McConnell edges closer to victory with podium finish
BILLY McConnell took second place at Oulton Park for Gloucester-based Smiths Racing Triumph in round seven of the Motorpoint British Supersport Championship.
Defending British champion team-mate Glen Richards and McConnell qualified in fourth and sixth respectively for the 10-lap Sprint race and the Australian pairing immediately battled hard.
Pushing on for a podium position, McConnell slid out of the action on the exit of Hizzys halfway through, which left Richards to fly the flag for the team.
Richards was briefly delayed when Jason O'Halloran took to the grass in front of him, but it was enough for the leading trio to make a break and Richards had to settle for fifth at the chequered flag, taking the consolation of setting the second-fastest lap of the race.
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The longer 15-lap Feature race was another hectic encounter and at some stages only one second separated the top eight riders.
As the race entered its second half, McConnell began to utilise an outside line around Shell Oils Corner.
On the penultimate lap he seized second place, which he was able to keep until the chequered flag.
He missed out on the race victory by less than half a second.
Richards was a second further back in fifth after another hard-fought race.
McConnell said: "It's great to bounce back after a disappointing result and I knew I had the pace to get on the podium.
"The bike is working well with the new parts and while it's still no victory, we're getting closer. We've all had time to think a lot more about what we're doing this year and that could be seen in me using some distinctive lines, but you have to do what you can to overtake and get to the front."
Richards took positives from his performance and expects to claim podium places.
"Whilst I'm disappointed not to get my first podium of the season, the shoulder I injured at Knockhill was much better and I was pleased to be in the group battling for the win," he said.
"The Triumph Daytona 675R is getting stronger all the time and it's only a matter of time before we get it on top of the podium, so we'll keep working to that goal."
Team manager Rebecca Smith said they were relieved to clinch a place on the podium.
"We've made major steps forward, both with the work our technicians have done on the engine and also with the new Arrow exhausts which have boosted the confidence of the riders," she said.
"Billy's ride was one of the best I've ever seen him have and you only have to look back at May's meeting here to see how far we've improved.
"Both Billy and Glen have worked incredibly hard this season both with the bike and with themselves, seeing how they can improve, and we're starting to see the benefits now.
"Glen is chipping away getting consistent results now and we're closer to the front than what we've been all year, so we're feeling confident going into the next few rounds."
McConnell retained fourth place in the series and Richards dropped one place to seventh in the standings going into the next round at Cadwell Park on August 24 to 26.
Championship standings (after seven rounds): 1 Seeley 295pts; 2 Easton 248; 3 Wilson 205; 4 McConnell 190; 5 Gowland 158; 6 O'Halloran 108; 7 Richards 102.