Bahrain Superbike Championship
Round 5 - 10th / 11th March 2017

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Round five of the BSBK Championship was the penultimate round of the series. Unfortunately, I'd dropped to third place in the Championship after a DNF in round four with gearbox issues, so I was keen to score points and get on the rostrum again. Fahad was 13 points clear in second place with Mashel now with an almost unassailable points gap leading the Championship.

 

The weather this time was very good, mid 20 degrees with little wind, normally a one day event this time round five would be spread over two days with two lots of car racing providing track action as well as the two bike classes.

There was a Porsche Cup race which  took up most of the afternoon so we had our practice and qualifying on Friday morning and both races Saturday morning  - so if nothing else we had two early baths.

 

It was really good to see the more local riders improving and developing their skills, bringing their lap times down and ultimately moving up the grid as the season was progressing. It was making the racing much more interesting throughout the field, and more competitive as a result.

Also more of them were asking me for tips and some help to figure out how to, either lap quicker or overcome an issue they were having.

With the temperature being so much warmer I was concerned about tyre wear so only did half a dozen laps of free practice to conserve the rear tyre for qualifying and both races, the bike however had a small oil leak that was giving me concern but the mechanics couldn't find anything amiss

 

When qualifying time came round I waited for a while before going out to let everyone settle down and save the tyre too, the only problem was on my out lap the red flags came out and the session was stopped. I hoped they would restart the session quickly or I was going to end up on the back row of the grid with no qualifying time, the last thing I needed. But fortunately the restart was quick and I got out again, however I was struggling with rear grip having loads of slides which made my panic a bit then after a front slide I went off the track but thankfully didn't go down.

Returning to the paddock I was frustrated to find my times were down and with Mashel on pole Fahad was eight thousands of a second quicker to take second place on the provisional grid. It was still just after lunch time and we had been invited by the main series sponsor to come along and visit his car collection, he did the same thing last year and those who went said it was well worth a look.

Well all I can say is 'yes' it was worth a look, there aren't many times when I have said it was 'jaw dropping' but this was one of them. An amazing collection of supercars, some modern and some more classic but all totally mint and Uber special in their own way.

Race day and everyone was looking forward to getting out on track in morning warm up but I decided to leave it and go straight into race one, I was confident the bike was good and it would save the tyre.

Before we knew it we were rolling down pit lane and out for our first race of the day.

Warm up lap done and red light out we were all roaring down to turn one, Fahad initially had the lead but I out braked him to take the hole shot except Mashel came round the outside at turn one and led up the hill for the first time. I was determined to not let him get away like he normally does and pushed really hard keeping him only a few yards in front over the line for the first time.

A few laps later he was pulling a gap but only 50 yards or so and I thought just keep this going, I knew I was putting the pressure on Fahad in second place but at the same time I needed to finish to build my points tally back up, it's a balance of risk against result.

Then looking back coming onto the start straight I had a massive gap on the chasing pack, what I didn't know at this point was Fahad had crashed out at the top of the hill. This took the pressure off me enough to realise I was unlikely to catch Mashel so backed off to take second place over the line. I was really pleased though when I returned to the paddock I was told I had done my quickest time ever lapping now in the 07's. Ahmed Almuyini had finished third and was clearly very happy with it too, he is one of the rising stars of the BSBK for sure.

Race two came around very quickly and once again we were all roaring down to turn one, this time I didn't make quite a good a start as race one, Mashel arrived there first and little Ahmed out dragged me into the corner. I had a chance to pass him at the top of the hill but thought I would wait for a few laps before having a push to pass him, I knew I was in front of Fahad as he had to start from the back row after his crash but felt I could regain second place before the flag.

However, a few laps into the race I was struggling for grip, my traction light was flashing up everywhere and simply couldn't get the drive out of the slower corners. I could close down Ahmed in the lap but coming onto the start/finish straight he would pull away again. Lap after lap I pushed but couldn't pass him and I was now thinking about points make prizes.Mashel won again and in doing so had built an unbeatable point tally winning the Championship for the second year, but with Fahad crashing in race one I was now firmly back in second place 11 points clear of him with Ahmed just one point further back.

The final round is going to be interesting, I can afford to finish behind both Fahad and Ahmed in both races and still get second in the Championship but it's going to be tight, and I always think you are better to ride for the win if possible rather than just for points, back to the balance thing I guess... We will have to see how it goes but as they say  'inshallah'.