Peter Hickman and the Smiths Racing BMW team successfully secured their position in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship Showdown for the second successive year following a dramatic weekend of racing at Silverstone which hosted round nine of the series.
With three races over the course of the weekend, Saturday saw the team have an extremely busy day and the dry weather from Friday was replaced by cool, damp conditions with Lincoln’s Hickman and French team-mate Sylvain Barrier experiencing differing fortunes during Datatag Extreme Qualifying, ahead of the afternoon’s 30-lap race, as Sylvain took a season’s best 11th and Peter 15th on the Smiths BMW S1000RR.
Conditions had improved by the time the race got underway and it was Peter who made the best start as he completed the opening lap in 13th with Sylvain two places further back in 15th. By lap nine, Peter had moved into the top ten and with some determined riding he was able to claim eighth place at the chequered flag only 3.1s adrift of the race win. Unfortunately, Sylvain couldn’t capitalise on his good qualifying performance and finished the race in 17th place.
Today saw two more races and Peter lined up in tenth place for the first encounter and although he slipped back to 12th in the early stages, he soon moved up into the top ten but he was ultimately denied a finish when, with just three laps to go, he was cruelly forced out of the race with a broken oil pressure sensor whilst Sylvain just missed out on a point in 16th.
The team replaced the offending part in Peter’s bike in time for race three but there was even more drama when he pulled in after the warm-up lap and had to start from pit lane although he was handed a lifeline when the race was red flagged on lap two. That gave the team some time to try and rectify the issue before the race was restarted over 26 laps.
Down in 16th at the end of the first lap, fortunes amongst the Showdown contenders ebbed and flowed throughout and on more than one occasion, the race positions meant Peter was out of the all-important top six. However, by half race distance he was up into seventh and back on track.
The drama wasn’t over though, and with just a few laps to go, his gear lever broke leaving him stuck in third gear and he was powerless to respond as other riders overhauled him, including Barrier who took 15th place. Hickman eventually crossed the line in 19th place but with his main contenders failing to secure enough points, he duly clinched the final Showdown place.
Peter Hickman: “It’s been a dramatic weekend that’s for sure so to make it into the Showdown for the second year running and again as the only BMW rider to do so feels fantastic. We improved the bike all weekend and eighth place in Saturday’s race gave me a little bit of breathing space over my main Showdown rivals which ultimately proved vital. Today started well with second place in morning warm-up but after that it was a nerve-wracking affair as firstly the oil pressure sensor and then the broken gear lever left me pointless. I had an idea in my head what the other riders needed to do and, thankfully, that little bit of luck came our way this weekend.”
Sylvain Barrier: “Overall, it’s been a good weekend although I am a bit disappointed to have only scored points in one of the races after qualifying well on Saturday. The conditions seemed to suit me then, but the team did a great job all weekend with the bike and I set my fastest lap of the weekend in the final race on Sunday which shows we never stopped improving. Congratulations to Peter and the team for securing their Showdown position.”
Darren Jones, Team Co-ordinator: “I think the best way of describing this weekend is that it was a bit of a rollercoaster! We’ve not had any machine failures of any description in two years, but we’ve had three in two races this weekend, two sensor failures and then the gear lever so it’s a huge relief and credit to everyone involved that we’re in the Showdown again. The TV kept showing the positions at various stages of the race but even when Peter crossed the line we weren’t sure if he’d made it or not so now that we’re there we’ll do everything we can to win some races. Sylvain again improved all weekend at a circuit he knows reasonably well, and he got quicker and quicker, which has been the pattern for his season. He was happy with the adjustments made to the bike over the course of the weekend and scored some points, so he’ll be looking forward to the final three rounds which take place at circuits he knows well.”