Mixed fortunes for Anvil Hire TAG Racing at Donington Park

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James Ellison and the Anvil Hire TAG Racing team endured highs and lows at the opening round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Donington Park, picking up third place in the Sunday’s first race, unfortunately crashing out in Monday’s second. Shaun Winfield had a challenging weekend, picking up a 25th place finish in race one, sadly retiring from Monday race due to tyre issues.

Due to potential adverse weather conditions, the Bennetts BSB officials made a change to the original schedule on Saturday afternoon, with the Superbike class racing on Sunday and Monday, after a shortened final free practice and qualifying session on Easter Sunday morning.

The short 30-minute qualifying session saw James run strong lap times although struggling with arm pump and sat in third place, until the dying moments when he was pegged back by Shane Byrne to fourth, meaning he would head up the second row for Sunday’s first race.

Shaun consistently chipped away at his lap times, and eventually went two seconds quicker, lining him in 28th for Sunday’s first race.

As the lights went out James made a great start to race one, taking the lead after the opening sequence of corners. By lap six he was joined by Bradley Ray and they started to battle for the lead. The Suzuki then began to pull a slight gap on James, but with two laps to go he started to reel in the leader.

On the final lap James looked to pull a move on the leader, however third-place man Shane Byrne made his move on James with two corners to go, losing out on the drag to the line, taking the flag in third place.

Shaun made a tough start to the race, however made up two places on the opening lap to 26th. He then became embroiled in a battle with Connor Cummins, swapping places all race long with the TT star. But on the final lap Shaun made a slight mistake and lost out in the battle, eventually taking the flag in 25th place.

After heavy rain fall during Monday morning, the track had a drying line for the second Bennetts British Superbike Championship race, which saw most riders choose full slick tyres.

Starting from fourth once again James made a great start but was pushed wide at turn one and fell back to seventh following the opening set of laps. He soon barged his way past Glenn Irwin for sixth place and went in pursuit of Shane Byrne.

As he chased down the Ducati man he ran slightly wide on the exit of the Melbourne Loop, hit a damp patch of tarmac and crashed out of the race.

Shaun Winfield made a good start from the lights and quickly battled with Kyle Ryde and Jakub Smrz. After choosing the intermediate front tyre, Shaun started to lose grip and feel from the front end as the race progressed.

By lap 12 the Derbyshire man lost grip as the track dried out and was forced to retire from the race.

James Ellison now sits seventh in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship on 16 points, 13 off third place Dan Linfoot.

James Ellison: “I’m just purely frustrated, before race two the game plan was to get away on the clean line from the start. I felt quite comfortable, but a few guys ran the intermediate front tyre and they went for the inside line on the damp patches into turn one and I got bullied, pushed out wide and I ended up a little bit too far behind.

“It was then frustrating to get past Glenn because there wasn’t anywhere really to pass, he was fast, but I felt there were a lot of areas I was faster in, so I was desperate to get past him. It was a big move to get past and then I dropped him. I then went in pursuit of Shakey, I knew I had good pace and I was strong out of the Melbourne Hairpin but as I accelerated out I must have ran slightly wider than normal because I hit a wet patch and I had a massive high side.

“I’m disappointed for the team, it’s been a good start to the season and I’ve got to forget the crash. The package is further on than what most people thought it would be, so I’m taking the positives out of this weekend and moving on from it.”

Shaun Winfield: “It’s been a tough weekend overall to be honest, the weather hasn’t been kind to any of us in anyway, and it certainly hindered my progress. I was pleased to get race one under my belt because it was more bike time and showed us what areas I needed to work on.

“Race two was frustrating because I went for the intermediate front tyre but it turned out to be the wrong choice for me. I’ve already forgotten about race two and I’m already focussing my attentions on round two at Brands. I need to thank my team for all their help this weekend, they’ve worked really hard and I can’t thank them enough.

Team Owner Rob Winfield: “Racing is a wonderful thing, we had the highs of yesterday, and then the lows of today, but that is part and parcel of this sport. James has worked really hard all this weekend, and that proved with his result in race one. Race two he simply hit a damp patch and crashed, it happens to the best of the people.

“Shaun has struggled with a few things this weekend but we already have a plan to combat that for Brands Hatch and get him up the sharp end where he knows he can run. It’s a solid start to 2018 and one we can build on.”

The team now have a two week break before heading South to Brands Hatch for round two at the shortened Indy circuit on April 13-15.