Peter Hickman closed to within eight points of third overall in the 2018 Bennetts British Superbike Championship after the Smiths Racing BMW rider put in two superb rides to finish third and fourth in the penultimate round at Assen today.
Having qualified in tenth place for the first 18-lap race around the 2.82-mile Dutch circuit, Hickman made a superb start to move up to fourth at the completion of the first lap and the race soon became a four-way battle for the lead between Hicky, Tarran Mackenzie, championship leader Leon Haslam and Jake Dixon.
For much of the race, just one second covered the quartet with Peter sitting in fourth in the main on the Smiths BMW S1000RR, waiting to make his move towards the end of the race. He did just that on the penultimate lap to take third from Dixon but shortly afterwards he made a mistake when he missed a gear, subsequently dropping back to fourth, and with no time to make up the lost ground, he had to settle for the position, only 0.3s off the final podium position.
His pace could be seen as he set the fastest lap of the race – a new circuit lap record – so started the second race later in the day from pole position and a perfect opening lap saw him immediately open up a lead of more than a second.
However, a mid-pack crash brought out the safety car for a number of laps and when racing resumed, his lead had been wiped out. He was still leading at half race distance but having lost the lead to Josh Brookes on lap 11, Haslam pushed him back to third two laps later.
It was still close between the leading trio though and Peter held on to take third place, his third BSB podium of the season. He now sits in fifth overall in the championship with three races to go but he’s now only eight points adrift of third placed Brookes.
Team-mate Sylvain Barrier, meanwhile, was competing on a circuit he knew well from his European Superstock 1000 Championship winning days and lined up in 19th on the grid for the first race. A slightly sluggish start in the opening race saw him lose three places and he eventually finished in 20th place but the Frenchman regrouped well for the second race and scored three more championship points after taking a solid 13th place, despite still carrying a finger injury.
Peter Hickman: “The Smiths Racing team have worked so hard to get the previous issues we had with the bike fixed and they’ve done a mega job, so I felt happy with the bike all weekend and we were fast from the word go. I had my usual rubbish qualifying session, but I made a great start in race one and showed we had the pace to win at Assen. A small mistake from me at the end meant we just missed out on the podium, but it was great to be back at the head of the field where we should be. It was great to start race two from pole position and I made the perfect start, but the safety car period hurt us a bit as the tyres cooled off a bit too much. The tyre was chattering a lot in the last six laps as I’d spun it on the rim when I was trying to generate some heat, but it was great to be back on the podium and we’re well in contention for third place in the championship.”
Sylvain Barrier: “I was looking forward to this weekend as it’s a circuit I know well and was hopeful of some strong results, so I was obviously a bit disappointed with the outcome in race one. We made some changes in between the races and although the beginning of the second race was quite hectic, I stayed out of trouble and was pleased to come home in 13th and score some more points. The team did a great job all weekend so a big thanks to them for all their hard work.”
Darren Jones, Team Co-ordinator: “It’s been a good weekend all round for Pete and to cap it off with a podium was the least he deserved given how strong his pace had been throughout the three days. A small mistake in the final sector cost him a decent qualifying position but he made a brilliant start in race one and ran with the leaders throughout. Pole position obviously put us in a good position in race two and had it not been for the safety car period, which saw the softer tyres cool down, it could have been an even better outcome. We were confident in Pete’s race pace so third and fourth is a great set of results and it puts us right in contention for third overall, so we’ll have a real good go at the final round. It’s testament to the team’s hard work to eradicate the problems we’ve been having, and the bike was faultless all weekend so fair play to them as well. Sylvain was a bit disappointed with how his weekend went although his hand injury was hindering him in certain places, but he bagged some more points in race two to finish the meeting on a positive note.”
Bennetts British Superbike Championship race one (18 laps)
1 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
2 Jake Dixon (Kawasaki)
3 Tarran Mackenzie (Yamaha)
4 Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW)
5 Glenn Irwin (Ducati)
6 Tommy Bridewell (Ducati)
20 Sylvain Barrier (Smiths Racing BMW)
Bennetts British Superbike Championship race two (18 laps)
1 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
2 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
3 Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW)
4 Glenn Irwin (Ducati)
5 Richard Cooper (Suzuki)
6 Andrew Irwin (Ducati)
13 Sylvain Barrier (Smiths Racing BMW)
Championship standings (after eleven rounds)
1 Haslam 654pts
2 Dixon 593
3 Brookes 557
4 Irwin 554
5 Hickman 549
6 Ray 533
21 Barrier 13
The final round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship takes place at Brands Hatch in two weeks’ time. For further information, please visit www.smithsracing.co.uk and www.britishsuperbike.com.
Pictures of Peter Hickman (60) and Sylvain Barrier (20) courtesy of Double Red