The 2018 British Superbike Championship season may still be 10 weeks away, the opening round taking place at Donington Park over the Easter weekend, but preparations are underway in earnest as the teams begin to head to warmer climates to kick-start their testing programmes.
Twenty riders have so far been confirmed with half of those staying where there were in 2017, reigning champion Shane Byrne leading the way on the Be Wiser Ducati. It was a topsy turvy season for the now 41-year old and he’ll be looking to get back to the dominant form he’s shown in previous seasons.
That, of course, won’t be easy with arch rival for the past two seasons, Leon Haslam, determined to finally land the number one plate. After the trials and tribulations of the final round of 2017, no-one will be more determined than the Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider.
Their respective team-mates will again be Glenn Irwin and Luke Mossey, both of whom saw their 2017 campaigns hit by injury, whilst Honda Racing have retained Jason O’Halloran, a Showdown contender for the previous two seasons, and Dan Linfoot.
Peter Hickman, who had a superb season in 2017 both in BSB and on the roads, continues, unsurprisingly, with the Smiths Racing BMW team with Jake Dixon, another 2017 race winner, doing likewise at RAF Regular & Reserves Kawasaki.
2017 Rider’s Cup winner Christian Iddon remains with Tyco BMW for a third successive term and will be keen to finally make it into the Showdown, and he’ll be joined by Michael Laverty. The Northern Irishman returns to the team and will be hoping the familiar surroundings catapult him back up the leaderboard after a disappointing year with McAMS Yamaha.
Bradley Ray, a revelation in 2017, moves into the official Bennetts/Hawk Racing Suzuki team.
Changes at Yamaha
The biggest changes in the off-season have come at Yamaha with last year’s runner-up Josh Brookes swapping places with regular front runner James Ellison. 2015 Champion Brookes now spearheads the official Yamaha squad, who retain McAMS as title sponsor, where he’ll be joined by 2016 British Supersport Champion Tarran Mackenzie.
The Australian will be confident of title number two whilst young Mackenzie makes his debut in the class after dominating the 600cc division in recent times before moving into the Moto2 World Championship for the second half of 2017.
Ellison, meanwhile, has replaced Brookes at the Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha team who defied the odds to finish second overall in 2017. Having an ace pilot like Brookes on board certainly helped the family-run team and there’ll be looking to maintain their position at the top end of the results sheets with Ellison. Shaun Winfield, son of team owner Rob, will again occupy the number two seat.
New, and old, faces
So far, five new riders have confirmed their participation in this year’s BSB series although two of them Danny Buchan (FS3 Kawasaki) and Richard Cooper (Bennetts Suzuki), return to the championship after a year’s absence. The duo have both had previous campaigns in the premier class, Cooper impressing greatly, but they dropped down to the Superstock Championship in 2017 where they dominated proceedings. Buchan came out on top – just – and both will be looking to make an impression on their return, Cooper and team-mate Ray already testing their Suzuki’s in Cartagena, Spain.
Frenchman Sylvain Barrier is definitely a new face with the former European Superstock 1000 Champion joining proven front runners Smiths Racing BMW. The Frenchman’s recent racing activities have been limited but with top ten finishes in World Superbikes also under his belt the progress of James Toseland’s former protégé will be closely watched.
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.