Donington delight for Dan Kneen
Dan Kneen got his 2015 season off to a flying start at Donington Park on Easter Monday when the Manxman took a brilliant eighth place in the opening round of the Pirelli National Superstock 1000cc Championship.
Using the meeting primarily as extra practice in preparation for the International road-racing season, Dan was having his first race since breaking his foot at last year’s Ulster Grand Prix as well as making his debut for his new team, the highly experienced Valvoline Racing by Padgetts Honda squad.
Getting quicker and quicker as the weekend progressed, Dan placed 23rd after the opening qualifying session and knocked a further seven tenths of a second off his time to move up to 21st on the grid for Easter Monday’s race. A brilliant start to the 16-lap encounter saw Dan immediately move up inside the top 20 and from there on in, he consistently moved forward. By lap seven he was holding onto a top ten position and part of an eight man dice for eighth place and, aided by a lap a further half second quicker than his best in qualifying, he duly seized eighth place on the last lap for one of his finest British Championship rides.
The result on the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade, in a class dominated by Kawasaki and BMW machinery, has given Dan great optimism for the season ahead and with the next round at Brands Hatch on April 17/18 followed by a Dunlop test session at Castle Combe, the 27-year old is ideally placed to arrive at the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT in the best shape possible and with the opportunity of having his best ever year on the roads.
Speaking after the Donington meeting, Dan said: “Coming into the weekend, I’d only had a handful of laps on the bike, and they were in the wet, so I was certainly rusty after such a long lay-off with the injury and I didn’t set myself any targets or have expectations; I just wanted to use the weekend as more preparation for the roads and get myself more used to both the bike and team. We tested and tried a lot of things with the bike over the course of the three days, continually making it better, and mainly to suss out what I wanted from the bike. We certainly did that and to cap the weekend off with such a strong eighth place, in what’s always a seriously competitive class, was the icing on the cake.”
“Clive [Padgett] has such a massive amount of experience and it was great to start working with him and I couldn’t have wished for a better start as we clicked straightaway. I’m still not bike fit so it was nice to get some mileage under my belt and with the next round at Brands and the test at Castle Combe, we’ll arrive at the North West 200 in great shape. I’m delighted with the start to the season and can’t wait to get out on the Valvoline Racing by Padgetts Honda Superbike and Supersport machines as I know they’re going to be ultra-competitive. I’m really grateful for the opportunity and am eager to repay the faith shown in by Clive and the team with some strong results throughout the year.”
Picture by Jon Jessop Photography