‘Incredible’ and ‘insane’ were the two words that Josh Elliott used to describe his victory in Sunday’s opening round of the 2019 British Superbike Championship at Silverstone.

The Ballinamallard rider was starting his first full season in the championship on board the OMG Racing Suzuki, and few onlookers gave him a chance of outright victory with Josh himself acknowledging that a top ten finish was a more realistic target.

He defied all expectations however, crossing the finishing line in second place, only to be promoted to first when Tarran Mackenzie received a time penalty for his part in a last lap crash. He followed that up with a second place finish in race two, leaving him tied for the early championship lead after the first weekend of action.

“It still hasn’t sunk in. It was insane. Just incredible,” he said.

“Going into the weekend we had the intention of fighting for top tens and trying to get as close to the front as possible, but if someone had said I was going to get a win and a second I would have said they weren’t right in the head! It’s unbelievable. I never really thought I was going to win the first round. I just wanted to be competitive and put myself in there.”

Josh had made two Superbike appearances for the OMG team at the tail end of last season, and although he had returned points scoring finishes he wasn’t challenging the race leaders. He has put the dramatic change in fortunes down to the dedication of the team in the off-season, with their efforts providing instant rewards.

“It’s all down to the hard work we have put in,” he said.

“The team have put in a lot of work over the winter and the owners put their money where their mouth is and really backed us, and it’s the result of all that.”

Once the race weekend started Josh was immediately running in the top ten during the practice sessions, but it was not until they made a set up change before qualifying that Josh started to realise he could be destined for a special weekend.

“We weren’t far away in the practices, but we made quite a significant change to the bike before qualifying and I knew straight away on the first lap it was a lot better,” he recalled.

“Up until that point I didn’t know if I had a race bike or not, but when I got into qualifying I knew I had something I could race with. I was able to get P4 in qualifying and that gave me a great starting point. That meant I could get away with a fast group of riders and break away from the mid-pack. It was very beneficial.”

Josh made a good start and settled into third position. At two thirds of the race distance he started to realise that that a podium position was a real possibility.

“At about lap 20 of 30 I could see that there was a gap opening up behind me,” he revealed.

“Scott Redding had dropped back and he couldn’t really hold the pace we were setting. It was then that I thought I needed to consolidate and bring it home. I was having a few front end slides and I thought I didn’t want to throw it away. I thought I would just try to bring it home, and maybe pick something up at the end. I could see Tarran was lining Jason O’Halloran up for a pass on the last lap, so I tried to stay as close as possible to take advantage of anything that happened.”

When the two riders in front of him collided almost within sight of the chequered flag sending O’Halloran into the gravel trap, it elevated Josh to second. He climbed to the second step of the podium for the prize presentation, and it wasn’t until after the champagne celebrations that it was revealed he had to been promoted to the top spot.

“I came back from the motorhome after getting changed out of my leathers and they told me. It wouldn’t compute in my head,” he said.

“I didn’t really believe it. The TAS Yamaha team presented me the winner’s trophy and that was when I started to realise it was actually happening!”

Josh went into race two with a new found confidence and once again led the pack, but tyre wear proved crucial and he had to be content with second overall.

“Tarran came past me and I thought I would try to sit in behind him,” said Josh. “I was hoping to try to stay with him until the end and potentially make a move, but the safety car came out. The race was increased in laps and my tyres went off, while the Yamaha was able to maintain their tyre life, so I couldn’t get close enough to make a move.”

In just over a week the championship move to Oulton Park for the second weekend of action, and Elliott is hopeful he can continue to impress.

“There is going to be the pressure of leading the championship but at the end of the day if we can keep getting decent finishes and good points, we are going to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season,” he said.

“We will continue to work hard now and build on it. There are certain tracks we will go to this year that will suit my style even more so I’m looking forward to getting the season going and getting stuck in there.”

Keith Farmer was also making the step up to Superbikes from last season’s Superstock championship, but he struggled to force his Tyco BMW towards the front of the field. After delays in his pre-season preparation Farmer had declared himself happy with the bike going into the opener, but his practice and qualifying were disrupted after he was penalised for his part in an accident. He eventually finished the opening race in 15th spot, and improved in race two, claiming 12th place.

Lee Johnston was making a return to the Supersport 1000 Championship on his Ashcourt Racing Yamaha R6, and he showed he will be competitive this season, as he came close to a podium position. The Maguiresbridge rider qualified in fifth for Saturday’s first race and eventually finished fourth, and followed that result with another fourth place place finish on Sunday.