The Gloucester based Smiths Triumph Racing Team enjoyed a fairytale debut outing at the Isle of Man TT races today when Gary Johnson took a brilliant win on the Smiths Triumph Daytona 675R in the opening Monster Energy Supersport race by the narrow margin of 1.5 seconds.
The Broughton, Lincolnshire rider, who had topped the leaderboard in practice, took the lead at Glen Helen on the first lap but for the remainder of the four laps; it was nip and tuck all the way round the 37.73-mile Mountain Course as Kiwi Bruce Anstey ensured the race would go right down to the wire.
At the end of lap two, the riders came into the pits for their fuel stop and with the fastest lap of the race, 126.732mph; Gary had opened up a 2.4 second lead. However, the lead constantly fluctuated for the second half of the race with Gary able to extend his lead through sections of the course where he was stronger, only for Anstey to reel him back in on his more favoured sections.
Going into the final lap, Johnson's advantage was 2.6 seconds and this had almost doubled at Glen Helen, nine miles into the lap. However, Anstey was charging and despite rain falling on the Mountain, he continued to reduce the deficit. With less than two miles to go, the gap was 0.011 seconds but Gary flew over the final section and took the chequered flag by 1.5 seconds to take his second TT win and give Triumph their first victory since Anstey won the corresponding race in 2003.
Team-mate Michael Rutter had a more challenging race with handling difficulties holding him back throughout. Hovering around the bottom end of the top 12 for much of the race, the Bridgnorth, Shropshire rider dug deep and brought the second Smiths Triumph home in ninth place to ensure the team had both of their riders finish inside the top ten.
I think this victory means more to me than the first and the whole Smiths Triumph team have worked so hard. With the Metzeler tyres as well, we had a race-winning combination and having been strong in practice, we were able to do the same in the race and convert it all into the race win. It was tricky over the Mountain with the wet roads and I didn't gel with the conditions up there but I went hard on the lower part of the course and we got the job done. Full credit to the team, John Trigger gave us some great engines and the bike never missed a beat so I'm delighted.
I've been struggling all week with handling problems and no matter what we've tried; we haven't been able to get to the bottom of it so it's been frustrating to say the least. The steering damper came right round during the race and I wasn't comfortable with the wet roads over the Mountain but as the race wore on I got more and more used to the bike and it's nice to have ended up inside the top ten. I'm really pleased for Gary as he was overdue some good fortune and it was great for him and the team to take the win.
Rebecca Smith, Team Manager:
If you'd said to me when we started this project six months ago, we'd be standing here with a TT win, I wouldn't have believed you. Everyone's worked really hard and Gary and Michael have been the consummate professionals since day one. Gary rode fantastically well, putting in a very mature ride and he's been at one with the bike ever since he first sat on it. The work we did in pre-season testing, both in terms of getting the bikes ready and the way we all bonded, has really paid dividends. John, Jason, Dan, Steve and Graeme have worked so hard since we've been here and it's just a dream come true to have won a TT at our first attempt.
Alan Smith, Team Owner:
I'm really pleased for the whole team and Rebecca who's worked as hard as anyone. It's also been great to work with different riders to get their view on the bike and to get a good balance on everything. We're learning and moving forward all the time so to win a TT is brilliant and with Gary getting the better of riders of the calibre of Bruce Anstey and Michael Dunlop; it's just been a brilliant day.
The British Championship and TT winning Smiths Triumph Racing Team will next be in action at the 2014 Isle of Man TT Races, fuelled by Monster Energy, fielding Gary Johnson and Michael Rutter in Wednesday's second Supersport race.