Delighted Strafford clinches title

Delighted Strafford clinches title

MIRFIELD rider Ryan Strafford retained his Thundersport GP1 superbikes title on a dramatic final weekend of the season.

Strafford went into the final event at Oulton Park with just a nine-point lead over Kieran Smith at the top of the championship, after he missed three races in the previous round for the birth of his son.

The season climax had a different set-up to previous rounds, with only two races and double points. Ryan clinched pole but was pipped at the line by Smith in the first race, so he knew he had to finish ahead of his rival in the final race.

In wet conditions, Strafford made a blistering start and Smith crashed out, allowing him to bring the bike home at a steady pace to keep his crown.

“What an amazing year we’ve had,” he said after the race. “So many race wins, consistent riding, great battles with great competitors and to top off the championship, Krysta and I have a beautiful little boy. What more could I ask for?”

Free practice took place on Friday with five of the six sessions proving to be wet affairs. This allowed the team to dial in a good suspension setting ahead of what promised to be a wet race day on Saturday.

It rained overnight as expected and Strafford set the pace with some blistering times in qualifying. He set the fastest time over every lap, was the only rider to break the two-minute barrier and finished on pole, 1.2 seconds ahead of second-placed Smith.

The track was starting to dry out ahead of the first race and both of the title rivals opted for a hard rain tyre. However, the heavens opened again early in the race and left both fighting for grip.

By this point the two were locked in a fierce battle. Strafford led in the opening two laps but Smith crossed the line first on lap three. The lead changed hands at almost every corner throughout the remaining laps as neither gave an inch.

Unfortunately Ryan came off worst with backmarkers on the penultimate lap, putting him two seconds down ahead of the final lap. As the riders came into view out of the last corner they were virtually side-by-side, but it was Smith who got to the line first.

That saw him leap up to the top of the standings with a one-point advantage, making the final race winner-takes-all.

The rain returned 15 minutes before the start and soaked the circuit, giving the team time to switch to the soft wet tyre for better grip.

Strafford made an awesome start from pole, leading by several bike lengths going into the first corner, but Smith crashed out midway through the first lap.

That meant the title was Strafford’s as long as he could bring the bike home, which he duly did as he eased off to finish in third place and become a back-to-back champion.

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