RICHARD Cooper gave the Swadlincote-based Oxford TAG Triumph squad a top 10 finish in Sunday’s Motorpoint British Supersport Championship round at the historic Brands Hatch circuit.
Cooper (pictured below right) reckons the result shows the team’s potential after debuting on their hastily-prepared new Triumph Daytona 675 machines.
He said: “We were up against it last weekend, but then we came to Brands Hatch knowing that would be the case.
“Top 10 isn’t really the best result but at least it is a result and we have gained a lot of valuable testing time that will ensure that we are stronger at Thruxton this weekend.
“It’s only the first race with the new bike and already the potential is there.
“We saw that last year the team prepared the best bikes on the grid and I am confident that with a little more time the team will get it to where it needs to be, as we are already at a similar level to last year’s bike, which had many years development in it.”
As expected, the opening races of the 2013 season proved a big challenge for the five-man squad, who travelled to the Kent circuit on the back foot.
The team arrived at Brands Hatch with minimal race development and no meaningful testing of their new machines.
Despite the major handicap Cooper, 30, was able to run an impressive feature race, making up several places in the opening laps to fight at the front of the group battling for seventh place.
Recording lap times just a fraction slower than the eventual podium finishers, Cooper and his Oxford Products-backed Triumph took the chequered flag in ninth place, for seven championship points.
The result gave the team a real boost following a torrid 16-lap sprint race on Saturday, in which Cooper and new team-mate Scott Smart failed to finish due to a teething problem that led to gear selection difficulties.
Smart also retired from Sunday’s feature race with a slight oil leak.
Oxford TAG Triumph’s junior members, Ulsterman John Simpson, 22, and Swadlincote rider Shaun Winfield, 19, both scored race finishes in the ultra-competitive British championship series.
Simpson grabbed 19th in Saturday’s race, improving to 18th on Sunday, while Winfield retired from Sunday’s race after recording a 21st place finish in the sprint race.
In the opening round of the National Superstock 600 Championship, 16-year-old Gary Winfield was entered on the Oxford TAG Triumph Daytona 675R but narrowly failed to make the qualifying cut in a 44-strong field.
Tag Triumph team manager Steve Randle said: “We’ve not had a lot of time to work on the bikes, let alone test them, so we always knew that these first two rounds would be hard going.
“Despite this we’ve managed to get in some valuable track time and learn a lot about the bikes.
“Triumph has made a big step forward with the chassis and, even with the short time we’ve had to develop it, the engine is almost at the same level as the bikes we won races on last year, with a lot more to be unlocked.
“We go to Thruxton next week with the benefit of a race meeting behind us and the knowledge that the new Daytona 675 has the potential to be the best bike on the grid this season.”
Race One (16 laps)
1 Stuart Easton (Yamaha); 2 Billy McConnell (Triumph); 3 Alastair Seeley (Kawasaki); 19 John Simpson (Oxford TAG Triumph); 21 Shaun Winfield (Oxford TAG Triumph); DNF Scott Smart (Oxford TAG Triumph); DNF Richard Cooper (Oxford TAG Triumph)
Race two (26 laps)
1 Alastair Seeley (Kawasaki); 2 Billy McConnell (Triumph); 3 Ben Wilson (Kawasaki); 9 Richard Cooper (Oxford TAG Triumph); 18 John Simpson (Oxford TAG Triumph); DNF Shaun Winfield (Oxford TAG Triumph); DNF Scott Smart (Oxford TAG Triumph)