GRAEME Gowland and Barry Burrell shared the podium spoils as they turned up the heat in the Mirror.co.uk BSB-Evo Championship at the new Snetterton 300 circuit on Sunday.
Gowland, of Allendale, Northumberland, finally broke his 2011 Evo duck as he scorched to victory in race one at the Norfolk track, but the rider was devastated when he crashed out of the second while looking good for a double win.
Bishop Auckland’s Burrell overcame tyre troubles which destroyed his hopes in race one to storm through the field to grab third in race two, boosting his championship hopes.
Gowland was finally closer to his old self having battled back from a broken wrist in the opening race of the year at Brands Hatch.
The pre-season favourite, on board the WFR Honda, has struggled to get back to full race fitness as a result of the injury, but was almost back to his winning best as the championship arrived at the new-look circuit on Friday morning.
Consistently in the top three all weekend, his pace in qualifying saw him beat off many of the main Superbike runners as he took pole in Evo and 15th overall on the grid , three places higher than the next best Evo bike of Simon Andrews.
At the green light it was the PR Racing Kawasaki of Andrews which got the best start and sauntered into the lead, but it took just three laps for Gowland to reel him in and make the pass.
From there he came under little pressure, gapping Andrews and riding his own race all the way to the flag. However, things didn’t work out so well when race two got under way. Getting the best start and taking the Evo lead straight away, he made a mistake going into the new Hamilton’s corner on lap three and crashed out.
“I just lost the rear going into the corner and it went,” the 24-year-old told The Journal. “I had just past Steve Brogan and I felt really comfortable with it, but I just lost it and the bike went. I’m gutted if I’m honest.”
But he admitted he was pleased to take the earlier win.
“That was a big, big relief. It’s been a hard start to the year and it has taken me much longer than I had planned to get the wrist back to full strength.
“I had physio at the track during the weekend and that really helped. I had the pace from the start but was always concerned about the wrist, so to get that win was brilliant.
“I’m just annoyed because it really should have been two.”
Further down Pit Lane, Burrell was also having his own bad weekend as raceday dawned on Sunday. Having risen to second in the championship after the double win at Thruxton, he dropped down to third behind Andrews after a tough weekend at Knockhill two weeks ago.
And his run of bad luck continued into the first race, where he lined up in ninth. Getting off the line and retaining his place, be remained in ninth until drama involving two other bikes further up the field forced him wide on lap five and he dropped to 11th.
Tyre problems forced him to return to the pits twice during the race to try and solve an issue with his rear, and he had to wait until race two to see if he could make an improvement.
But as the second race began, it was clear his Buildbase BMW machine was back to strength, as he charged through the pack from seventh to fourth in six laps. The race was stopped with Steve Brogan and Evo runner Andrews involved in a massive crash further up the field, and at the restart he lined up third and held the spot all of the way to the flag.
“Yeah, it was all right in the end,” he said. “The first race was a nightmare with the tyre problems, but the second was much better. Unfortunately I was starting pretty far back so it was hard to catch up to the guys at the front.
“After Knockhill, I needed a podium to get my championship chase back on, and it came at a great time. It was good race, I felt happy with the bike and the result means I’m just one point off second.”
Although Burrell lies third, second-placed Andrews looks likely to be out of action for some time after breaking his leg in the crash. He faces a bone graft this week. This, in turn, will promote Burrell to second place ahead of the next round at Oulton Park in a fortnight.