Seton Tuning Yamaha's Sam Warren produced the save of the decade to record his fourth podium finish of the season at the Cheshire circuit of Oulton Park (5-7 May).

The Derbyshire-based rider has proved his mettle in all weather conditions this season, propelling his Seton Tuning Yamaha YZF-R6 into championship contention. With a solid qualifying, Sam lined up third on the front row for the 10-lap Sprint.

Powering from the lights, Sam majestically pushed through the pack to run second as the Motorpoint British Supersport Powered by Datatag field closed out the first lap.

Chasing down Jack Kennedy, the race looked to be unfolding into a battle of the Yamahas, with the two protagonists vieing for the lead with each lap.

A typical late breaking manoeuvre into Lodge corner on lap 4 put Sam into the lead as he powered up Deers Leap and across the white stripe. Looking to make the break, the action became relentless as Kennedy clung to Sam's red tail section desperate for a way through. Sam's mix of aggressive and defensive riding kept his nose in front until Kennedy made the decisive move out of Cascades on the run past the lake towards Island on lap 8.

Now it was Sam's turn to ride shotgun. The 29 year old looked settled and supremely confident in the grip his Pirellis afforded him. A trademark move on the final corner at Lodge looked on the cards. Sam had excellent drive up Clay Hill as the riders attacked the final third of the lap. Then 'The Moment' scuppered all chances of a second win of the season. Powering through Druids, Sam cracked the throttle a millisecond earlier than previously sending both tyres into the slide of all slides. Miraculously, he regained control keeping his Yamaha rubber side down and as Wilson passed for second Sam clung on to the final rostrum place for 16 points.

Sam's race lap time of 1:38.542 elevated him to second on the grid for the main Bank Holiday Monday 16-lap event. A more restrained start saw Sam circulate on the tail of the leading group during the opening exchanges.

As the race reached the mid-point it was clear that he had ridden a mature, level-headed race as he ducked under Iddon's Triumph at Lodge to move fourth and start to make his challenge on the podium places. Unfortunately, as the riders passed the two-thirds race distance marker, a red flag incident prematurely halted proceedings just as Warren looked ready to make his assault, leaving him in fourth and just shy of his second podium of the weekend.

ben_burke_oulton_park_2012.jpgThe Seton Tuning Yamaha trio of Ben Burke, Bjorn Estment and Mark Wilkinson carried their point-scoring momentum from Thruxton with them to the scenic, undulating 2.69-mile Cheshire circuit. With the weather having played a deciding factor in the Superbike race, the team opted for a wet front and dry rear Metzeler tyre set-up on the still damp track.

Lining up on the inside of the front row in fourth, Ben made a blistering start from the lights to take the holeshot into turn one, with pole-sitter Wainwright hot on his heels.

Leading into the second lap, Ben overshot the tricky Hizzy chicane, taking to the wet grass. Ben managed to save what looked like a certain crash to rejoin the train albeit back in seventh spot. Pushing as hard as his wet front Metzeler tyre would allow on the now dry track, Ben was unable to make in-roads into the leading group but secured sixth as race direction halted the race on lap 11 for an incident involving Wainwright and Blackshaw.

Buoyed by solid performances last time out, Bjorn Estment and Mark Wilkinson made excellent starts from rows five and seven respectively. The pair became locked together in a four-way battle just outside of the top ten with Groves and fellow Yamaha rider Kinloch. With less than half a second splitting the quartet for the vast majority, the pair soon got into their stride, posting successively quicker lap times towards the close of the race, with Bjorn stealing bragging rights from his teammate by just 0.2s across the line as they finished 12th and 13th.

bjorn_estment_oulton_park_2012.jpg       mark_wilkinson_oulton_park_2012.jpg
Sam Warren: “A 3rd and 4th places in the races doesn't really show what we were capable of this weekend and I have to say I’m a little disappointed I couldn't grab another race win. In the Sprint, we were running very strong, taking the lead early on. The tyre went off quickly and Kennedy came past. I'd pretty much settled for a podium when on the last lap Kennedy started to tighten up. I got mega drive on him into Druids and then I had 'The Moment'. The data shows I went in 6kph faster with 5degrees more lean angle and cracked the throttle earlier than the previous lap! So I guess lady luck was on my side and luckily the slide didn't turn into a high-side. 3rd was good considering. The feature race started off slow. About 6 laps in the tyre came to me and I started to attack. Getting up into 4th and right on the leaders, I thought I had the pace to win it, when the reds came out. So you could say I used all my luck up in race 1! Anyway, points in the bag, still in the hunt and back to full fitness following the break in my hand at Thruxton. Good job by all the team.”

Ben Burke: “It was a good weekend, and I seemed to be on pace early being 3rd fastest in Saturday's practice. With weather conditions holding for dry qualifying sessions, I was able to put myself 4th on the grid. We had a tricky decision to make for tyre selection as the weather was so changeable prior to the race, as it turned out we should have gone with dry tyres but the decision had been made to use a wet front and dry rear. I pushed hard during the race after a good start and was leading through the first few laps but struggled to recover on my chosen tyres after hitting the grass and losing ground. I couldn't keep the pace with the front runners after that. Still very happy to score some points with a 6th place finish. I look forward to next week at Donington. Well done as always to the team for another great weekend.”

Bjorn Estment: “That was a tough learning curve and a hard race with the tyre choices we made but great to be in the points again. Looking forward to a solid outing at Donington. Big thanks to Scotty my crew chief and John with electronics. Wishing Josh Wainright a speedy recovery!"

Mark Wilkinson: "What an up and down weekend for me! It started badly with a nasty high-side in practice which put us behind with set-up for qualifying. The team made big improvements to the bike for Q2, which knocked 0.7s off my Q1 time, but still left me in 28th on the grid for the race. Race day brought changeable conditions, with the team making a strategic call on tyre choice that paid off in the shortened race. I made an excellent start to the race making up 12 positions on the opening lap and rode hard to come home with my best result of 13th. I have to thank the entire Seton Tuning Yamaha team for their efforts this weekend and getting me back on track. I'm really looking forward to the Donington WSBK double-header next weekend now! Hopefully I can make  a better qualification and get some more championship points.”

Phil Seton, Team Owner: “Great qualifying from Ben showed his true potential. I was really pleased to see him at the front for the second meeting in a row. My call on the tyres for the Superstock race was wrong, thougth the window between right and wrong is very narrow. However, it was a good performance from all 3 stock riders, so I'm very happy.

Another great weekend for Sam. Solid points with 3rd on Saturday. It was a great save on the final lap, though it cost him second. I think that our luck was used up as the second race was cut short just as Sam was ready to make his move. Still, good points though. The team is looking forward to World's next week at Donington.”

Round 4 of the 2012 MCE British Superbike Championship takes place at Snetterton, Norfolk, 25-27 May, with the Superstock trio enjoying a stint on the world stage next weekend as the Superstock classes battle it out at the Donington Park round of the World Superbike Championship.

Images © Steve Hutchings

Results - Oulton Park

Motorpoint British Supersport Championship Protected by Datatag
Race 1 Result:
1. Kennedy, 2. Wilson, 3. Warren, 4. Richards, 5. McConnell

Race 2 Result:
1. Richards, 2. Wilson, 3. Kennedy, 4. Warren, 5. Iddon

Championship Points:
 1. Kennedy - 96.5, 2. Wilson - 87, 3. Warren - 84, 4. Richards - 83, 5. McConnell - 60

Metzeler National Superstock 600
1. Whitaker, 2. Olsen, 3. Campbell, 4. Dixon, 5. Jackson, 6. Burke, 12. Estment, 13. Wilkinson

Championship Points
1. Dixon - 54, 2. Whitaker - 43, 3. Rose - 40, 4. Hastings - 33, 5. Fisher - 25, 8. Burke - 21, 19. Estment - 7, 22. Wilkinson - 4


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