Well, what an epic start we’ve to the 2022 Bennetts British Superbike Championship! After switching to Yamaha at the end of 2021 we had an inkling that both Brad and Kyle would be quick on the Yamaha R1 but even we’re more than a little impressed with the results so far. From the first outing on British soil back at Snetterton in March, both riders have shown their class in the championship, and although we’re only four rounds of eleven in, the foundations are laid for both riders to be in the Showdown by the time we leave Snetterton in early September – before though, preferably. In case you were wondering, 186 points secured the final Showdown slot last season.
Fast laps and consistency have been the order of the season so far; everyone knows testing is just testing and often the fast laps don’t add up to a championship challenge, however, the riders have bucked that trend this season. Brad Ray was third fastest at the opening test in Norfolk with the top three covered by less than a tenth of a second while Kyle Ryde took third overall at the Silverstone test (very few teams took part in the Donington Park test due to snow!) and Brad then topped the final test at Oulton Park in April, so it really was a gauntlet thrown by both Brad and Kyle for the season ahead.
James Hillier took on the bulk of the testing for the two big road racing events as the team looked to make their debut at the NW200 and the Isle of Man TT. Teammate Davo Johnson had difficulties leaving his native Australia but eventually joined the team at Silverstone. Both riders were new to the Yamaha R1 so it was a time of learning and developing before the big races came around.
The opening round at Silverstone was the Glenn Irwin show but both Kyle and Brad banked strong points for the opening round, despite Brad’s little race two indiscretion while leading and his only one in a race (so far…). Three second places, two for Kyle and one for Brad, and a third-place plus six front-row starts that included two pole positions and a lap record returned the team’s best-ever British Superbike weekend to date in the three-race era.
Oulton Park was next up for the team and it did not disappoint. Brad Ray smashed the unofficial fastest two-wheeled lap record in Free Practice while Kyle Ryde embarked on a weekend that would help him enjoy the Cheshire circuit for once after a difficult relationship between them in the past. Pole for Ryde and a win for Brad Ray in race one gave way to another win in race two and a podium in race three that took the championship lead from Irwin of the Glenn variety. Two front-row starts and his fastest-ever laps of Oulton Park saw Kyle Ryde take his best points haul from Oulton and his third podium of the season. Three more pole positions, two additional front-row starts another lap record and four trophies surpassed even the team’s expectations for Oulton Park and the start to the season.
The difficult part of Oulton Park was the injury to Davo Johnson in race one. James Hillier sat out the event in preparation for the upcoming NW200 but Davo needed a little more time to get comfortable on the Yamaha R1. Sadly, the lovable Aussie high-sided coming out of Knickerbrook in the closing stages of the opening race, fracturing his pelvis and his collarbone, ending his season before it had begun. A light appeared at the end of the tunnel for Davo as he was offered the opportunity to do tv commentary for TT+, and unsurprisingly he was exceptional.
As the team headed off to morph themselves into the Road Racing team for the NW200, Kyle underwent arm pump surgery in Manchester (it’s where all the fast lads go…) before he and Brad joined up with James and the team in Portstewart for the NW200. The videos are on our TikTok page. Green pop, indeed… For James, it was down to business and a string of top ten results around the triangle put the former Superstock race winner on the front foot for the short hop to the fabled TT races.
Between the NW200 and the Isle of Man TT was the small matter of Round 3 of BSB around the shorter National layout and one of Kyle Ryde’s favourite circuits. That circuit love served him well as he took his first win in Rich Energy OMG Racing colours in Saturday’s opening sprint race with Brad a strong third. Sunday’s race two was a mixed result for local man Ryde as he set a new lap record before tucking the front at Maclean’s on lap four, sending his Yamaha R1 cartwheeling through the gravel trap before it head-butted the tyre wall and landed in a heap, looking very sorry for itself. The rider was thankfully ok and it was then a race against time for the crew to get the bike ready for race three. What a show of teamwork and spirit to get Kyle’s bike out again; a full frame change in two hours was pretty special to witness and congrats to all involved. Three more trophies and another lap record…
The Isle of Man TT was an intense time for everyone. Fifteen days and lots of watching live timing and the excellent TT+ coverage for the team while with media teams scattered across the assembly area and the paddock, there was always someone wanting to chat with James. All good coverage but sometimes we questioned the timing of shoving a microphone up James’ nose as he was getting ready to go up to the grid and do his thing. He’s a popular lad! The fortnight went well in the grand scheme of things, a new bike and three years away was always going to take time to gel and by the time the Senior TT was over it was all smiles and a job well done by all.
To round off a ridiculously hectic schedule of nine race weekends in ten weeks it was off to Knockhill for Round 4 of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship. Kyle had tested well there and Brad has always enjoyed the circuit and coming back from arm pump surgery like his teammate did at Donington Park, there was one less issue to address for the weekend. Pole position twice for Brad Ray, plus a race win in Saturday’s sprint race and second in race three with Kyle starting third for race two and bringing home three top ten results, it was another successful weekend for the RICH Energy OMG Racing Yamaha team.
As we sit here in the summer break after the busiest and most successful period the team has ever had, there’s a lot of pride in a job well done on the Roads and an air of anticipation and excitement continues to build around the BSB pair. A successful Brands Hatch could see Brad confirmed in the Showdown ‘mathematically’ at the very least, while Kyle could make great strides to confirming his place ahead of the trip to Thruxton in early August – if we were greedy, we’d like both riders confirmed in the Showdown after the Hampshire trip so we don’t have the stress and strain of Silverstone last year…
Thank you for all your support so far this season and we look forward to seeing you at the track!