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CHALLENGING WEEKEND AT DONINGTON FOR GLOBAL ROBOTS SMITHS RACING BMW

After a four month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Bennetts British Superbike Championship finally got underway with the opening round taking place at Donington Park but it proved to be a challenging affair for the Global Robots BMW team with 11th place for Alex Olsen their best finish across the three races.

Both he and team-mate Peter Hickman encountered issues during the weekend and crashes in both practice and qualifying put Hickman on the back foot going into race one on Saturday where he lined up in 14th place and the fifth row for the 22-lap race. Alex qualified two places further back although both riders were promoted up the order one place after Keith Farmer was forced to withdraw. The race saw perfect conditions all round the 1.9-mile National circuit and a good start by the pairing enabled them both to make good strides forward, Hickman moving up inside the top ten on the opening lap. However, he soon began to encounter an issue under braking into the corners and although he was lying in eighth place at half race distance, from thereon in he fell back. Indeed, he eventually took 12th place with Alex overhauling him on lap 14 to take a solid 11th.

It meant they started Sunday’s first race from 15th and 16th on the grid with each rider gaining a place at the end of the first lap. However, having moved up to 12th two laps later, Hickman’s hopes of points disappeared on lap 11 as he ran wide into the gravel at the Old Hairpin, eventually rejoining in 23rd place. Olsen, meanwhile, found himself locked in battle at the bottom end of the top 15 as he exchanged places with Yamaha’s Jack Kennedy on more than one occasion. He crossed the line in 14th place for two more championship points with Hickman eventually finishing in 18th.

Fortunes for the pairing again differed in the final 26-lap race of the weekend but a good start for Hickman put him up to 11th and although he’d slipped back one place at the chequered flag, four more points and another finish could prove to be valuable come season’s end. On this occasion, it was Alex’s turn to be out of luck when he was forced to retire just after half race distance with a failed gear position sensor.

Peter Hickman: “It’s been a very disappointing weekend to be honest especially as the whole team has worked so hard from the very beginning. I had two unfortunate, and silly, crashes in practice and qualifying and then issues throughout with the brakes so it’s hard to know what to say. We changed so much to try and improve things but all to no avail so it was a hard weekend and the brake issue remained with me throughout. In the last race, I struggled with grip also so that kind of sums our fortunes up this weekend.”

Alex Olsen: “It hasn’t really gone our way this weekend and, like Pete, I struggled on the entry to the corners with the brakes too. We did improve things race on race but whilst we improved in some areas, we lost in others and I had to make lunges to overtake people rather than them being smooth, clean passes. The final race was the best in terms of how the bike performed but on this occasion a sensor failed and I had to retire. We’ve made a lot of changes for little reward this weekend but on the plus side, I was able to fight for the points in each race and 11th in race one is my best BSB finish to date so we’ll keep working hard and look to crack the top ten next time out.”

Darren Jones, Team Co-ordinator: “It’s hard to know what to say really as it’s been a really disappointing weekend to the beginning of the long-awaited series. We’ve still got some inherent problems under braking, problems which we had throughout all of last year, and whilst we thought we’d got to the bottom of them in pre-season testing in Spain, it’s now clear we haven’t. They were heightened in a race situation and led to a few issues but at least we came away with a few points even if they were far from the haul we had hoped for. I was pleased with both riders in terms of how they worked and how they remained calm throughout rather than getting wound up. It’s frustrating as we’ve done so much work to try and rectify the problem and we’ve thrown everything at it these last three days but all to no avail. Unfortunately, we’ve stood still without realising so we’ll get back to the workshop, get our heads together and come back stronger at the next round.”

Bennetts British Superbike Championship Standings (after round one)

1 Glenn Irwin 60pts

2 Andrew Irwin 50 

3 Bridewell 43

4 O’Halloran 40

5 Iddon 34

6 Mackenzie 28

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