Buildbase Suzuki’s Richard Cooper took a dominant win at the final round of the 2018 Bennetts British Superbike Championship, winning the last race of the year after leading from start to finish onboard his GSX-R1000R at Brands Hatch.
Launching from the front row of the grid he grabbed the lead and pulled out a comfortable advantage at the front. Managing it all the way to the line he took a commanding win, highlighting the constant improvements he and the team have been making this year.
Cooper was on the pace all weekend but was unfortunate to crash out of Saturday’s race while challenging the front group. Undeterred, he made a good start in the wet conditions for race two but was boxed in and lost ground. Getting his head down, he came through the pack and closed in on the leading group before settling for fourth place after struggling with misting on his visor
Confident ahead of the final race of the year, Cooper’s win came by over seven seconds as he bolted to the front, set the fastest lap of the race, and managed the gap to take victory.
But it was heartbreak for his teammate Billy McConnell in the National Superstock 1000 championship, as he narrowly missed out on the title after crashing out of the last race of the season.
McConnell arrived at the final round looking to overcome a 10.5 point deficit in the championship and started the race strongly by leading early on. Conditions were treacherous, and he ran wide at Druids approaching one third race distance, allowing title rival Keith Farmer back past.
However, clearly able to run a competitive pace coupled with a need to win the race to stand the best chance of claiming the championship, he was keen to return to the front. But after getting the drive out of Graham Hill bend on his GSX-R1000R McConnell ran hot into Surtees, losing the rear in the process and crashing out of the race and in turn, title contention. The misery was compounded further when Farmer, too, crashed out, highlighting the difficult conditions, while it also meant that fifth would have secured the title for McConnell.
On the second Buildbase Suzuki GSX-R1000R superbike Bradley Ray finished 11th in Saturday’s race, before picking up an eighth and another 11th in today’s races.
Richard Cooper, “I feel like that’s been coming to be honest. We were fast all weekend and I feel like that win is the deserved result of a lot of hard work. Our pace has been really good at the last three rounds though to be fair, but for the win to come in the wet as well shows a really big improvement as that’s where we’ve struggled the most this season. At Oulton we changed the mapping and I couldn’t ride the bike how I needed and it was a bit of a wake-up call. Today I had full power and just managed it myself as I knew what I had to play with at my right wrist. But I can’t thank the team enough; I was overshadowed a little bit at the start of the year as Brad had a great beginning of the season and has been really fast, but we were working just as hard on my side of the garage and it’s finally been rewarded. It’s also great for the team morale to bookend the season with wins. It’s been pretty emotional to be fair, but we’ve still got the Sunflower Trophy races and Race of the Year at Mallory, and I intend to give the team two more results before the end of the year.”
Billy McConnell, “What can I say? It’s obviously not the result we wanted or the way we wanted to end the championship. But I knew that really I needed to win to have the best chance and Keith was really strong in the conditions as well. But it’s racing, it’s the way it goes sometimes, and today just wasn’t our day. We still managed second in the championship and we’ve had a good year; the bike’s been great, we’ve won a lot of races, and it’s been a lot of fun. So big thank you to the team and all of my sponsors for an amazing season and well done to Keith.”
Bradley Ray, “We’ve just been missing a little bit with the bike and our setup over the last few rounds. Obviously we know where we can be and have shown it this season, so it’s a little disappointing to end the year with the results we have. But we’re looking at the positives – we’ve been strong this year and have to be pleased with being in the Showdown. We’d have liked to have done better but we’ll go away now and have a break, before starting again for next year. There are some changes coming to the bike, which will help, and hopefully we can start 2019 as we started 2018. Congratulations to Cooper today, too. He rode an excellent race and deserved that win and its great for the team.”