Mirfield’s Ryan Strafford celebrated winning back-to-back titles at the Thundersport GP1 Superbikes Championship following a dramatic eighth and final round held at Oulton Park Race Circuit.
The RS Racing Team entered the last round of the championship with just a nine-point lead after Strafford missed three races at the previous round due to the birth of his son.
The Oulton Park meeting is different to all the previous rounds as there are only two races on the Saturday with both scoring double points.
Strafford knew that he had to beat rival Kieran Smith in at least one race and finish just behind him in the other to retain the title.
Heavy overnight rain meant the track was wet for Saturday’s qualifying but Strafford set the pace, recording the fastest times over every lap and was the only rider to break the two minute barrier finally finishing on pole position, 1.2 seconds ahead of Smith who was second.
The track was drying out by the time the first race started and Strafford led for two laps only for Smith to overtake him on lap three.
At this point the rain began to fall harder and both riders started to feel the hard tyre fighting for grip as the pace was extremely quick and neither wanted to back off.
The lead changed at virtually every corner throughout the remaining laps as the pace slackened due to the wet conditions and backmarkers also began to affect the leaders.
Strafford came off worst with backmarkers on the penultimate lap, crossing the line to start the final lap two seconds down of Smith, who went on to take the win by a narrow margin which gave him the overall lead in the championship by a single point.
It was winner takes all in final race and Strafford knew he had to finish in front of Smith to win the championship.
With just 15 minutes to go before the race, a downpour thoroughly soaked the circuit and a decision was made to run on the soft wet tyre.
Strafford’s team believed this gave them a better grip and the wheels were changed in time for the start of the race.
Strafford made a blistering start from pole and led by several bike lengths into the first corner and by the end of a very quick first lap Strafford appeared out of the last corner but Smith didn’t appear.
A quick look at the timing board and it became obvious that Smith had crashed out midway round the circuit.
The team put the ‘out’ sign on the pit board as Strafford crossed the line at the end of lap two and all he had to was bring the bike home safely without racing hard.
This is exactly what he did coming home in third place to become back-to-back champion.
Strafford said: “We have had an amazing year with so many race wins, consistent riding, great battles with great competitors and to top off the championship Krysta and I have a beautiful little boy.”
Strafford also passed on his thanks to everybody who helped and supported the team, along with his sponsors.