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Mixed day for Ducati at Donington Park

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It was a mixed opening round of the 2015 British Superbike Championship for Ducati at Donington Park today (6 April). Problems in the main BSB class were overshadowed by a sensational debut performance from James Eagan in the National Superstock 1000 class.

Jakub ‘Kuba’ Smrz returns for a second season aboard the increasingly competitive Ducati Panigale riding for the Lloyds British Moto Rapido team. It wasn’t to be an ideal start to the campaign, however, as a crash for Kuba in free practice put him out of contention for qualifying.

Despite the best efforts of the team and a complete rebuild of the #96 machine following the accident, there was yet more bad luck in store for the squad as Smrz was forced to start race one from pit lane with tyre issues being discovered just before the green flag lap. Having made progress in the early running the Ducati racer was forced to retire with arm pump – a symptom of having had so little track time this weekend.

For the second race of the bank holiday Monday Smrz made a great start and was up to 22nd from 28th on the grid after lap one. A small mistake saw him run wide, however, and gave him all the hard work to do again. He closed the mammoth gap of over 14 seconds to the pack ahead and began to make up places, but ultimately could only manage 24th across the line.

Team Owner Steve Moore said: “The team have done so well this weekend so a massive thanks to everyone. The total number of laps we completed over the whole weekend is what we'd normally expect to do on day one, so actually all things considered it's not too bad. We had a bit of bad luck with a tyre that Pirelli has confirmed was faulty, and starting from pit lane always sets you back. That's racing though, the key is we completed the second race. Kuba ran wide on lap one but we said let's take the risk and push as hard as we can, and then use the rest of the race as a test session. We've got loads of data to go on to Brands Hatch, so onwards and upwards!”

There were better fortunes for Ducati in the intensely competitive National Superstock 1000 category. Having signed South African rider James Eagan for the 2015 campaign, this weekend was expected to be something of a learning curve as the MWR Motorsport team enjoyed precious little testing in the off-season.

Having had just a single dry session aboard the Ducati Panigale R prior to the weekend, the 24-year-old was able to secure 30th on the grid for Monday morning’s race. The performance of this new bike/rider pairing as the race got underway was something extraordinary, as within a few laps of the Leicestershire venue Eagan was already inside the top twenty.

With his pace increasing at every circulation the Ducati continued to pass rider after rider, and by the end of the 17-lap contest Eagan crossed the line an incredible 11th.

Eagan said: “The bike is just something else – I immediately felt comfortable on it, but the really exciting thing is that there’s so much more to come. Last year in this championship I was just about knocking on the door of the top group by the end of the season, but we’re already at that level after just a couple of sessions on the Ducati – it’s by far the best bike I’ve ridden! We were making big steps forward all weekend, and it’s just a shame we don’t get more track time – if I’d started that race 11th instead of 30th, who knows what might have happened!”

The championship now moves to Brands Hatch in Kent on 17/19 April where in addition to British Superbike and National Superstock classes, the prestigious Ducati TriOptions Cup will blast off for its first event of the year.

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