The 2012 Ducati 848 Challenge got off to a dramatic start at Brands Hatch this weekend as the weather played a disruptive influence on the outcome of both races. Cold, rainy conditions prevailed on both Easter Sunday and Monday forcing the field of 33 riders to kick-off the season racing on wet tyres in greasy track conditions.
With a number of riders having to start from pit lane, Race 1 got off to an eventful start with two riders falling at Paddock Hill as all the riders jostled for places and wheels touched. Half a lap later there was mayhem at Graham Hill bend as an overtaking move by Kasey Wyatt (GB Moto Racing) proved unexpected for Darren Fry (Hirebase Ducati Coventry), Jamie Poole (Moto Rapido) and Aaron Brown (Joda Clothing Ducati) and all four slid off the circuit, resulting in the safety car while the circuit was cleared.
When the safety car went in it was Mike Edwards (OHLINS @ P&H Motorcycles) who led, closely followed by James White (Team After Dark) and Ben Field (Ducati UK/Vito Sport VIP/Bike Sport News). One of the pre-season favourites, Marty Nutt (NuttTravel.com) was also chasing down the leading group and was to move into the second position on lap 6, with Mike Dawson (md-racing.co.uk) moving through the field.
Unfortunately oil was now down on the track and with a number of riders falling, including Marty Nutt in a big accident at Paddock Hill, the race was red flagged for safety reasons. Unable to restart because of the extent of the oil, the race was declared a result on lap 6, with riders being awarded half points. Edwards took his first ever win in the Ducati 848 Challenge after being runner-up so many times last season, while Dijon Compton (Boast Plumbing Supplies) took second and Dawson took the final podium position.
Race 2 took place in similar conditions, the temperature dropping making it even harder to get the heat needed into wet tyres. Dijon Compton lined up in pole position, having set the fastest lap time in race 1, with Edwards, Dawson, and Ed Smith (Ultim8 Racing) alongside him. But, as with race 1, things took a dramatic turn on lap 1 when the four leading bikes of Compton, Edwards, Smith, and James Folkard (Minards Pavlou Solictors) went down at Clearways one after the other. That opened up the race for Steve Jordan (Global Robots/Steve Jordan Motorcycles), Byron Beckett (SAS Racing), and Robbie Brown (Ducati Manchester) to push on, with team-mates Woolsey Coulter and Scot Adam (Quelch Racing) storming through the field from Row 6, and Ben Field again showing his Supersport experience.
Beckett was to hold the lead for five laps until crashing out at Graham Hill bend, almost taking out Field, opening the way for Coulter and Adam to fight for the lead. Brown meanwhile started to reel them in, and in a brave last corner move took the lead having made up nearly a second on the last lap to take the race win. Coulter, having come out of a long-time racing retirement to contest this season, took second, with his team-mate Adam third. Ben Field chosen by Bike Sport News to ride the 848 Challenge Vito Sport VIP bike, bagged his second fourth place of the weekend showing his undoubted talent and potential on a bike he had never ridden before.
Race 2 winner, and early Championship leader, Brown said afterwards, “The conditions out there were treacherous. I got a good start and looked to hold my position for the early parts of the race while others were falling all over the place. Once I got into my rhythm I felt I could push on, and that last lap was do-or-die for the win. It's a good way to start the season.”
Race 1 Result (Half points): 1. Edwards, 2. Compton, 3. Dawson, 4. Field, 5. R Brown, 6. Folkard, 7. Smith, 8. Hasler, 9. Wilson, 10. Holden, 11. Myler, 12. Poyser, 13. Coulter, 14. Adam, 15. Steve Jordan, 16. Beckett, 17. Lister, 18. Gibson, 19. Keen, 20. Poll, 21. Cruickshank, 22. Neary.
Race 2 Result: 1. R Brown, 2. Coulter, 3. Adam, 4. Field, 5. Neary, 6. Jordan, 7. Cruickshank, 8. Hasler, 9. A Brown, 10. Poll, 11. Coventry, 12. Dawson, 13. Gibson, 14. Wilson, 15. Keen, 16. Poyser, 17. Poole, 18. Holden, 19. Wyatt, 20. Sarah Jordan.
Championship Top Ten: 1. R Brown (30.5pts), 2. Coulter (21.5), 3. Adam (17), 4. Edwards (12.5), =5. Hasler (12), =5. Dawson (12), 7. Neary (11), 8. Steve Jordan (10.5), 9. Compton (10), 10. Cruickshank (9)