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British Superbikes – It’s Crunch Time!
This weekend sees the ninth round of the British Superbike Championship take place at Oulton Park and it’s the most significant round of the season so far as the Cheshire venue hosts a triple header and will also decide who the six Showdown contenders will be.
Shane Byrne, Leon Haslam and Jason O’Halloran have already booked their places in the three-round Showdown – which will see the title decided over seven races at three circuits – but that means three places are still up for grabs. And, mathematically at least, no less than nine riders are in with a shout of those coveted spots.
What is the Showdown?:
The Showdown format was introduced in 2010 in order to prevent a rider from making a runaway victory in the championship as what happened with Leon Camier in 2009. The first nine meetings (19 races) form the “Main Season” of the championship, before the final three meetings (seven races) make up “The Showdown”.
At the end of the first nine rounds, all riders then drop their two worst scores, which must be from events they have at least qualified for. From this points order, the first six riders in the championship standings will be elevated to a new base level and become the ‘Title Fighters’ for the final three events and seven races of the championship.
Each Title Fighter will start The Showdown with 500 points, plus additional points for each podium position they have obtained in the Main Season; 5 for a win, 3 for a second, and 1 for a third, termed “Podium Credits”
The standard points scoring format from the Main Season then continues for The Showdown, with all points scored from the final seven races counting. All riders outside of the Title Fighters continue to race for the BSB Riders’ Cup, continuing to add to their points total from the end of the Main Season.
Michael Laverty, Dan Linfoot and James Ellison currently occupy fourth to sixth places in the Championship table but Richard Cooper, Luke Mossey, Tommy Bridewell, Peter Hickman, Christian Iddon and Glenn Irwin are also in contention and with the form amongst those riders mixed, to say, the least, it will all come down to who can put the strongest results together in the three races.
The smart money will probably go with the three riders currently holding onto those positions due to having points on the board but only 27 points covers fourth placed Laverty to ninth placed Iddon.
However, Laverty’s form has gone awol in recent weeks and his first and second place finishes at Thruxton in July seem an awful long time ago. The same applies to Tyco BMW team-mate Iddon who started the season with four consecutive podiums – he isn’t the same rider now as he was then and he’s a long shot for the top six.
Linfoot, Ellison and Cooper have been grinding out the results, picking up fifths, sixths and sevenths, which could ultimately see them reap the rewards – three finishes like that could see them add 20-30 points to their haul which may be enough. However, Mossey is perhaps the rider who could overhaul all of them having taken podiums at two of the last three rounds – he was also on the rostrum at Oulton last year.
Hickman may have too much to do with the same applying to Bridewell. He’s in a good run of form but will probably miss out due to his double DNF at Brands in early August with Irwin’s chances slim due to the biggest points deficit. Either way, the three races should serve up some tremendous racing and it probably won’t be until the conclusion of the third and final race that we know who the Showdown contenders are.
There’s also added intrigue this weekend with the return of former Champion Ryuichi Kiyonari who was sacked by the Bennetts Suzuki team after Brands Hatch last month. He returns on the Smiths Racing BMW and having nearly won the title for the German manufacturer in 2014, he’ll be hoping to find some of the form that served him well back then.
The Japanese rider remains an enigma, to say the least, but he’s been a shadow of his former self this season; indeed, he was running in last place at Brands in August despite having front running pace at the previous weekend’s Suzuka 8-Hour. It’s an understatement to say it’s last chance saloon for Kiyonari in these final few rounds.
What are you most looking forward to from Round 9? Who do you think will make it to the Showdown? Why not share your thoughts 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.