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Millsport Ducati scores sensational Snetterton front row

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A Ducati 1199 Panigale will take up position on the front row of the British Superbike grid for the first time tomorrow (15 June) at Snetterton. Jakub ‘Kuba’ Smrz has put the thundering red and white machine third on the grid for the opening race – it's the first front row start for the Italian marque in BSB since Michael Rutter qualified his 1198 Ducati fourth at Silverstone in 2011.

The team has looked impressive since the opening round at Brands Hatch back in April, and with the Norfolk circuit suiting both bike and rider a good result was always on the cards this weekend. Since Free Practice Two on Friday the Czech rider has occupied third on the time sheets just behind the two main title protagonists Shane Byrne and Josh Brookes, and he was able to maintain this impressive pace as the pressure mounted in qualifying.

Needing only a couple of flying laps in Q1 and Q2 to secure a spot in the top ten shootout, the #96 bike lit up the time sheets initially going fourth fastest, but improving in the dying moments of the session to grab that superb third place. It is a just reward for a number of key team members who have been working with the Ducati Panigale since it first came to the championship, in particular Steve Moore who now heads up the technical side at Millsport.

Now with clear track ahead the squad has its best opportunity yet to score two top results tomorrow, and with nine events remaining in 2014, there’s plenty more opportunity for success.

Rider Jakub Smrz said: “Since the first test we’ve worked really hard – there was a lot to do and a lot to improve on the bike. When we’ve been going well earlier this year we’ve had some bad luck with my crash at Brands Hatch but the pace has been there. We’ve had a long break and the team has worked so hard getting more information and going through the data, so we started this weekend with a very different setting.

"Through every session we’ve improved the bike a lot – the team has done a really great job and the Ducati is really nice to ride. There are still a few little things that could be better for the race but that’s always the case – a bike is never perfect! But I'm really happy with what we’ve done, and finally we’ve proved that we can turn all three practice sessions into a good result in qualifying. The next step is to prove we can do it in the races as well, but I feel strong and the bike is good, so it’s now a case of it all coming together and if it’s all good, nothing is impossible!”

Team owner James Murray said: “I’m over the moon – it’s just what the Ducati needed and it’s just what we needed as well. I know it’s only qualifying, so we’ll take one of those tomorrow as well ­– I’d be happy with that! Steve [Moore] worked hard with the bike last year and made some real progress and he’s working with us this year which is great.

“We’ve got a world class rider in Kuba – he likes the Ducati and he’s good on it too. It’s been a case of continuous hard work, and now we’re at the stage where we just need to fine tune the bike so we’re starting from a good place every weekend.”

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