BY GILES SPENCER
Tooting born superbike racer Gino Rea, had his best weekend of the year at Snetterton in the British Superbike Championship last weekend with two top five finishes.
Rea had his best qualifying session of the year so far putting his Buildbase Suzuki in seventh to head the third row for race one, held on Saturday.
A great start in Saturday’s sprint race saw Rea slot into fourth place off the lights, dropping a couple of places to sixth by the end of the first lap.
Three laps of twelve down and Rea was the quickest of the top six and closed within a second of the leader, Glenn Irwin.
Lap four and leader Irwin crashed out gifting Rea a spot but while one hand giveth the other taketh away as Irwin brother, Andrew, sat up on the exit of a corner on the racing line with his hand raised, leaving a blindsided Rea to take evasive action, resulting in the South Londoner crashing out through no fault of his own.
Despite his early exit from Saturday’s race, Rea’s best time put him fourth on the grid for Sunday’s first race.
Rea got the best start out of everyone to lead the pack for the first lap with the Suzuki man leading until a slight mistake on lap four dropped him to fifth only 0.75 seconds off the lead.
Not one to take it lying down, Rea was straight back on the case in the six way scrap for the lead, moving upto fourth less than half a second off the lead after seven of sixteen laps.
Six laps to go and the top three just start to gap Rea who was struggling to keep the pace of the leaders.
Three laps left and the Ducati of Josh Brookes passed Rea for fourth with Kawasaki rider Lee Jackson in close company and despite the 31 year olds best efforts he took the chequered flag in a season best fifth place, less than three seconds off the win.
Final race of the weekend and starting from seventh on the grid Rea made another blinding start to head into the first corner in second place before being shuffled back to fourth by the end of the first lap.
After dropping to fifth, Rea regrouped by lap six to bridge a gap to the leaders, running at a pace quicker than the rider at the front.
Eight of fifteen laps down and the top five were covered by less than a second with Rea easily holding the pace of the leaders.
Just one lap later and fourth placed Danny Buchan’s BMW locked up at the end of the back straight, crashing out causing mayhem behind him, scattering riders and bringing out the red flags.
A five lap dash was scheduled for the restart with Rea starting from the front of the second row in fourth place.
With his best starts all year, Rea, again, slotted into second off the line before being bumped back in short order to fourth.
As in the first part of the race, Rea held fourth, less than a second off the leader, with Christian Iddon and Peter Hicknam glued to his rear Dunlop.
Final lap and Rea could smell a podium as he swarmed all over the Yamaha of Jason O’Halloran but despite giving it his all the Suzuki didn’t have the legs on the drag to the flag with the Buildbase rider taking his best result of the year with a fourth place, 0.2 seconds off third and only 1.152 seconds off the win.
“It was a really positive weekend.” Rea said, “The last race was so frustrating. A podium was so close. I gave it everything I had to try and get past O’Halloran but couldn’t make a move.”
“Saturday was unlucky with Irwin’s blow up. I just couldn’t avoid him, I was tucked in behind Jackson and didn’t see him sit up.
“I think that was a possible podium as well because the shorter race distance would’ve played into our hands and I had good pace but we rebounded well and led the first three laps of today (Sunday) which was really nice to lead again. I made a little mistake and ran wide and the leaders got past and I just sat there behind them.
“I had a little bit of tyre wear on the front and started losing a few places and just couldn’t quite stay with the leading three, then Brookes pipped me but still, I was top five and less than three seconds off the win so it was really positive.
“The last race was going even better for us. I was sitting in fifth and just waiting for the end, trying to save my tyres and then it got red flagged and I was lucky not to go down on Buchan’s oil.
“In the restart I felt really good as well but we had trouble with the rear brake and I couldn’t control the wheelie and couldn’t get close enough to O’Halloran to pass him. Frustrating but very, very happy.
“Hopefully we can continue that forwardinto Silverstone which is another strong track for the Suzuki so we’ll be trying to get some champagne and our first podium there.”
Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne’s rider, Bradley Ray had a tougher weekend with ninth, twelfth and ninth places respectively.
The next round of the championship will be held on the Silverstone National circuit on the 10-12th September.
Photos: Impact Images/Bonnie Lane