RITCHIE Thornton has revealed he may not be able to go for a third consecutive title after edging Jordan Watling to the Rideworx Golden Era Superbike championship.
The Team 71 Kawasaki rider beat his rival to the crown by just three points this weekend at Snetterton, but said he could be forced to sit out 2019 after putting all his efforts into this season.
After snapping a connecting rod in practice on Saturday, Thornton was forced to park his main bike and switch to his spare machine, which he says had less power. And with Craig Neve on a tear with lap record pace in his arsenal, Thornton thought the weekend could be over before it began.
“I had no option, I really thought the game was up, especially with Craig Neve riding on an exceptionally quick ZX7,” he said. “He was flying in qualifying and I knew that with him racing in our series, I had no chance of a win on my bike.”
While the road racing ace powered to a Saturday sweep, Thornton bagged valuable points in second and third as his main rival Watling could only manage fifth. But Thornton made a big gamble that night to compensate for his lack of power by swapping the suspension from his out-of-action main bike to the spare.
After a strong start in Sunday’s first race, the championship challenger managed another second-place finish as he held off Andy Denyer. And with Watling fishing in fifth place behind last year’s Golden Era Supersport champ Luke MacRae, Thornton had reduced his points deficit to just 15 with one chance remaining.
Despite a nearly race-long battle with Denyer in the final race, Thornton bagged another runner-up finish and with Watling once again crossing the line fifth, Thornton completed his title defence and secured the Golden Era crown.
“I knew Andy was a threat and when he got in front of me, with just four laps to go, I just willed myself on. Sam Cox was between us at one point, and once I managed to pass him, I could see Andy about a second or so in front.
“I left everything as late as I could to reel him in, almost crashing a couple of times, but I managed to pass him at the Bomb Hole and thankfully pulled a bit of a lead. I so pleased to see the last lap flag.
“I didn’t really know whether I was the champion again or not until I pulled into Parc Ferme and my Mum and Dad told me. After such a hard and difficult season, we all felt the emotion all at once.
“It was a great moment, but we were all exhausted and it took a while for me to actually believe that I’d won the championship again.”
While he managed to take his second title on the bounce, Thornton says he’s set for a year out, but hasn’t ruled out any wildcards in 2019.
“We spent so much time and money this year repairing and preparing the bike for all the meetings, I just can’t afford to do anything next year.
“My plans at the moment are to take the ZX7-R out for a couple of rounds in 2019 and take time to think about what I would like to do in the future.”
*Main and action images: Colin Port
*Podium image: UK Clubsport