The challenging Cadwell Park played host to round eight of the 2019 British Superbike Championship at the weekend and, as expected, the two races proved to be pulsating affairs.
The narrow and undulating Lincolnshire venue saw a swing in fortunes for the leading protagonists and whilst Josh Brookes came away with the ‘King of the Mountain’ title and the championship lead, Be Wiser Ducati team-mate Scott Redding had a trying weekend.
A number of Showdown contenders also found the going tough which means we’re all set for a thrilling ninth round at Oulton Park in three weeks’ time where all six of the Showdown positions will be decided.
Brookes on top
2015 Champion Brookes has cut a frustrated figure at times this season, his first with the PBM Be Wiser Ducati team, but at Cadwell he firmly signalled his title intentions with pole position and first and second in the two races. It probably should have been a double race win too had he not opted to make a slight set-up change for the first race which didn’t work as well as he’d hoped.
Previous rounds have seen the Australian’s results fluctuate, by his own high standards, but when it’s all clicked, he’s won races, six now in total and he’s hitting top form at the right time with some of his strongest circuits still to come especially Oulton Park and Brands Hatch where he took double wins earlier this year.
Brookes has found that only the smallest of changes to the new Ducati Panigale V4R can significantly alter its characteristics, races where he hasn’t finished on the podium leaving him scratching his head. He’s also suffered slightly with Redding’s run of success but the pendulum may well have swung at Cadwell and it’s clear now that there’s no love lost between the two riders, Brookes’ comments after qualifying when Redding had consistently been seeking a tow, particularly telling.
Both riders are set to shine at their four favoured circuits that remain on the calendar so we can expect more fireworks in the remaining ten races.
Difficult weekend for Redding
Cadwell was expected to be one of Redding’s most difficult meetings of the year given the challenges the circuit offers and its layout couldn’t be any further from the MotoGP tracks he’s ridden on this last decade. And that’s how it panned out as he left the Lincolnshire venue with the least amount of points (13), from any of the previous rounds.
Two bad starts proved to be his undoing and he still suffers in the opening few laps where he has a tendency to get ‘bullied’, the rough and tumble of BSB in those first few laps something he still hasn’t quite adjusted to. Dropping back as far as tenth gave him a lot of work to do in race one but fourth was a solid effort only for the same to happen in race two where a first corner coming together with Jason O’Halloran saw him drop back once more.
Andrew Irwin’s mistake a lap later put him out of the race completely and he let his feelings known in no uncertain manner whilst the harmony in the Be Wiser Ducati garage at the beginning of the season now appears to have evaporated.
Both Redding and Brookes are determined characters who know what they want on the track and aren’t afraid to speak their minds off it. Both want to win and when the slightest thing prevents them from doing that, the mood change is quite obvious. It’s doubtful the results from Cadwell will have rattled Redding though and his Showdown place is now secure so he’ll be looking to show his prowess at the final three circuits on the calendar.
Bridewell still on course
Second and third at Cadwell means Tommy Bridewell still remains on course for his first ever BSB title and having been a threat all year, both he and the Moto Rapido/Oxford Products Ducati team will want to see it all the way to the end. But if there’s one area that will prevent him from doing that, it’s race wins – or lack of them.
The brace of podiums at Cadwell made it ten for the season, no bad return from the 17 races held so far, but he hasn’t won a race all year much to his own annoyance. It’s certainly not been for a lack of trying and the second race at Cadwell saw him lead for much of the way before Brookes overhauled him.
However, the clutch of seconds and thirds mean he’s already 22 podium credits adrift of Brookes in the title standings. The bottom line is that despite his superb riding this season he’s going to have to win BSB races if he’s to be crowned champion.
This time last year, the wheels fell off Danny Buchan’s season but that won’t be happening this time around with the FS-3 Racing Kawasaki rider having all but sealed his place in the Showdown. Mathematically, he still has a bit of work to do but given the form he’s shown of late, winning at both Knockhill and Cadwell in superb style, round nine will have to go badly wrong for him to fall out of the top six.
The Essex rider’s potential has always been known but he’s never been able to strong it together for an entire season before whilst team and class changes have prevented him from getting the stability he’s needed. He has that now and, crucially, he’s shown he can run, and beat, the best in the series so whilst there may be bigger names getting the attention, there’s no reason at all why he can’t challenge for the title once the Showdown starts.
A broken wrist in qualifying at Thruxton severely dented not only Tarran Mackenzie’s title challenge but also his hopes of getting into the Showdown. Although he’s still only 23, that would have been his minimum aim for 2019 but what looked a shoe-in after the early rounds has become less and less of a certainty after being ruled out of the Brands Hatch round due to concussion and Thruxton due to the aforementioned broken wrist.
He bravely rode at Cadwell just two weeks after the break but succeeding at, arguably, the most physically demanding circuit on the calendar was a big ask and with just seven points scored, he’s in serious danger of slipping out of the top six, his advantage over seventh placed Peter Hickman now just six points. He has a three week gap though to get fully fit for the next round at Oulton Park and those seven points may yet be prove to be crucial.
With three races and 75 points on offer at Oulton, a good number of riders can still, mathematically at least, still make it into the Showdown but realistically two places are up for grabs with four riders set to contest those places – Mackenzie, Irwin, Hickman and Xavi Fores.
Just ten points separate the four riders after Cadwell with Irwin and Hickman, arguably, in the ascendancy after taking four and five top-five finishes respectively in the last six races. Hickman always comes strong mid-season and has made it into the Showdown for the last two years so knows what it takes but although Irwin has had a strong season, fully justifying Honda’s decision to sign him, he still has the tendency to make a rash move as seen by his lunge on Redding at Cadwell which cost the pair of them valuable points.
Fores , Irwin’s team-mate at Honda Racing, is having his maiden season in BSB and has had his hands full learning the circuits, but at least he’s been to Oulton before. However, he’ll be mindful of the fact he didn’t score any points there in May although he should make a better fist of things second time something he’ll be desperate to do as the Showdown circuits of Assen, Donington Park and Brands, will play to his strengths.
Mackenzie’s injury battles have been mentioned above so there are pros and cons for all four riders as they head into the crucial Oulton races but what’s guaranteed is three hard-fought races at the Cheshire venue and it promises to be yet another thrilling meeting.