The Smiths Racing Team had a strong first weekend of the year as their 2015 MCE British Superbike and Motorpoint British Supersport Championships got underway at a sun-drenched Donington Park in front of a big Easter crowd this weekend.
Taking a debut victory aboard the Smiths Triumph 675R Daytona following a close second place in the weekend's opening Motorpoint British Supersport Championship race, 19-year-old Jake Dixon jointly leads the series and to add to the Gloucester-based team's success, 2014 British Supersport Champion Billy McConnell enjoyed a strong debut on the Smiths BMW in the MCE British Superbike Championship.
Dixon claimed third place in qualifying for yesterday's 10 lap 'Sprint' race and the Dover resident slotted into fourth place before the race was halted due to a spill. Re-started over just six laps, a slight mistake on the exit of the Old Hairpin dropped Jake back to seventh but despite it being such a short race distance, he set the fastest lap of the race to finish in a brilliant second place.
From pole position, he held second place in the early stages of today's 18-lap 'Feature' race before taking the lead from race one winner Luke Stapleford on the sixth lap. As the race progressed, the Triumph duo battled it out before Jake made a break and with a faultless performance for the remainder of the race, he duly brought the bike home for a fantastic debut win in the class.
Meanwhile, with Graeme Gowland out injured, the double British Supersport champions and TT winning team's road race star Guy Martin deputised in the two Motorpoint Supersport Championship races. Eager to get some track time prior to the Isle of Man TT Races, the Lincolnshire rider responded with two solid finishes just outside the points in 16th and 17th.
In the MCE British Superbike class, the team were making their debut with Billy McConnell making the step up with the team in his first outings in the class since 2008. The 28 year old took a strong tenth place in qualifying for today's first 20-lap race and from the start, the Australian rode superbly on the BMW S1000RR as he made his way up to eighth place in the early stages.
However, his race came to an abrupt end on the sixth lap when he crashed on the exit of Coppice. Despite suffering damage to his hands, wrist and foot, McConnell bravely took to the grid for race two and again showed his capabilities running strongly inside the top ten. Up to seventh at one point, he eventually crossed the line in ninth to take valuable points as well as experience away from the opening round.
Jake Dixon: "I can't believe how the weekend has gone and to come away with a first and second is something else. I struggled a bit in practice with the electronics and then I had a small crash so I was on the back foot a bit but we made some changes in qualifying and the bike was brilliant from then on. I didn't make the best of starts in the first race so was delighted to take second but to win today is brilliant. The Smiths Racing Team have given me the opportunity to show what I can do and the Triumph is brilliant so I'm absolutely made up."
Billy McConnell: "It's been a pretty draining weekend and whilst we came into it not knowing what to expect, we felt that if we could finish inside the top ten we'd be happy and that's what we've done. I could have done without the crash as it's not the thing you want to be doing and I was pretty beat up but I think we more than showed what we can do in the two races. We've learnt a lot and have run consistently inside the top ten throughout the weekend so there's a lot to take on board and a lot to build on. There are certainly a lot of positives to take away with us."
Guy Martin: "The Triumph is a different bike to what I've been used to riding these last few years so it's been good to come here this weekend and get some more time on it. I wasn't chasing results and just wanted to get a bit more used to the bike and it's a mega package so it's very much been a case of job done."
Image removed by sender.Rebecca Smith, Team Manager: "Coming into the weekend we felt confident Jake would perform well and whilst others may have questioned his experience and consistency, we knew he'd be able to step up to the plate and he's done exactly that. He deserves everything he's achieved and I'm sure it's the start of things to come so now that he knows he can win, what the bike is capable of and that the whole team is behind him, he can relax a bit more and just concentrate on his riding. It was good to get Guy out on the bike as well and we wanted him to get in as many laps as possible and work on the set-up so we're pleased with how it's all gone. As for Billy and the Superbike, the fact that we came here with not much testing and were able to run consistently inside the top ten is testament to the whole team. Jason Jones and Tim Seed have worked incredibly hard and although we're taking small steps with the bike, Billy's already proved how well he's riding and what he's capable of. We know there's a long way to go with the bike but it's definitely been a case of so far, so good."
The second round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship takes place at Brands Hatch in two weeks' time (17/19th April). For more information, please visit www.britishsuperbike.com and www.smithsracing.co.uk.
MCE British Superbike Championship Race One - 20 laps1 James Ellison (Kawasaki)2 Shane Byrne (Kawasaki)3 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)4 Dan Linfoot (Honda)5 Peter Hickman (BMW)6 Tommy Bridewell (BMW)DNF Billy McConnell (Smiths Racing BMW)
MCE British Superbike Championship Race Two - 20 laps1 Shane Byrne (Kawasaki)2 Dan Linfoot (Honda)3 Stuart Easton (Kawasaki)4 Peter Hickman (BMW)5 Christian Iddon (Suzuki)6 Josh Brookes (Yamaha)9 Billy McConnell (Smiths Racing BMW)
Championship Points (after one round)1 Byrne 45pts2 Linfoot 333 Ellison 294 Brookes 265 Hickman 246 Easton 2111 McConnell 7
Motorpoint British Supersport Championship Race One - 6 laps1 Luke Stapleford (Triumph)2 Jake Dixon (Smiths Racing Triumph)3 Glenn Irwin (Kawasaki)4 Kyle Ryde (Yamaha)5 Andy Reid (Yamaha)6 Ben Wilson (Kawasaki)16 Guy Martin (Smiths Racing Triumph)
Motorpoint British Supersport Championship Race Two - 18 laps1 Jake Dixon (Smiths Racing Triumph)2 Luke Stapleford (Triumph)3 Kyle Ryde (Yamaha) 4 Glenn Irwin (Kawasaki)5 Andy Reid (Yamaha) 6 Ben Wilson (Kawasaki)17 Guy Martin (Smiths Racing Triumph)
Championship Points (after one round)1 Dixon 45 pts= Stapleford 45 3 Ryde 29= Irwin 295 Reid 226 Wilson 20