Tarran Mackenzie may have come within one lap of his maiden Bennetts British Superbike championship podium in race one at Brands Hatch, but the BSB rookie feels progress is coming at every round following a frantic 18 months rising through the ranks.

The McAMS Yamaha rider’s fall at Hawthorns Bend on the penultimate lap of the opening race at Brands Hatch was met with an air of disappointment, perhaps more so than most, having been denied the chance to celebrate Mackenzie’s first-ever BSB podium in just his 11th race in the championship.

Mackenzie made amends in race two by taking fifth place, his best result to date, as his team-mate Josh Brookes charged to a dominant double victory at the Kent circuit. While the points difference between the two is vast it is of little concern to the team having set the 22-year-old the goal of bedding into the series on his debut with 1000cc machinery.

The younger son of three-time BSB champion Niall Mackenzie, having shared the grid with his older brother Taylor earlier this year, is no stranger to the British circuit having stormed to the British Supersport title in his rookie campaign in 2016 but the snarling Yamaha YZF-R1 Superbike – and no traction control – has given the pocket-sized rider plenty to get to grips with.

“I knew coming into this year would be tough in the championship and I knew I couldn’t come straight in and run at the front,” Mackenzie said. “It was going to take time and rely on progression at each round.

“At Snetterton I felt really comfortable with the bike but took a backwards steps at Knockhill so I think it is a case of me learning to ride the bike more, understanding it and clicking with it.

“I didn’t expect to be this strong but I wanted to be solid, top six, all weekend. To be so close to the front row [Mackenzie missed the front row by 0.001s in qualifying at Brands Hatch] is frustrating but I’ve got to accept it is my sixth round so to be here already is really good.”

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18 months ago Mackenzie had been eying up a potential World Supersport switch as reigning BSS champion but with a limited budget to offer the best option was to stick in the national series to assess his next opportunity. He didn’t have to wait long.

After Danny Kent left the Kiefer Racing set-up in Moto2, the German squad opted to take on Mackenzie from the fifth round at Le Mans.

The task ahead of the British rider was daunting: learning a new bike, a new class and at a number of new circuits against competition with extensive winter testing and four rounds of racing to rely on.

While his results may not have broken on to the headlines, Mackenzie gained respect thanks to his grit and steady improvements with the highlight of a sole points finish at the Japanese round to cap his quick-fire Moto2 apprenticeship.

With strong links to the Grant Bunting’s McAMS Yamaha team, having left them for the Moto2 chance in 2017, Mackenzie returned to form its 2018 BSB rider line-up next to 2015 champion Brookes.

Another steep learning curve lay ahead but with the support of the Yamaha squad Mackenzie feels he’s on the right path along with a noticeable benefit of experienced winner Brookes on the opposite side of the McAMS Yamaha garage.

“It’s the same as every race, there is no pressure on me to do well, I need to take it as it comes,” he said. “At the other side of the garage, Josh, he’s here to do a job and win races which is nice for me – a bit of a luxury – but I still put pressure on myself to do well.

“It is hard to pinpoint one thing [to improve on] but more laps and more races means the more experience I get so it is one big learning curve and a learning year so I happy with how it is going.”

With a relatively pressure-free environment, Mackenzie has sparkled in the 2018 rookies’ field and trails fellow Yamaha rider and multiple BSB race-winner James Ellison by eight points at the midway stage.

But the long game isn’t the major focus for the young rider as he continues to put the building blocks in place in BSB.

“In the races you learn a lot, like at Knockhill for example, I did pretty much the whole race with Peter Hickman who is really smooth,” he said. “I learned about things I had been doing wrong at mid-race distance to the end. I could see what he was doing so it was a good understanding for me.”

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