By Edward Kelly
The first round of the 2012 MCE British Superbike season was held this Easter Weekend at the short Brands Hatch Indy circuit. And at this time of the year, weather was always destined to play a major role in proceedings.
In the early free practice sessions, WSBK legend and BSB rookie Noriyuki Haga was obviously struggling with the set-up of his Swan Yamaha. His body language reflected discomfort, although this also may just have been down to the cold, damp conditions.
The Ducati 1199 Panigale's of Moto Rapido Racing and Jentin Doodson Motorsport, forced to run non factory fitted Motec electronics systems due to BSB control rules, were also struggling throughout the early sessions.
Alex Polita was visibly unhappy when his Panigale suffered a siezed gear box very early on during the day, with no relevant spare parts immediately available in the Jentin Doodson garage.
One of the Moto Rapido machines enjoyed a fire extinguisher encounter, after entering pitlane with flames flickering from its exhaust. Florian Marino was the only new international recruit to even sneak into the top ten after three Free Practice sessions.
British Superbike qualifying sessions are held in a shootout format, similar to World Superbikes and Formula 1.
Each part of qualifying was most notable for those that didn't make it through, and thus found themselves well down the grid. Reigning champion Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha), could do no better than twenty-ninth quickest, going out in the first round. Michael Laverty (Samsung Honda) and Alex Lowes (Team WFR) also failed to progress. Luca Scassa (Padgetts Racing) did squeek into the top ten at the end of the three sessions.
Tristan Palmer (GBmoto Racing), stepping up from National Superstock 1000, surprised many by securing a front row start with the fourth quickest time. This is also GBmoto Racing's first BSB season.
Tommy Bridewell (Supersonic Racing), recruited at the very last minute to replace the Moto2 departing Anthony West, also rode very well on an unfamiliar machine to start from seventh on the grid. Haga did enough to finish sixth, not quite living up to his star billing.
Race day was cold and wet, two conditions always likely to result in a motorcycle racing crash fest, especially at the opening round of the season after five months of riders' champing at the bit.