Gloucester-based Smiths Racing BMW were back in Bennetts British Superbike Championship action over the Bank Holiday weekend with round three taking place at Oulton Park in Cheshire, but it proved to be a tough meeting with a solitary 11th place for Peter Hickman their best result.
The Lincolnshire rider had been quick throughout free practice on the Smiths BMW 1000RR and although a crash in qualifying prevented him from placing higher than eighth, he was in confident mood ahead of Monday’s two races whilst team-mate Sylvain Barrier, making his race debut at the Cheshire circuit, lined up in a creditable 20th on the grid.
Today saw perfect conditions but it proved to be a tough opening race for the team as although Hickman made a good start to slot into seventh in the early stages, his race ended early with a fourth lap crash at Cascades, fortunately without injury. That just left Frenchman Barrier to salvage a finish for the team and although he put in a strong ride, he was unlucky to just miss out on his first points of the season in 16th.
Despite his spill, Hickman started the second race from seventh on the grid although Barrier slipped back to 22nd and the eighth row and another tough race lay in store for the duo.
It started well for Hickman as he moved into sixth place but slipped back through the pack although he regrouped to claim 11th place and secure five more points. Barrier’s race, meanwhile, was compromised on the first lap when he ran wide at Island Bend and dropped all the way to the back of the field. However, he stayed out on track and made good, solid progress throughout with his efforts rewarded with 19th place.
Peter Hickman: “It’s been a tough, frustrating weekend and everything seems to be against me at the moment. The bike’s good and we’ve got good pace in practice and qualifying but when it comes to race day, nothing seems to be coming together at the same time. I’ve had two crashes this weekend, which isn’t like me, and neither were my fault, but they’ve obviously knocked my confidence. It was affecting me in the second race and I had a few slides which saw me drop back but I kept plugging away and put in my fastest lap towards the end to at least salvage a result from the weekend.”
Sylvain Barrier: “I’m quite happy with how this weekend has gone as it was my first time racing here and it’s the hardest circuit I’ve ever ridden on anywhere in the world! It’s a demanding, challenging circuit but enjoyable too and I was pleased that each time I went out on track, I was able to improve. I obviously want to finish higher but 16th was a good result and with changes to the bike, to make it more consistent, I felt good going into race two. Unfortunately, I ran wide which dropped me to last but it was important to stay out on track and keep pushing all race and we’ve ended up with two top twenty finishes and plenty of good data for when we return here later in the year.”
Darren Jones, Team Co-ordinator: “It’s been another tough weekend but on the plus side, we’ve been really pleased with how Sylvain’s ridden this weekend. Oulton’s not an easy place to come to for the first time but he got quicker in each practice session and came away with two, solid finishes. We took a different approach with him this weekend and wanted him to have two solid, consistent rides and given how difficult the track conditions were, he can be pleased with his efforts. For Pete, his bad luck continues, it’s as simple as that. He had great pace in practice and qualifying, finding a bit more with his set-up only to be caught out. It was just one of those things, but the team did a great job in getting him back out as quickly as what they did and race one was going well until he tipped off. Pete’s not a crasher so to have two in two days has understandably dented his confidence a bit but at least he got a finish in race two. It’s not where we should be finishing though so we need to find something and will go back to the drawing board to do just that.”
The team now turn their attention to the International road races with Hickman contesting the North West 200 on the high-speed roads of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush in Northern Ireland on May 15-19.
Bennetts British Superbike Championship race one (18 laps)
1 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
2 Jake Dixon (Kawasaki)
3 Shane Byrne (Ducati)
4 Bradley Ray (Suzuki)
5 Jason O’Halloran (Honda)
6 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
16 Sylvain Barrier (Smiths Racing BMW)
DNF Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW)
Bennetts British Superbike Championship race two (18 laps)
1 Leon Haslam (Kawasaki)
2 Jason O’Halloran (Honda)
3 Jake Dixon (Kawasaki)
4 Shane Byrne (Ducati)
5 Glenn Irwin (Ducati)
6 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)
11 Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW)
19 Sylvain Barrier (Smiths Racing BMW)
Championship Standings (after three rounds)
1 Haslam 115pts
2 Ray 101
3 Byrne 98
4 O’Halloran 63
5 Irwin 59
6 Dixon 55
15 Hickman 21
Pictures courtesy of Double Red: Peter Hickman (60) and Sylvain Barrier (20).