The British Superbike Championship visited the high-speed Thruxton circuit last weekend and it produced some thrilling races across all classes, with the two feature races being no exception. The pendulum continues to swing as the series edges ever closer to its final, three-round Showdown phase.
Brookes and Haslam share wins – title favourites?
Coming into 2018, Leon Haslam and Josh Brookes, along with Shane Byrne, were seen by many as being the favourites and whilst the latter has been forced out by injury, the other two are living up to that billing.
Haslam has already racked up seven victories to amass more than double the podium credits of any other rider and with him already signed a deal to join the official Kawasaki World Superbike team for 2019, he’ll be desperate to go there, finally, as British Champion.
He has five more rounds to achieve that goal but will certainly be wary about the increasing challenge of Brookes. The Australian had a slow start to his season but has been back to his best at recent rounds and with three wins from the last four races, he’s hitting form at exactly the right time.
There will be plenty of twists and turns ahead but it would take a brave man to bet against one of these two ending the year in the number one spot.
Dixon – the real deal
One rider who will definitely have a say in that is Jake Dixon. The 22-year old has been seen as one of Britain’s best hopes for the future for some time now and whilst he took a major step in living up to that hype in 2017, this year has seen him make even further strides forward.
Continuing with the RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki squad, Dixon has now added consistency to his undoubtable pace and he’s finished in the top four in each of the last ten races. That run has seen him take no less than eight podiums and although he’s only taken one win, he’s now a serious title challenger.
There’s already talk of him moving to the Moto2 World Championship in 2019 and as long as that doesn’t distract him, he should be pushing for the title for the remainder of the season.
Irwins create history
Glenn and Andrew Irwin created history at Thruxton when they became the first brothers to qualify on the front row for a BSB race. The Be Wiser Ducati team-mates claimed first and third places and looked all set for a good race day at the Hampshire venue.
However, whilst their one-lap pace was strong, they struggled over a full race distance and fifth was the best result they could manage between them. Glenn lost ground, in terms of podium credits at least, in the title race whilst Andrew suffered a race one crash.
They have some more favourable circuits coming up which the elder of the two brothers will hope sees him back on the podium, at least, whilst Andrew’s rapid rise, after only four meetings, continues to impress the paddock.
Hickman back in Showdown contention
Last year saw Peter Hickman amongst the Showdown places practically all season, ending in a career-best fourth place overall, but 2018 has seen the opposite for the Smiths Racing BMW rider and he’s been languishing towards the bottom of the top ten.
Thruxton has traditionally been one of his strongest circuits though – he got his first podium there in 2011 – and this year was no exception as he ended the weekend with second and third place finishes to move up to seventh overall, just seven points off the top six.
Even more remarkable was the fact he was in hospital until 12pm on race day as he was struck down with a kidney infection on Saturday, which resulted in paramedics being called and him being quickly whisked off to Winchester hospital. His powers of recovery and determination had to be admired with his task made even more difficult by the sweltering 30-degree temperatures.
Mackenzie continues to impress
A few heads were turned at the beginning of the year when McAMS Yamaha signed Tarran Mackenzie to partner title contender Josh Brookes for 2018. The younger of the two Mackenzie brothers had been dominant in Supersport but, diminutive in stature, a 200bhp Superbike would surely be a tougher proposition?
It looked that way initially but he was soon finishing in the top ten and the last two rounds have seen him make a significant move up the leaderboard with fifth place finishes taken at both Brands Hatch and Thruxton.
The former could have been even better had he not crashed out of third place in the opening race but with the team having now got the R1 Yamaha fully dialled in, a podium could well be his sooner rather than later. And he could well prove to be a useful ally for title-chasing Brookes.
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.