The Smiths (Gloucester) Racing Team experienced a weekend of mixed fortunes when the opening round of both the Motorpoint British Supersport Championship and Metzeler National Superstock 600 Championship got underway at Brands Hatch, the highlight of which was a podium finish for Billy McConnell.
The weekend started promisingly as Australian McConnell claimed pole position for the opening British Supersport race on Sunday, with fellow Aussie Glen Richards third on the grid and young British rider Luke Mossey, from Cambridge, in sixth for the 18-lap race but with damp, greasy conditions around the 1.2-mile circuit, it was soon apparent all was not well as they dropped back through the pack.
By mid-race distance, both Glen and Luke had pulled into the pits after struggling with their tyres whilst Billy was hanging on in ninth. As the race entered its second half, rain began to fall quite heavily and the red flag soon came out to stop the race after a number of crashes. The race was subsequently declared a result on 11 laps with just Billy scoring points for the team in ninth place.
The second race of the weekend was held today in full wet conditions and it proved to be a race of attrition. McConnell was again showing well running in fourth position in the early stages whilst Richards was in eighth and moving forward. Mossey was again struggling in the conditions and found himself outside of the top 20 but on the ninth lap, the red flag came out after a crash deposited some fuel onto the circuit and although it was restarted, a multi-rider pile-up on the third corner, which included Billy, brought the race to an abrupt end. The result was declared at seven laps meaning Billy was credited with a third place podium finish with Richards in eighth and Mossey claiming 21st.
For Metzeler National Superstock 600cc Championship rider Johnny Blackshaw, it was certainly a contrasting weekend as having claimed a superb pole position, a spill in morning warm-up severely damaged the bike and the Warrington rider had to start from pit lane with just moments to spare. Starting dead last in 38th place, he fought his way brilliantly through the pack to finish 12th and take four championship points.
Billy McConnell: "It's been a tough weekend with the weather and we've suffered with a major lack of grip in the wet so to come away with a third and a ninth place is a real bonus. Every point counts and fair play to the organisers for stopping the race when they did as it was really tough out there. I was lucky to escape injury when I was taken out by another rider so I'm very happy to take a podium. The team have done an awesome job and we can go to the next round in a strong position."
Glen Richards: "It's not the start we wanted but with the problems we have had, I'm happy to salvage a few points and go into the next round at Thruxton looking for better luck. We had a 'Flintstone Tyre' in race one - rock hard - so had no grip and then today, the fuel on the track made it very difficult but you get rounds like this. I'm pleased for Billy but hope to be up at the front next weekend at Thruxton."
Luke Mossey: "This was just not my weekend and I'm disappointed with how it's gone. Qualifying was good but the conditions in the races just didn't suit us this weekend so hopefully we can turn it round for the next round."
Johnny Blackshaw: "Having made the mistake in morning warm-up, I was gutted as I thought that was the day over but the team worked miracles in getting the bike ready to race and we literally made it with seconds to spare. Given the fact I was last and starting from pitlane, plus the terrible conditions, to come back to 12th and get a few points is more than I thought possible so all credit to the team."
Rebecca Smith, Team Manager: "We've had two very challenging days in some very difficult conditions whilst we've also had to contend with some tyre issues. The intermediate tyres just didn't work on Sunday and if it wasn't for Billy, we wouldn't have scored any points at all. In the feature race today, he put in a superb ride to take a much deserved podium and we're just glad he didn't suffer any injuries in what was a very heavy fall.
"Glen managed to pick up some solid points second time out whilst Luke struggled all weekend. He broke his arm here last year and I think that may have been playing on his mind so he'll be glad to put this meeting behind him. The results don't reflect our pace this weekend but it's been a contrasting few days for a lot of riders and teams so we'll look forward to the next round now and aim at getting all of the riders back at the sharp end."
Supersport Race 1 (18 laps)1 Sam Warren (Yamaha)2 Ben Wilson (Kawasaki)3 Pauli Pekkanen (Triumph)4 Christian Iddon (Triumph)5 Glenn Irwin (Yamaha)6 Jack Kennedy (Yamaha)9 Billy McConnell (Smiths Gloucester Racing Triumph)DNF Glen Richards (Smiths Gloucester Racing Triumph)DNF Luke Mossey (Smiths Gloucester Racing Triumph)
Supersport Race 2 (7 laps)1 Jack Kennedy (Yamaha)2 Sam Warren (Yamaha)3 Billy McConnell (Smiths Gloucester Racing Triumph)4 Christian Iddon (Triumph)5 Deane Brown (Yamaha)6 Richard Cooper (Triumph)8 Glen Richards (Smiths Gloucester Racing Triumph)21 Luke Mossey (Smiths Gloucester Racing Triumph)
Points (after one round)1 Warren 35 pts2 Kennedy 22.53 Wilson 204 Iddon 19.55 Pekkanen 166 McConnell 1516 Richards 4