The Gloucester-based Smiths Triumph team's grip on the 2014 Motorpoint British Supersport Championship tightened at Donington Park this weekend with both Graeme Gowland and Billy McConnell continuing their excellent seasons with more podium finishes, leaving the duo split by just one point at the top of the championship table.The pair qualified on the front row for Saturday's 'Sprint' race but conditions were far from ideal when the race got underway with the threat of rain never too far away. Northumberland rider Gowland immediately slotted into second position, as Billy found himself back in sixth place after a first corner tussle. As the race wore on, spots of rain began to fall and with both riders mindful of their championship standing, Graeme, from Allandale near Hexham, settled for third at the chequered flag with Australian ace McConnell, from Adelaide, working his way back up to a comfortable fourth.Today's 'Feature' race was held in perfect, sunny conditions and whilst fellow Triumph rider Luke Mossey took a comfortable win, the battle for second went the entire race distance with Billy and Graeme battling in a bunch throughout. There was never much between them all but in the closing stages, the podium places became a straight fight between the two factory-backed Smiths Triumph 675R machines. It was Gowland who held the upper hand and he ultimately prevailed with McConnell crossing the line less than two tenths of a second behind.
Going into the next round at Assen in Holland in two weeks' time, McConnell holds a one point lead over Gowland with nearest rival Alastair Seeley now a further 58 points adrift in third place.Graeme Gowland: "The championship this year will definitely go to the wire and Billy and I seem to keep finishing each round with just one point between us. It's great racing in each race and great to be part of although it does bring some hectic moments with it. It's full credit to the whole Smiths Triumph team for putting such a great package beneath us and that's why there are two Smiths bikes and two Smiths riders in first and second in the championship at the moment. To get two podiums at a track I normally struggle with is a great result for me and I'm well pleased with the weekend."Image removed by sender.Billy McConnell: "It's been a weekend full of battles and in the second race, I was simply desperate to get by Glenn Irwin and latch on to the back of Graeme. Luke's been on fire all weekend so there was no catching him and I did all I could to get past Graeme to increase my lead. There's nothing between us although I was strong through the Melbourne Loop, Graeme was strong through the back part of the track. I'd hoped to make a move on the final lap but got a bit too excited coming out of the Old Hairpin and had a bit of a moment so with championship points vital, I opted for third. After fourth on Saturday, it's great to get another podium but it would be nice to get back to winning ways so that's what I'll be looking for at Assen."Rebecca Smith, Team Manager: "It's nice to come away from another meeting with some good championship points and both riders have been very consistent again all weekend. We had a few problems with Billy's bike in Free Practice on Friday, which we soon rectified, and other than that, the bikes have been faultless throughout. We've increased our lead over our main championship rivals, which is obviously great, but we're very mindful of the fact that there are still 150 points available and a long way to go. We'll just keep doing what we've been doing all season and hope for more of the same at Assen next time out."
Motorpoint British Supersport Championship Race One - 10 laps1 Glenn Irwin (Kawasaki)2 Luke Mossey (Triumph)3 Graeme Gowland (Smiths Racing Triumph)4 Billy McConnell (Smiths Racing Triumph)5 Luke Hedger (Kawasaki)6 Sam Hornsey (Triumph)Motorpoint British Supersport Championship Race Two - 18 laps1 Luke Mossey (Triumph)2 Graeme Gowland (Smiths Racing Triumph)3 Billy McConnell (Smiths Racing Triumph)4 Luke Stapleford (Triumph)5 Glenn Irwin (Kawasaki)6 Luke Jones (Triumph)Championship Points (after nine rounds)1 McConnell 301pts2 Gowland 3003 Seeley 2424 Irwin 2325 Jones 203= Stapleford 203