With the 2015 Bol d’Or returning to its spiritual home at the legendary Paul Ricard circuit, the Prime Factors Racing team has enjoyed an incredibly strong start to the event, running top five Superstock pace throughout qualifying.
It was a tough opening day of action on Wednesday however, as a small crash from rider Barry Burrell and minor machine troubles meant Barry, along with team mates Lee Johnston, Gary Mason and Steffan Cappella were not able to show their true potential.
With the Prime Factors Racing team working late into the night to resolve the machine troubles, all four riders enjoyed an immediate improvement Thursday morning for the first official practice. Despite early morning rain making the track slippery, coupled with a lack of track knowledge, the Prime Factors Racing team were able to steadily improve throughout the session to be running as high as tenth overall, eventually finishing in an impressive 14th overall, but crucially sixth in the Superstock class.
With sun arriving ahead of first qualifying and temperatures increasing, the team were confident of a good result from all four riders. Out first for his twenty minute session, Gary (who is still suffering from the injury sustained at Oschersleben) utilised the session to get as much track time as possible, setting a personal best lap of 2:03.571 to finish 11th on the timing screen. Barry was second out, setting a 2:02.659 on his way to a class eighth in his session. 24 hour newcomer Lee Johnston went next, flying around the circuit to set a stunning 2:01.160 lap which saw him secure third in class and an incredible eighth overall. The final session saw Stefan Cappella take to the track as the sun was setting, but not letting that slow him down he too set a new personal best of 2:04.584 to end up fourth in his class. The Prime Factors Racing team then rounded off Thursday’s action with the four guys getting their first night laps of the Paul Ricard circuit.
With temperatures continuing to rise into Friday’s second and final qualifying session, anticipation was high in the Prime Factors Racing camp and neither rider disappointed. Again the first one out on track, Gary continued to battle through the pain of his shoulder yet was still able to improve his best lap time, securing a 2:02.607 lap and finishing the session eighth in class. Barry went out second, setting a blistering pace to secure the team’s fastest lap of the weekend with a 2:00.636, placing him second in the class and ninth overall. Lee was third out and was just shy of Barry’s time with a 2:00.903 which was good enough for fifth in class whilst Stefan again improved his personal best with a 2:03.446 lap, finishing his session in fourth in class and eighth overall.
Speaking after qualifying the riders said:
Gary Mason “Coming to Paul Ricard was always going to be a challenge, given that the doctors said it would take six weeks before I could ride and we’re here within just three. I’m suffering a bit during heavy braking, but we knew this would be the case and I’m not feeling too bad and we’re actually able to run some competitive times. I sat out most of Wednesday in order to not strain the shoulder, but we’re in the 2m 02s laps and qualifying went really well.
For sure it’s going to be one of the toughest races of my life, but the guys are doing a great job and we’ll be heading out tomorrow ready to push!”
Barry Burrell “It’s been a really good few days here and I’m feeling good on the BMW S1000RR. The whole team has been working hard every day and we’ve been taking steps forward with each session. Ahead of the second qualifying today we made some changes to the machine as I struggled with front grip slightly yesterday but the team have been able to fix it and we set a great lap…roll on the race!”
Lee Johnston “It’s been a great experience joining the Prime Factors Racing team for the Bol and although it’s certainly different to what I’ve been riding it’s not too far off and I’m feeling good. I’m really pleased with our pace so far, the boys are doing a mega job in the garage and the bike is fast down that back straight – 24 hours is something I’ve never done so tomorrow is going to be exciting!”
Stefan Cappella “I’m pleased with this weekend, learning the track isn’t too bad as it’s not that complex – but that back straight is mad! The other guys have a lot more experience than me, so although it’s kind of catch-up for me sometimes we’re not a million miles away and with every session on the bike we’ve taken a big step forward and improved our lap time. Qualifying went well, I made a bit of a mistake but today we went even faster and I’m never usually a qualifier anyway so we’ve got to be pleased!
Concluding on the week so far, Team Manager Steve Plater added, “After the crash on Wednesday, we were a little on the back foot slightly but the boys in the garage did a mega job sorting it and qualifying went really well. K Tech has been doing a great job to suit all the riders and the guys themselves are improving with every outing as they learn the track.
The temperature is certainly building, which might mean we need to look at the tyre choices slightly in the afternoon sun but regardless, the boys have shown that they can run podium pace…but talk is cheap, it’s the chequered flag that counts!”