Barber Hat-Trick At Brands But Higlett's Not Out Yet
Matt Barber's hat-trick of wins at Brands Hatch and round six of the DFDS Seaways Yamaha Past Masters championship extended his series lead, but reigning champion Higlett showed he's still fighting to retain his crown.
Championship leader Barber qualified on pole, and hit the front at the start of the weekend's opening race, with Higlett in tow. Higlett made a move for the lead in the early stages, but was sadly forced to retire almost immediately after with mechanical issues. Higlett's retirement allowed Barber to pull out a commanding lead of nearly 11 seconds at the chequered flag, as he took his first win of the weekend.
Second went the way of Pete Moore, the Manxman locked in a race-long scrap with Pete Fishwick, the former race-winner and YPMRC stalwart making a wild-card appearance. It set the tone for the whole weekend, with the pair inseperable around the famous Brands Hatch GP circuit. Just five hundredths of a second split the pair at the line, as one of the closest battles all season confirmed the podium finishers.
Doug Edmondson finished fourth, narrowly fending off the attentions of rookie and hot prospect Scott Grant - Grant would go on to receive the British Motorcycle Racing Club's Sir Ben Ball Trophy as its 'tip for the top'. Grant also secured yet another Rookie class win.
Behind the top five raged a battle for top Clubman honours, with nothing to choose between Paul Whitby, Sacha Gyte, Paul Toland (who was also making a wild-card appearance this weekend) and Steve Higerty.
After a sluggish start to the season for Whitby by his own standards, he hit a rich vein of form at Brands, and after a four-way scrap for the number one Clubman spot, he managed to pull out a gap of over one and half seconds to take the class win in sixth place.
Following him across the line were the other three, all looking to fill the Clubman class podium, with Gyte and Higerty also very much with an eye on this year's championship. Less than half a second covered the drag to the line, with Gyte and Toland seventh and eighth and second and third in class. Steve Higerty took ninth while his brother Kevin Higerty, still returning after a serious back injury sustained last season, finished in a lonely 10th place.
Race two and Barber again raced unchallenged to victory, but the impressive ride of the race went to Higlett, who came through from the back of the grid to finish second, just five seconds adrift of Barber.
The battle for third saw Moore and Fishwick reignite the fire from race one, however this time they were joined by Grant, making it a three-way fight for third.
It was Fishwick who held second early on, and when Higlett passed him he still retained third for much of the race. Unfortunately for him he was eventually passed by Moore before Grant also made a pass stick. It ended up in another drag for the line, with Moore taking third by six hundredths of a second fromt Grant, while Fishwck was just seven hundredths further back on the Rookie class winner.
Sixth and the Clubman win again went to Whitby, as three tenths of a second covered the class podium, this time with Toland seventh and Gyte eighth. Steve Higerty dropped of the fight for the class podium in the closing stages but still finished ninth.
10th went to Paul Henson, as he dragged himself clear of a tense dice with Giles Harwood, Kevin Higerty and Paul Davies, who finished 11th, 12th and 13th respectively.
With the final round of the championship taking place at Snetterton this season, the club's annual hog-roast was rescheduled for the Brands Hatch GP round, with riders past and present enjoying a social evening in the paddock, with funds also raised for Club Fat Boy, to help former rider Craig Jennings.
Clearly not too full of boar on Sunday morning however was Barber, as he raced to his third win of the weekend, seeing off the attentions of Higlett to take the win by two seconds and further extend his series lead.
After shadowing Higlett for much of the race Grant began to lose ground on the reigning champion, but looked like he had third in the bag. However, pushing too hard, he lost the front on the final lap at Westfield and crashed out. That meant Fishwick and Moore's battle suddenly became for the final rostrum spot, with Fishwick claiming it by three hundredths of a second.
After a DNF in race two, Edmondson came from the back of the grid to finish fifth, ahead of the ongoing Clubman tussle. Gyte took the class win and finished sixth, while Michael Stanley, after a round (and pretty much a season to date) of mechanical woes, finished a tenth further back in seventh and was second Clubman. Paul Whitby finished eighth and rounded out the Clubman podium.
Giles Harwood muscled his way into the top 10 and finished ninth, also taking the Rookie class win along the way, with Kevin Higerty just behind him in 10th.
The final race of the weekend saw Higlett return to winning ways, as he beat Barber by just a tenth of a second to show he's still in with a shout of the championship, setting the fastest lap of the weekend on the final lap of the race along the way. Barber had led every lap throughout the race, but Higlett led the one that mattered to prevent a Barber clean-sweep.
Third went to Fishwick, after a mistake on the final lap by Moore meant he crossed the line nearly four seconds further back. After a DNF in Sunday's opener, Toland recovered to come through and take the Clubman class win in fifth, with Stanley and Gyte sixth and seventh and second and third in class.
Whitby finished eighth ahead of Harwood, who took the Rookie win, and Kevin Higerty. Steve Higerty made it two DNFs for the day, adding to his crash from the earlier race with a mechanical retirement in the final race.
The next round of the DFDS Seaways Yamaha Past Masters takes place at Cadwell Park on September 4-6.
Photos: E.G.B Photography