Tom Neave scores points in a rain-soaked Donington Park as the Pathway Fireblade paves the way to sixth for Franco Bourne

Race Report
In a chaotic and shortened Bennetts BikeSocial Sprint race, Tom Neave bagged himself an eleventh-place finish in the wet conditions, whilst Franco Bourne scored a season-best sixth on his Pathway specification Marvel HCL Motorsport Fireblade, making up a remarkable seventeen places on the way. 

The two Honda Racing UK riders, Andrew Irwin & Tom Neave, lined up towards the rear of the grid for the weekend's opening race after qualifying in nineteenth and twentieth positions earlier in the day. As they rolled out of pitlane on their sighting laps, the dark clouds overhead began to empty and tension on the grid rose swiftly. Although the rain was intensifying, the decision to race on either wet tyres or intermediates was being questioned by crew chiefs and riders up and down the field. Andrew would choose intermediates and Tom - full wets. 

As the lights went out and the field roared away from the line, both riders were cautious on their opening laps as they searched for grip. Meanwhile, class rookie Franco Bourne was carving through the field from his twenty-third grid slot to sit in eleventh position by the end of lap two. Three laps later, Andrew would sadly crash out of the race unhurt at Craner Curves. 

Back on the Pathway Fireblade, Franco at this point had broken into the top ten and was running in seventh position right in the wheel tracks of Peter Hickman in front. Just one lap later he had made a move stick and was into the top six. Tom Neave at this point was also making progress as his confidence in the slippery conditions rose. Come the chequered flag, Tom would cross the finish line in eleventh and Franco would hold onto his sixth place finish - becoming one of the youngest riders to secure a top ten at just nineteen years of age. 

In the Pirelli National Superstock Championship, series leader Dan Linfoot rocketed his Optimum Bikes Racing Fireblade to pole position for the first race of the weekend. Then with dark clouds forming overhead and rain intensifying this race was red-flagged and reduced in length to an eight-lap dash. At the restart, Joe Talbot grabbed the early lead, which he would then hold all the way to the finish to secure his debut win. In doing so he became the seventh different winner in the class this year aboard his JR Performance Racing Fireblade. 

The Honda Racing team will be back in action tomorrow for the two twenty-lap races, scheduled for 13:15 & 16:30. 

#68 Tom Neave

This has been a real confidence-building race for me, after starting in twentieth position and making up nine places to finish in eleventh, in super tricky positions too. It was a bit chaotic on the grid and making the decision to race with inters or full wets was tricky but I think we made the right call. I look forward to going again tomorrow in the two longer races, as I always feel stronger with my late-race pace, and come rain or shine we will have a good go at it. 
Race 1 - 11th

#18 Andrew Irwin

First race back and the weather is in between and super challenging. I think 60% of the grid went wets and the other 40% went inters. I chose to go with intermediates because I felt the track was at that turning point but it was really hard to tell where the track was dry and where it wasn't. I just got caught out at Craner as I was trying to make a bit of a step, but that’s the way it goes. We have two more races, there is no stress, no pressure and we go into tomorrow wanting to make steps forward and enjoy it. 
Race 1 - DNF

Bennetts British Superbike Championship 2023

Donington Park GP, Race 1

Race 1

Bennetts British Superbike Championship 2023

Donington Park GP, Qualifying