Team ILR had two riders in action as the British Superbike Championship visited Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire at the weekend, with circuit newcomers Sam Laffins back in the Santander Consumer Finance KTM RC 390 British Junior Cup, andRobert Kennedy competing in the Pirelli National Superstock 600 Championship.
Santander Consumer Finance KTM 390 RC British Junior Cup With only a few days until he took part in the British Talent Cup selection event at Silverstone, Sam Laffins could have been forgiven for 'taking things easy', but this wasn't the case as he arrived at the nicknamed 'mini-Nurburgring' determined to show just why he has been selected for such a prestigious opportunity this week.
His weekend got off to a less than ideal start though when he was shunted off the track by another rider on his practice session out-lap and lost the front end when he had to take to the grass.
This meant that his very first laps of Cadwell Park would be in qualifying!
Undaunted Sam went out and duly qualified a brilliant sixth quickest and was in the top 6 though both speed traps. At the end of the opening lap of Race 1 on Saturday, Laffins had dropped two places but was very much in the hunt for sixth as the top five riders began to pull away in front.
At the halfway stage Sam had made sixth place his own and had his sights set on fifth place rider Connor Thomson who was half a second in front. Sam claimed fifth on the fifth lap and next on the radar was fourth in the championship Matthew Bower who he caught and passed on the next lap after setting what would be the 4th fastest lap of the race.
With two laps to go Laffins was holding on to 4th place, but Bower wasn't quite finished and the two had a real scrap over the next two laps which went all the way to the finish with Matthew just getting the nod by the smallest of margins.
For Sunday morning's warm-up team boss Ian Lougher made some changes to the bike after feedback from Sam, and he immediately felt the benefit and finished in 3rd place and feeling confident. His great ride the previous day had put him two places up the grid to head the second row for Race 2 which would again see him in a tussle with Bower and Thomson.
This time though Laffins got the measure of his Race 1 rival to take a superb fourth place from Bower in fifth, and he set the fifth best lap of the race on his last lap.
Sam was also third quickest through the finish line speed trap, and was in the top six through all three sectors to complete a very satisfactory weekend's work.
Pirelli National Superstock 600 Championship
Team Sandown's Robert Kennedy has got his season back on track in recent rounds, and he maintained this momentum with an excellent performance at Cadwell.
Practice and qualifying were held in tricky conditions with rain appearing midway through the second practice session and at the start of qualifying.
Despite this, the team worked professionally to ensure Robert had the best set-up possible and, with the qualifying session virtually completed, he put in his best lap to finish an excellent 8th quickest, and he was also third fastest through both speed traps.
From the third row of the grid, Kennedy got a good start and soon found himself in a safe sixth, which by the seventh lap was still looking very secure. However, on the 10th of 11 laps he was coming under real pressure from Dan Stamper and Bradley Pirie, and as they went on to the last lap the battle for sixth was very much on with only 0.4s covering the three.
But Robert is riding with renewed confidence and he kept his nerve and rode brilliantly to fend off the challenge and hold on to sixth place.
He also set the 4th fastest lap of the race which was only 0.314 seconds outside the new lap record to round off a very pleasing weekend for the Dundrod rider who now sits tenth in the championship.
Team ILR owner/manager Ian Lougher:
"It's fair to say that I'm so impressed with both RK and Sam for their efforts over the weekend.
Cadwell Park is such a difficult and strength-sapping circuit, it's hard to describe how much of an obstacle it is until you have ridden it.
They were both first timers at the place, but worked hard and got to grips with it so quickly, it's unreal how fast learners they both are.
Sam was unlucky not to get 4th in his first race, getting out dragged to the line by 0.024 of a second, but made up for it in race two and out paced his two nearest rivals on the last lap to claim 4th in that one.
RK was unsure if he even liked the place after his first practice, but qualified 8th to go on and have an amazing race to bring it home in a fine 6th position."
"Right from the beginning this has been a very challenging, but also a very rewarding meeting and arriving on the back of a recovery truck wasn't the best start, but I was looking forward to getting to grips with the challenging Cadwell track regardless.
I enjoyed the track and quickly got to grips with it, enjoying the undulations of the back and the technical nature of the mountain section.
After a few laps, I started to really feel confident and began to push for a good time.
When up to speed I felt a few slides from the front and knew I could make some improvements.
I felt very happy with my progression throughout the weekend with all the problems we had, I'd like to thank Ian Lougher and Asa from Team ILR for their support and input, and indeed all my personal sponsors, friends and family for making this happen.
Now on to Silverstone for the British Talent Cup trials, where I hope to keep the momentum going and give a good performance."
"I didn't know what to expect going into this weekend, as I had never been to Cadwell Park before!
After FP1 I wasn't overly enjoying the track, but thanks to the hard work from Ian, Willy and my dad we made great progress as the weekend went on.
I was over the moon with my qualifying place which has been a struggle for me this year.
In the race itself, I made a great start and tried to go with the leading bunch, but to be honest I didn't have the track knowledge to stay with them, but I'm over the moon with 6th place.
Just want to thank all at Team ILR and Team Sandown for all their hard work, all my sponsors for making this happen every weekend, and all my family and friends."
The next round of both championships take place at Silverstone in three weeks time.
In the meantime, Sam Laffins is at Silverstone for the British Talent Cup event, and Team ILR owner/manager Ian Lougher is back on the Isle of Man where he will take part in the Classic TT races.