Round one beckons as BSB riders debrief after final test day

The region's best riders and teams were out in force during the final British Superbike testing session, preparing for when the flag finally drops later this month.

The pre-season has been the longest in memory, after BSB organisers decided to delay round one until after June 21 – dubbed 'freedom day', when the final Covid restrictions are due to be removed – to ensure as many fans as possible could return to circuits.

Oulton Park, in Cheshire, will host the opening round, from June 25-27, which will see all the BSB riders and the support classes return to action in front of supporters for the first time since 2019.

The final test session was held at Donington Park on Tuesday – and the Cannock-based RICH Energy OMG Racing team were out in force for the fourth and final official test.

Under clear blue skies and a blazing sun, Aussie National Superstock 1000 contender Billy McConnell – who is riding for the team for a third straight season – was first out before the superbike pair of Brad Ray and Kyle Ryde, both new faces in the OMG garage, entered the fray for their session. All three were on brand new BMW M1000RRs.

After a difficult Oulton Park test, McConnell was straight on the pace, setting the sixth fastest time in session one, which was bettered in session two as he topped the time sheets, rounding out the day third fastest overall.

Ryde returned another strong day's testing and, after a steady start, the Nottinghamshire native backed up his performances at Silverstone, Snetterton and Oulton by posting the third-fastest time overall and top BMW once again.

A progression of sixth, fourth and third fastest sessions capped an impressive pre-season display, leaving the former MotoStar, STK600, and GP2 champion full of confidence ahead of the Oulton Park opener.

For Ray, it was another chance to become more at home on his BMW M1000RR after missing the first two tests having undergone an operation.

At a circuit that has given him his biggest BSB success so far, the Kent man worked hard to get the best out of himself and his machine, ending 12th on the time sheets.

Team Principal Paul Curran, from Cannock, said: "Testing has been really good.

"Kyle has done every test and really gelled with the bike. He's on really good form at the moment.

"Brad is a little behind after his operation so from the laps he's done on the new bike to where he is now, I think he's done really well. He's probably frustrated that he's not where he wants to be but he's certainly not far off.

"We're in a good position with both superbike riders and looking forward to round one now.

"Billy had a really good day. We had a testing plan that we wanted to stick to, which we did, and he ended up third fastest overall.

"We're in our fourth season now and we fully believe podiums in both classes aren't out of the question."

Stafford sensation Storm Stacey was also in action as he looked to build on his debut BSB campaign, which saw him become the youngest-ever rider to score points in the premiere class in 2020.

Stacey, 18, finished 16th fastest in session one and 18th in session two, ending as the 20th fastest rider over all when all the times were combined.

Superstock 1000 rider Taylor Mackenzie, who is back in the Bathams Racing garage – run by Brierley Hill's Michael Rutter – for a second time was also back in action as he aims to claim the title this year.

Mackenzie came away with a very impressive performance finishing second fastest over all after the two sessions.

The Brownhills-based JJR team was also out in force boasting three riders, all competing in the superstock 1000 series.

New Zealander Shane Richardson, who is returning for a third-straight year, ended the test day 11th fastest over all, with fellow JJR riders Caolan IRWIN, from Ireland, 31st and David Allingham 38th.

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