ANTHONY Johnson, Bob Collins and Peter Baker shared the big bike spoils as Bemsee’s 2020 season roared into action at Brands Hatch.
The three big-hitters took a win apiece as the Reactive Parts MRO Powerbikes series kicked-off at the Indy Circuit over the weekend.
With reigning champ Michael O’Brien off to pastures new, it was 2018 champion Johnson who set the pace in qualifying, clocking a best time of 48.252 on his Technical Lifting Services BMW, more than half a second quicker than Baker, who ended the session in P2.
In cloudy but dry conditions, the first big bike race of the year began late on Saturday afternoon, and it was Philip Baker who came through from seventh on the grid to take an early lead, closely followed by FWR Racing’s Collins.
Collins moved ahead on lap two and led for two laps as Johnson fought back after dropping to fourth in the opening lap. On Lap four, Johnson took the lead and quickly put half a second between himself and Collins which was to build steadily over the coming laps.
On lap eight, Mark Bridger got ahead of Collins and managed to keep him at bay for the remainder of the race and Johnson took the win by more than 6.5secs over Bridger’s Moremoto Yamaha, as Collins took third.
As a wet track greeted the paddock on Sunday morning, things were starting to dry out as the Powerbikes headed out for their second battle late in the morning and this time Collins was looking for a win from a front row start behind Johnson.
The FWR Suzuki took the lead in the first lap while Peter Baker came through from the second row into third behind Johnson, who was clearly struggling.
By lap two, Baker and Bridger were past the former champ and Baker was flying. By lap three he’d cut Collins’ half second lead to 0.196 and took the lead a lap later.
But Collins wasn’t letting him have it, and shadowed him for four laps before moving ahead. Within a lap he’d stretched a 0.696 lead over Bridger, who’d also pulled a move on Baker.
Collins continued his charge to take the win, 0.858secs ahead of Baker, as Bridger was handed a five second penalty for a yellow flag infringement which dropped him to third place.
But Baker still had something to give and took a dominant win in the third and final scrap of the weekend which became a battle of tyres as the weather went from dry to wet to dry again.
Collins was once again off like a scalded cat at the start, followed by Ritchie Thornton, who shot through into second from fourth on the grid on his Team 71 Kawasaki.
Baker had dropped to fourth in the opening lap but by lap three was past Thornton and passed Collins for the lead a lap later.
From there, his Dodfrey Engineering Kawasaki had an easy run to the flag as he put two seconds between himself and Collins in one lap before heading off to a lonely win.
As Collins dropped back, Bridger came through to second but soon found himself being troubled by a charging Max Morgan who managed to make the best of what he later admitted was the wrong tyre choice of wets to storm through from fifth on the grid to take second and his first class podium on his MSS Performance Kawasaki.
Bridger, meanwhile, continued his podium run with another third place, 1.452secs behind Morgan.
Sadly, any hopes of a similar scrap at the next round were quickly put to bed as former National Superstock Cup champion Collins later admitted he wasn’t doing the full season, although he has hinted he could be back out at Donington or Brands Hatch later in the year…
*Images: Mitch DuCran