This weekend saw LAMI OMG Racing & the Bennetts British Superbike paddock descend on the picturesque Oulton Park circuit, and signalled the start of the series’ signature “Showdown”, albeit with a slightly different format to the norm this year. With less points available than normal at the first 8 rounds, rounds 9 & 10 moving to the traditional structure, and the season finale raising the bar with 35 points available for a win, the championship battle is more exciting than ever, and with LAMI OMG racer Kyle Ryde currently third & just 60 points off the lead, the team are still very much in the mix.
Despite the promise of rain, the Superbike track sessions would remain mercifully dry across the weekend, seeing both Superbike riders secure a solid points haul for the team. As always, Friday would see the 1.6-mile ‘International’ layout, located in the glorious rolling countryside of Cheshire, play host to the innocuous sounding Free Practice sessions. The times from both 40-minute sessions would give the top-12 riders access to the coveted Qualifying 2 on Saturday, deciding who would start toward the front of the grid.
Free Practice 1 (FP1) would see both riders in & out of the team’s garage, making changes to suspension & other adjustments throughout. When 0.001 of a second can make the difference between winning & losing, the smallest of changes can make all the difference. This was to be especially important for the #7 Yamaha R1 of Ryan Vickers, as he had missed the first visit to the circuit this year due to a wrist injury, a malady that was to be repeated heading into this trip following his crash at Cadwell Park a few weeks ago.
The two session would prove successful for both Ryan & teammate Kyle Ryde on the #77 Yamaha, with the former’s combined times seeing him P3 in the standings, just 0.139 of a second from the top spot, with the latter 0.004 behind him in P4. This would guarantee both a spot in Saturday’s Quali 2, ensuring a strong starting point for the first race of the weekend.
Saturday would see a warm, dry day – perfect conditions to go racing. Before Qualifying, we would have a short FP3, which saw both riders put in a strong performance, with Kyle remaining in the Top 4 until the very end, crossing the line P6, 0.607 off the top spot. Ryan would be in a similar situation, holding P5 with 4 minutes to run, just 0.209 off the front runner, before a last minute dash by a handful of riders would see him take the flag P7, 0.630 off.
Lunchtime would see the whole Superbike paddock head onto the grid to pay respects to Paul Bird, who was sadly taken from us just a few weeks ago. As head of the most successful team in BSB history, Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM), as well as an outstanding competitor in his own right, it was a poignant moment for many, and moving tributes were given by the likes of Jonathan Palmer & Fred Clarke. The team would pay their own tribute to ‘Birdy’, and between Team Owner Alan Gardner, Team Principal Paul Curran & Tommy Hill, would decide on red number boards for the Superbikes, as well as the entire team coming together to wear red armbands for the duration of the event.
The time for qualifying would come just after lunch, and with just 12 minutes in which to secure starting positions, it was all go when the pitlane opened. Kyle would put in a stellar performance from the off, with his first sector of his first flying lap showing purple and giving him a fantastic time that would see him P3 at the close, just 0.287 off Pole, securing a front row spot. Ryan, who was again struggling with a wrist injury, as well as covering considerably less laps of the circuit this year than his competitors, wouldn’t quite be able to match his teammate’s pace, but still managed to bag P9 with just 3 minutes to run, 0.676 off the fastest time, showing just how tight the top end of the grid is.
The Bennetts Sprint Race would begin just a couple of hours later, and see Kyle hold his position into Turn 1 and up until Lap 4, whereby he’d relinquish the place, Over the next few laps he’d battle hard with Brookes, before eventually losing the place on Lap 11, finishing the 12-lap session P6.
Ryan would have a less positive session, as a “jump start” that gave him no advantage led to him being black flagged with 7-laps to run, meaning zero points for both him & the team.
Come Sunday, an extended Pit walk gave the tens of thousands of fans opportunity to meet both Kyle, Ryan, and TT-racer & National Superstock rider James Hiller, with thousands of posters signed and many selfies taken. This would give way to a short Warm Up session, which would see Kyle cross the line P2, just 0.289 off the top spot, with Ryan P5, despite being less than 0.2 off his teammate.
Race 2 would prove to be somewhat dramatic in the latter stages, with a Safety Car causing something of an upset on track. Kyle would make a terrific start, snatching P2 off the line, before being pipped into Turn 1 for P3. By Lap 6 he would still be in the Top 3, catching the leading Ducatis of Bridewell & Irwin, pulling out a gap of more than 2 seconds on the Kawasaki of Lee Jackson in P4 by the close of Lap 11. The unfortunate Safety Car on Lap 15 would close that gap considerably, negating any advantage he’d pulled out, and an unsafe restart by Bridewell would mean both riders were caught on the hop and unable to capitalise on it. This led to Kyle being passed by Jackson on Lap 17 under braking, crossing the line P4, just 0.223 behind the Kawasaki rider, although a penalty applied to Bridewell for his restart would see Kyle make the podium, at which he’d have the trophy presented by the niece of the much missed Chrissy Rouse – a touching moment for the whole team and much of the paddock.
Ryan would make a similarly strong start, jumping from P10 to P7 as he entered Sector 2 on the opening lap, making up yet another place to find himself in P6 as he headed into Lap 2. By Lap 9 he’d been passed by Iddon & Brookes for P8, before getting caught up in the poor restart, costing him another place to the Yamaha of O’Halloran, eventually crossing the line P9.
Race 3 would see Kyle make a similarly rapid start, jumping from P5 to P4 at Turn 1, again battling with Jackson for the place, the two friends fighting it out until Kyle secured the spot at Hislop’s, a position he would hold until Lap 5. He’d spend the majority of the race keeping the BMW of Brookes at bay, until the Aussie found his way through at Old Hall on Lap 15, eventually crossing the line P6 4 laps later despite best efforts.
Ryan would again start P10, making up a spot on the first lap, before fighting up to P7 on Lap 8, eventually relinquishing the place to Iddon on Lap 14. He’d eventually finish just 0.011 off P7, recording 159.0mph through the speed trap, just 1.5mph off the top spot.
Oulton Park would see James Hiller out on another of the team’s Yamaha R1s, in the Pirelli National Superstock with Santander Consumer Finance Championship. The TT-winner would put on one of his best performances of the year, with his results not doing his pace & race craft any justice.
Combined practice would see the road-racing legend P19, Qualifying P18 and finishing Race 1 in the same spot, narrowly missing out on another points finish, before starting & finishing Race 2 P17.
LAMI OMG Racing leave Oulton Park P2 in the Teams’ Standings, with Kyle Ryde P3 & Ryan Vickers P9 in the Riders’. The team will now prepare for the penultimate round of 2023 at Donington Park on the last weekend in September.
Alan Gardner, LAMI OMG Racing Team Owner – “It’s been a bit of a frustrating weekend in some ways, and I think that without the incident during the restart we could’ve come away with more points than we have, but we’re leaving second in the Teams’ Standings and there are still plenty of points up for grabs, so we’re very much in the fight. Unfortunately Ryan’s wrist hampered his performance this weekend, but he still did well considering, and I’d like to say thanks to the whole team for working as hard as ever to keep us in the fight. I can’t not pay tribute yet again to Paul Bird, and would again like to pass on my condolences to Lexi, Jordan & Frank Jr, as well as his whole team.”
Paul Curran, LAMI OMG Racing Team Principal – “Ryan performed really well this weekend considering he missed our first trip here earlier this year, unfortunately heading into this weekend with another wrist injury. Similarly, Kyle bagged himself another podium, and I believe could’ve finished another spot ahead had it not been for the confusing & dangerous restart. Going into Donington next weekend we’re feeling confident as we have some fantastic data, and both riders performed really well there on our last outing, so hopefully we can bring ourselves back to the forefront heading into the final round.”
Ryan Vickers, LAMI OMG Racing Superbike #7 – “On a whole I feel the weekend has been pretty good. Coming here having not raced here this year it was never going to be the easiest of tasks, especially with the other rides pushing harder as we reach crunch time, but we finished Day 1 P3, so I was happy with that. Unfortunately the sanction I received in Race 1 cost us a tonne of points, and to be honest I don’t 100% agree with the black flag, but we made some big steps with the bike and got some really good data for when we come back next year. Massive thanks to the team, who’ve been amazing all weekend as always. I’ve been struggling a bit with my wrist again this weekend, especially under braking during the latter stages of the races, but I’m looking forward to heading back to two tracks we’ve been really strong at.”
Kyle Ryde, LAMI OMG Racing Superbike #77 – “To be honest, every race this weekend felt like a little bit of a struggle for me as I just couldn’t quite get the feeling I wanted from the bike in the latter 50% of the races. We tried a few things with the bikes that didn’t quite work, and we just went the wrong way a little bit, but we’ve got some really good data that’ll help us next season. I frightened myself a little bit a few times as we had a few moment on the bike, and the very last thing I wanted to do was throw it away and gift the Ducatis 25 points, but we got a podium and I’m happy with that. Going into Donington I’m feeling really confident, as we have great data for there and very nearly came away with 3 wins the last time we were there.”
James Hiller, LAMI OMG Racing National Superstock #37 – “I’ve had a really enjoyable weekend-I haven’t come away with any points, but I felt I rode probably the hardest I have all year. I feel like I perhaps deserved better positions with the level I rode at, and it’s definitely improved considerably each round, so I’m really excited going into Donington in a couple of weeks’ time to see what we can achieve.”