2017 racing action kicks of with World Superbikes in February. Here’s our lowdown on what’s new and what you need to know.
Unpredictable BSB – the best season yet?
With three rounds of the MCE British Superbike Championship now complete, it looks like there’s an air of inevitability about it with Leon Haslam and Shane Byrne leading the way. However, the duo – two of the pre-season favourites – have had to fight tooth and nail for every result and it truly looks like we’re set for the most unpredictable season ever in the 20-year history of the series.
Haslam had been expected to be winning races from the off after spending seven years in World Superbikes but it doesn’t always work out that way. However, whilst there have been five different race winners in the first six races, he’s been the only one to take two victories and with two more podiums, he’s not only taken over the Championship lead from Cristian Iddon, he’s also topping the all-important podium credits albeit by one point.
The JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider continues to be battling hard for his results though and it certainly hasn’t been all plain sailing with a heavy crash on Saturday at Brands taking the wind out of his sails and showing just how on the limit he – and everyone – is, something that could be seen with both Ryuichi Kiyonari and Jakub Smrz putting themselves out of action after practice crashes.
Bryne gets to grip with Ducati
Meanwhile, Byrne’s winter move to Ducati has seen him very much up and down as both he and his new crew get to grips with the Italian machine and the lack of launch control, something that the WSB machines are able to use, was clearly hindering him at Brands. Seeing him down in 15th at one stage in race one was certainly unfamiliar especially as the Indy circuit prevented him from making a customary charge through the field.
However, an ominous sign was his second race win, a victory that had all the hallmarks of a champion, and gave Ducati their first win in the series for six years. The Be Wiser Ducati rider is due to receive his first batch of upgrades in the next few weeks and having already tested at Knockhill, venue for round four at the end of June, his rivals will know he’s only going to get stronger.
Although he struggled at Brands, dropping down to third overall, Iddon has proved to be a breath of fresh air in the series, already fulfilling the potential he’d shown in 2015, and so too has Richard Cooper. If anyone thought his win at Oulton at the beginning of the month was down to the wet weather, he proved at Brands he intends to be in the mix at every circuit. Fully utilising the Bitubo suspension, something that only his Buildbase BMW team use, that’s given him a good set-up at each circuit, second and fourth has moved him up to fourth overall and in his own words “I intend to be running with these guys all year long.”
O’Halloran and Linfoot
The ageing Hondas of Jason O’Halloran and Dan Linfoot continue to have a major presence, consistently running in the top six, especially O’Halloran, and whilst he hasn’t been able to convert it into results, Luke Mossey on the Quattro Plant TECcare Kawasaki has shown in qualifying that he has the speed to run with anyone. If he can string it together on race day, podiums will surely come sooner rather than later.
Mechanical and/or electrical problems for Michael Laverty, James Ellison and Glenn Irwin showed just what a fine line everyone is running at but Tommy Hill’s Yamaha team are still to show what everyone thought they’d be doing. John Hopkins was expected to be a major contender in 2016 but he only has 21 points to his name at present, his best finish being ninth. Team-mate Stuart Easton is also yet to fulfil his potential, struggling to make the top 20 in qualifying although ninth in race two at Brands will have given him some cause for optimism.
Meanwhile, after only scoring nine points in the first four races, Tommy Bridewell was a new man at Brands and was in contention for the podium positions throughout. The Suzuki rider ended up taking third and fourth at the Kent venue but it’s hard to say at this stage if the tight and twisty Indy circuit has masked over the shortcomings of the GSXR1000 or if, indeed, the Halsall Racing team have turned the corner. Either way, it was another refreshing aspect of the weekend to further prove the unpredictability of the series.
Bryne vs Haslam: who’s got what it takes to win the BSB 2016 title? Leave your comments below.
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.