BRITISH Superbike rookie Brad Ray demolished the standing lap record at Mallory Park yesterday on the way to his first Race of the Year victory.
After taking the trophy with Taylor Mackenzie last year, Mallory-based squad Buildbase Suzuki returned with guns ablaze yesterday fielding BSB podium man Ray, National Superstock 1000 runner-up and former champ Richard Cooper against a host of BSB regulars.
And while Cooper faced stiff opposition in the form of Gearlink Kawasaki’s James Westmoreland and his Supersport team-mate Ben Currie, who lined up beside him on the front row for the 20 lap scrap, the pint-sized Suzuki rider set a new circuit record to take pole with a 51.043s lap, just 0.032s under Billy McConnel’s 2016 mark.
With a strong hole shot, Cooper controlled the early battle as Westmoreland, Andrew Irwin and Currie slotted in behind to give chase while National Superstock regular Leon Jeacock led Ray ever so slightly in the scrap for fifth after lap one.
But Ray easily levered Jeacock aside on lap two, before powering his GSXR1000 past the 600s of Currie and Irwin on lap three.
And it took the 20 year-old just two more laps to usurp Westmoreland, hitting the front on lap six after slicing his way past veteran Cooper.
From there, Ray put his head down and extended a lead nearly all the way to the chequered flag as he smashed Cooper’s 51.043s lap from qualifying with a 50.660s – the new Mallory Park lap record by over 0.4 seconds.
Despite setting a 50.856 of his own, Cooper wasn’t able to keep pace with Ray and had to settle for a runner-up finish by just over three seconds, while Westmoreland held off Currie to take the final podium position.
*Image: Steve Snelling