98mph in the closing stages could not get him past Cooper, Jeacock taking fourth ahead of Burrell and Dan Stamper having his first races on a 1000 cc machine. The second allcomers race was won by Jeacock from Dean Brown.
Last year’s EMRA 500 championship was exciting from beginning to end, with Leicester’s Wayne Sutton capturing the title at the very last race. This year he has started out with two wins, but he did that last year and still had to fight all year for the title. This year, supported by Bridgestone and Fast Bikes magazine, the championship is going to be even tougher, with even more riders taking part. So many at the first round that EMRA had to split them into three groups to give everyone two races. The first race saw Sutton gradually ease away from Darren Coneely, who in turn was able to edge away from the battle between Darren Faulkner and Ian Fairgrieve, while Paul Sawyer just held off Shay Commins and Martin Radford for fifth place. Race two was a relatively straightforward win for Sutton over Sawyer with Ian Fairgrieve just finishing ahead of Scott Gregg. Darren Connelly took the third race but behind him Commins, Radford and Gregg were battling throughout with that being the final order.
Jed Bird won both 600 open races, the first win earning him the Alan Tolton trophy. It was hard won, because it took two thirds of the race to dislodge Luke Burnett from first place with John Bolsover coming home third ahead of Luke Penny. Race two again saw Burnett lead from the start but Bird took the lead much earlier in this race and pulled away for a second victory with last year’s rookie champion Luke Penny taking third.
The opening Minitwins race came to a dramatic finale after last year’s champion Chris Ashfield crashed out of first place at the hairpin on the final lap. Up until that point Chris had been holding off the continual challenge of Richard Saunders, but in the melee, Lee Stanaway got through and took his first race win. Luke was on pole for the second race and his own personal fan club gave him plenty of vocal support as he led from the start until the final circuit when Saunders took the flag by a third of a second.
There was a surprise in the 125-450 races; not that they were won by a female rider, which is normal in this class, but that the winner was not Jodie Fieldhouse, Annabel Thomas taking both races on her Moto 3 Honda. In the first race the lead changed hands many times and going into the final lap Jodie was just ahead of Annabel until they came to lap a back-marker and Annabel chose the right side to pass while Jodie tried the opposite side and got pushed wide and Annabel Thomas took the flag by an eighth of a second. Jodie’s bike stalled on the warm-up lap before race two, and she needed a push start from Lynda the marshal on the start line (female solidarity !), but in the race Thomas was much quicker in the opening laps and was four seconds ahead by half distance and although Jodie kept pace thereafter she couldn’t close the gap and it was Annabel who took her second win. Steve Moody dominated the lightweight class and Mark Ess won the Earlystock section of both races.
Thomas Goldthorpe and Luke Burnett shared the wins in the Powerslide Motorcycles Rookies events, Goldthorpe taking the first and Burnett the second, with Cory Wilson taking third in both.
Andy King and Andrew Sigsworth continued their long winning run in the WAS Autocentre sidecar championship races but the FSRA pre-injection series not only brought the encouraging sight of a full grid of sidecars, but proved that an old machine with a driver of considerable experience can still be very quick. Andy King pulled out a good lead in the early laps but Rob Fisher and Rick Long were closing quite quickly at the end of the race setting fastest lap and closing the gap to 0.7 seconds at the flag. Fisher took the F2 FSRA win, Dave Tibbles taking the FSRA open class, while Bruce Moore was second in the EMRA race ahead of Greg Lambert. Andy King won the second race by a larger margin with Fisher second and first FSRA machine again and Greg Lambert was third in front of Mike Cookson. For those of us of a certain age, the sight of a 350 Yamaha in full Sabre Racing colours took us back thirty years to the time when Bawtry was the centre of the sidecar world.
Having incurred a penalty for a jump start in race John Cooke won the second of the ACU50cc championship races from Mike Pollitt (who had been awarded the win in race one). Clive Somerfield and Paul Whiting were very close together throughout both races Somerfield taking third spot in race one ahead of Whiting, with the placings reversed in the second.