Brands Hatch can be an unforgiveable place; even in its short ‘Indy’ format, the circuit’s seemingly endless curves and undulations make it one of the most infamously challenging tracks in the country. Equally as challenging is the lung-bustingly steep hill facing many of the British Superbike’s support race community…
“There’s good news and bad news”, Claire Wilks, Team Manager of Wilks Racing, was told as the small team arrived at the paddock gate; the good news was that, for this weekend, Wilks Racing would be based on tarmac, not the dirt and gravel facing some of the travelling circus. The bad news was that they were to be perched at the very top of the support paddock’s intimidating slope.
With water cascading out the team truck’s back door whenever the shower was used, the team set about hunting more rewards from the weekend, namely more points toward their championship campaign. Two weeks previous Kyle Wilks stormed to a 14th place finish at the opening race of the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 Championship; now he was looking to improve, climb the order and continue an impressive start to the team’s life as an independent outfit.
Brands Hatch often appears to have it’s own micro-climate (come to think of it, all British race circuits seem to possess the same) and so while the rest of the country was bathed in unrelenting sunshine, a corner of Kent was overshadowed by thick cloud cover. The bitterly cold wind was remedied by tea and bacon rolls supplied by Mike and Kay Wilks, perhaps the most important ingredients of a race weekend; Bacon, the fuel of champions?
In an eight-minute Warm-Up session, not a lot can be determined, so when Kyle and his black-and-red Kawasaki broke cover the 21-year old was keen to ‘take it easy’. Nonetheless, the Wilks Racing Kawasaki posted the 18th quickest time, just five positions shy of where he would start the day’s race.
That starting position, 13th with a time of 47.470 seconds, was less that half-a-second from P2 on the grid, highlighting both the level of competitiveness of the championship and just what a great job Kyle and the whole team are doing with a limited budget.
Throughout the support paddock the story is similar, young team’s struggling for finances and looking to make their way to the top. Despite the pressures and stresses the atmosphere remains open and friendly, a stark contrast from the main paddock where the Superbikes and their star riders are held, all locked away behind garage doors – the bacon doesn’t flow as freely there.
The sun had yet to show more than a glimmer by the time Kyle lined up on the grid. Wilks Racing’s number one mechanic, Jordan, suggested pre-race that Kyle get his head down early doors, stay out of trouble and avoid being hung out to dry at the often congested Paddock Hill bend or Druids hairpin. Kyle avoided just that, but slipped a couple positions on the opening lap…
From there it was good old fashioned ‘elbows out’ racing; Kyle became embroiled in a race-long battle on the fringe of the points, slipping only momentarily to 17th yet seemingly always capable of regaining any lost positions. With the aid of a sole faller ahead of him, Kyle snatched 12th at the finish line!
That position not only betters the impressive result in the season’s opening race but matches Kyle’s best ever finish in the championship, equalling his result from Thruxton in 2013. Twelfth also garners more points toward Wilks Racing’s championship campaign. “I’m really happy with another points result, the team is great and have pulled together to give me what I need to do the job,” said Kyle after the race.
After two races, Wilks Racing can reflect on a superb start to their debut season and the signs are there to suggest their good form will continue, the talent and ambition certainly isn’t lacking!
As mentioned already, Brands Hatch can be an unforgiveable place, and during the Superstock 600 race on Sunday, it proved to be just that. James Puttrell, 25, from Hitchin and Jordy de Jonge, 17, from the Netherlands fell from their machines on the Cooper Straight whilst taking evasive action to avoid other fallers. Both riders suffered severe injuries and are undergoing treatment at relevant hospitals. The thoughts and prayers of the entire racing community are with them and their families.