Christian Iddon got his 2021 campaign off to a flying start at Oulton Park last weekend, fighting for the victories and claiming a brace of second places at the opening round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship as the title fight heads to Knockhill (July 10-11).
Iddon had a strong SUPERPICKS qualifying session, starting second on the grid alongside Jason O'Halloran, and in all three races led for the majority of the race before O’Halloran eventually claimed the victories.
In the opening race, Iddon had led from the start but O’Halloran had gained the advantage with just over four laps to go, although the VisionTrack Ducati rider admits that it wasn’t how he had planned the start of the race.
“In race one I got the hole shot, although I didn’t really want the hole shot for the first race of the year,” joked Iddon afterwards. “I had been a bit agitated during the start of the weekend so I wanted to get a good enough start to be near the front. I wanted a few laps of calming myself down, but I got the hole shot and sort of settled into a reasonably strong rhythm.
“I really use my dash and we have a delta which shows me how much faster or how much slower I am than myself but it wasn’t completely working. I use it so much and it’s hard for me to try and work out what pace to unlock without it. Then when Jason came past, there was no need to look at a dash or anything because the pace I was trying to run with was a bit hard to manage once Jason had come through; he pulled a really good pace.
“Once I understood he wasn’t actually pulling a better pace than I could manage I realised we had different strengths in different places, I relaxed a bit more and bridged the small gap that he’d made on me. Then I made a slight error with two laps to go and that was enough for Jason to take the win.”
In race two, Iddon was ready to battle to go one better, claiming the lead on the opening lap, before O’Halloran made his move on the final lap on the last corner, but the VisionTrack Ducati rider knew that his rival would be on the attack.
“When Jason hadn’t made a move with about eight to go, I figured he wasn’t going to try until the end and I thought he was going to do what he did. It’s the cleverer thing to do if you’re in his position to stay behind until a last ditch effort. I thought I’d done enough on that last lap to get to my stronger part of the lap but he managed to park his bike just well enough that I couldn’t get the switchback.”
O’Halloran had gone for a hard braking manoeuvre, but Iddon admits he was surprised that he managed to get the McAMS Yamaha stopped for the corner.
“No, I didn’t expect him to make corner,” laughed Iddon. “He came past me with a head of speed and I didn’t expect him to make it so fair play to him, he got it pulled up. I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad really, I was obviously sad that I got mugged in the last corner, but I was pleased with the performance. It was a good strong race and I think that we had a bit of a gap on some of the other guys so we could take heart in that and the bike was really good.”
In the third and final race of the weekend, Iddon again went head-to-head with O’Halloran with a final lap shootout for the victory, as the McAMS Yamaha rider emerged victorious, but for Iddon it was the consistent hat trick of podiums that he had hoped for from the opening event.
“I don’t think I could have done anything differently as I did everything I think I could,” added Iddon. “The only error that I think I made was in the middle of the race, I tried to see if I could break the pack and even see if I could break Jason, which I didn’t think would be possible, but I thought I’d have a go.
“I started to set some decent lap times and a better pace than what I was setting in the second race. I made a mistake into turn one, I just lost the front and it cost me a second on one lap and I’d sort of lost that little bit of a gap that we’d managed to eek out. It also just upset my rhythm a little bit. I’d just lost a little bit of confidence in the front and sort of realised that it could fold on me quite happily there but I was on the limit.
“I did everything I could and Jason wasn’t going to pass me on the last corner, I was going to make sure of it even if that meant that I was going to end up in the gravel - but he did me earlier!
“It is what it is and I actually think Jason had a little bit extra, not in reserve as such, but he was able to do the lap times that we were doing a little bit easier and put his bike in a different place. Plus he spent the whole race checking me out and seeing where I was weak and strong and obviously I didn’t have that information.
“I did watch race two in-between the races to try and understand anything extra, but obviously I can’t defend against that sort of thing. Fair play to him, it was a fantastic weekend from Jason, I think between us we didn’t really put a wheel wrong most of the weekend which is pretty cool.”
With a trio of third place finishes at the opening round, Iddon sits second in the standings as the championship moves to Knockhill.
“I’m looking forward to going up to Scotland,” said Iddon. “The bike works pretty good up there. Qualifying will be so important at Knockhill and the tight schedule might play in to my hands with what I have been used to previously. I quite like the fact it is a rammed schedule so long as it all goes smoothly!
“We have done a lot of laps there and I feel pretty good. The last test we did there I was happy with my times, it will be a bit of an adventure into the unknown because I don’t know what everyone was doing on the times. I will do what I normally do, which is the best I can and hopefully we can have a good weekend.”