The Smiths Racing BMW team got their 2018 Bennetts British Superbike Championship campaign underway at Donington Park this Easter weekend and although inclement weather conditions affected the entire three days and made it tough for the Gloucester-based team, Peter Hickman was able to give them a solid result of eighth place in the opening race aboard his Smiths Racing BMW1000RR.
After challenging conditions in both free practice and qualifying, which saw new signing Sylvain Barrier come to grief at Craner Curves, Hickman lined up in eighth place on the grid for yesterday’s opening 20-lap race with former FIM European Superstock 1000 Champion Barrier back in 17th place and the sixth row.
Temperatures were still very low when the race came under starter’s orders at 4.30pm but it was at least dry although there was drama for Frenchman Barrier when he had to start from pitlane and dead last whilst Hickman was able to complete the first lap in tenth place.
The Louth-based rider remained in the top ten for almost the entire race distance and in the second half, he was able to overhaul Danny Buchan, Michael Laverty and Leon Haslam to claim eighth place and with it, eight hard-earned points. Barrier, meanwhile, caught and passed no less than eight riders to finish in 19th place.
The second race was scheduled to take place today on Easter Monday, but torrential rain placed it in doubt and there was no track action at all until just after 1.30pm. However, the rain eventually relented, and a full race took place at 4.30pm although it wasn’t a memorable race for either rider as Hickman crashed out of 12th place on the final lap and Sylvain’s choice of intermediate tyres, as opposed to slicks, kept him back in 18th.
Peter Hickman: “It’s been very much a case of ‘steady away’ this weekend as the conditions have been very challenging and after having an uncharacteristic crash on Saturday, we made some massive changes for Sunday’s race. I was a bit tentative to begin with and got duffed up at the first corner which dropped me back to 12th but once I settled in, my pace was as good as anyone’s and eighth place wasn’t the worst result I could have had in the first race of 2018. Today’s race followed a similar pattern and it again took me a long time to get going. When it did, my pace was good but when I tried to make a move on Josh Brookes on the final lap, I lost the front and down I went. I need to qualify better, so I don’t get mired in the pack and that’ll be amongst by prime goals at the second round.”
Sylvain Barrier: “It hasn’t been the easiest of weekends for me as the weather has been very tricky and that’s caused me to have both a small crash and a big crash. We had a really good winter with some very positive testing so it’s a shame the weather has gone against us but that’s the way racing goes sometimes and on a positive note, I did finish both races. Obviously, they’re not the results I want and in today’s race, my choice of intermediate tyres was probably not the right one to go with. I’ve gained more experience and have a good feeling with the bike, so I’ll take that with me to Brands Hatch and hopefully not make any mistakes there!”
Rebecca Smith, Team Manager: “We’re naturally quite disappointed with how the weekend’s gone and although it was one of those weekends where things can go awry, it’s frustrating that a number of riders have capitalised on it and scored some good points. The results aren’t a true reflection of where we are as a team as both riders have made good progress and are happy with the set-up in both the wet and dry so we’ll come back fighting at Brands Hatch and get our season properly up and running.”
Bennetts British Superbike Championship Race One (18 laps)
1 Bradley Ray (Suzuki)
2 Shane Byrne (Ducati)
3 James Ellison (Yamaha)
4 Dan Linfoot (Honda)
5 Luke Mossey (Kawasaki)
6 Glenn Irwin (Ducati)
8 Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW)
19 Sylvain Barrier (Smiths Racing BMW)
Bennetts British Superbike Championship Race Two (18 laps)
1 Bradley Ray (Suzuki)
2 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
3 Dan Linfoot (Honda)
4 Danny Buchan (Kawasaki)
5 Shane Byrne (Ducati)
6 Christian Iddon (BMW)
17 Sylvain Barrier (Smiths Racing BMW)
DNF Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW)
Championship Points (after round one)
1 Ray 50pts
2 Byrne 31
3 Linfoot 29
4 Haslam 27
5 Mossey 19
6 Irwin 19
14 Hickman 8
The second round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship takes place at Brands Hatch on 13/15th April 2018.
Pictures (courtesy of Double Red Photographic). Peter Hickman (60) and Sylvain Barrier (20) in action at Donington Park today.