Higlett Launches Title Assault
Graham Higlett got his assault on the 2014 title off on the right foot, taking all four wins from the opening round at Snetterton.
The 2012 champion, who failed to notch a single win in the year of his title defence, looked focused and determined right from the off, qualifying on pole on Saturday morning, with only Doug Edmondson within a second of his time of 2:18:829. 2013 Rookie champion Matt Barber rounded out the front row, a second back of Higlett.
But it was Barber who put up the most resistance to Higlett's dominance over the weekend, and in Saturday's opening encounter it was the pair of them that disappeared at the front, the only two lapping in the 2:16s. Victory went the way of Higlett, as he eventually gapped and dropped Barber, crossing the line four and a half seconds ahead of him at the chequered flag. Edmondson, with a comfortable advantage over fourth placed Richard Sawyer, came home third.
In the Clubman class, Paul Whitby held the advantage for most of the race, dicing with Andy Wheeler for seventh overall with the pair swapping places constantly. However, too much front brake going into Nelson for the final time saw him lose the front and crash out, handing the win to James Sharpe, who bettered Kev Higerty for the Clubman win. Trevor Sharpe was the third Clubman rider across the line.
Sacha Gyte drew first blood in the Rookie class, taking the win and 17th overall, with Michael Stanley, another Club Bike graduate, second and Tim Hall third.
A packed schedule saw the second Yamaha Past Masters race held over until Sunday morning, when the race was unfortunately red flagged after a handful of laps.
While battling for the position of highest Clubman, Kev Higerty suffered a huge highside at the exit of turn one. The race was stopped, with Higerty later diagnosed with four broken vertebrae.
Higlett took his second win in the restarted raced, chased home by Barber, with Edmondson just half a second back, while Trevor Sharpe took the win in the Clubman class ahead of Whitby and Len Whalin, while Hall just edged out Stanley for top Rookie honours.
Sunday's scheduled races saw Higlett complete his clean-sweep, taking victory in race one by nearly five seconds, after shaking off the attention of Barber, who did his best to prevent the former champion from getting into his rhythm.
Barber, making a good start, held the lead early on, before the pair battled for a number of laps, with Barber launching an attempted pass wherever he could, knowing it was his best chance of preventing Higlett from settling into the groove and taking the win.
Unfortunately for him it was to no avail, with Higlett shaking him off and pulling away to take the win with Barber second and Edmondson third.
Top Clubman honours went to James Sharpe, who came from the back of the grid to finish 10th, after a battle with Whitby and Whalin, who finished second and third Clubman respectively, while Gyte returned to the top step of the Rookie podium, crossing the line half a second ahead of Stanley, with Hall third rookie.
Higlett's rout was complete in race four, while a fluffed start from Barber meant he was unable to get away with the race leader, instead allowing Edmondson to have a go. The 2011 Rookie runner-up was unable to challenge for the lead however, and settled for second, with Barber third.
Whitby took his first Clubman win of the weekend in the final race, with Trevor Sharpe second and John Walker third, with Gyte the leading rookie and in the points in 14th.
Higlett's 100% record means he heads the championship standings, with Barber second and Edmondson third, the trio already putting in a gap to the chasing pack, headed by Andy Davies.
Consistency and four finishes mean Trevor Sharpe tops the Clubman championship after round one with 74 points, while Whitby, on 65, and James Sharpe, on 63, sit second and third.
Consistency for Michael Stanley also means he leads the Rookie championship, with four second placed finishes and 80 points, with Gyte on 75 and Hall on 73.