With two rounds of the Showdown gone in the British Superbike Championship, it’s fair to say there’s been plenty of action and plenty of drama – and with just one round and three races remaining, the destination of this year’s crown is still anyone’s guess.
Just 21 points cover the leading four riders going into the final round – exactly what the Showdown was designed to do – with McAMS Yamaha team-mates Tarran Mackenzie and Jason O’Halloran, VisionTrack Ducati’s Christian Iddon and the Oxford Products Ducati of Tommy Bridewell set to dispute the title at Brands Hatch in less than two week’s time.
In the ascendancy
Since the BSB Showdown got underway at Oulton Park, Mackenzie has been the man in the ascendancy , turning a 30-point deficit to O’Halloran into a ten-point advantage and the championship lead.
Of course, ten points is a very slender advantage given there are 75 on offer at Brands and a DNF in the first race in Kent could see that completely wiped out. But having scored some 40 points more than O’Halloran since the Showdown began, the 25-year old has to be the more confident.
Of course, it isn’t just about these two with both Iddon and Bridewell having previous good form at Brands but it was Mackenzie who scored the heaviest there earlier in the season, picking up the ‘King of Brands’ title, so the odds favour him doing so again.
He put in two mature rides at Donington, bringing the bike home in a solid seventh in Saturday’s wet race when many fell foul of the terrible conditions and then riding impeccably in the dry to come through from 13th on the grid to the victory. Had it not been for a technical issue putting him out of the final race, his lead would be a lot bigger than ten points
The two races in which he did finish couldn’t have been two more contrasting rides or in contrasting conditions but they showed he’s the man for all seasons to get the job done.
He’ll start the weekend at Brands as favourite to become champion due to both his current form and previous success at the circuit and if the rumours are true about him heading to World Superbikes in 2022, what better way to do so than as BSB Champion.
The second round of the Showdown was another challenging affair for O’Halloran but although his form has disappeared of late, the McAMS Yamaha rider is still very much in contention for this year’s title.
The Australian dominated the eight rounds that preceded the Showdown but since then has seen his lead wiped out and now sits in second overall. But despite only managing a best finish of fifth at Donington, he’s still only 10 points behind team-mate Mackenzie.
He won earlier in the year at Brands Hatch but looks a shadow of that rider now and admitted all he wanted to do at Donington was see the finish line in the treacherous conditions. Fifth in the wet on Saturday was his best result with poor grid positions again hindering him, like they had done at Oulton the weekend before.
The weekend was a struggle as he found himself mired in the pack and he was fortunate the gap to Mackenzie wasn’t greater as he left Donington. It would be a travesty if O’Halloran wasn’t crowned champion given his dominance in the first two thirds of the season but with the potential of more tricky autumnal weather at Brands next weekend, he’ll need to dig deep if he’s to come out on top.
Whilst O’Halloran’s form has tailed off since the Showdown got underway, the opposite has been the case for Iddon and, along with Mackenzie, he’s scored the most points out of all eight Title Fighters.
That’s enabled him to cut the deficit to the championship leader from 45 points to just 15 and if Mackenzie hadn’t punted him off into the gravel in the final race at Oulton, that gap would be smaller although racing’s all about ifs, buts and maybes.
However, he was the most consistent of the Showdown contenders at Donington with three podiums from three races and his riding in the wet was particularly impressive. Undeterred by the slippery conditions, where, perhaps, his Supermoto background came to the fore, he put in two polished rides in the wet races and they could be the races, and results, that prove most crucial come season’s end.
Like O’Halloran, he too won at Brands back in July but on current form it seems clear which one of the two stands the best chance of repeating that victory next weekend – Iddon.
Bridewell may be sitting in fourth overall ahead of the final round and the one with the most ground to make up to Mackenzie, but there’s no doubt that he’s still a major contender for the title despite Donington not going as he’d planned or hoped.
“I thought this was going to be the weekend where we’d take the lead in the Championship but crashing in Saturday’s race put a big dent in those hopes,” he admitted afterwards.
However, the Wiltshire rider regrouped to take fourth and seventh on Sunday and given how he demoralised the field in the third race at Oulton, leading by more than eight seconds at one stage, there’s no reason why he can’t do the same in all three races at Brands.
He’ll need to do that if he’s to become champion and will need riders to get between him and Mackenzie but it’s a circuit he loves and a circuit where he’s excelled in the past, a brace of second place finishes coming his way earlier in the season.
At one with both the bike and team, there certainly won’t be anyone more determined than Bridewell at the final round.
On paper, and from a mathematical point of view, both Danny Buchan and Peter Hickman are still in with a chance of lifting this year’s BSB crown but they’d both admit it would need a miracle for that to happen.
The duo are 66 and 68 points adrift of the pace setting Mackenzie and would need all four riders above them not to score at Brands to give them any kind of chance – the odds of that happening are slim, to say the least!
Both riders have excelled at times this season, Buchan taking a brace of wins on the Synetiq BMW at Knockhill and Hickman doing similar at Cadwell Park for FHO racing BMW and they deserved their place in the Showdown.
However, consistency has been their Achilles heel with five podiums each compared to the double figures racked up by the four riders above them in the championship table. They only managed one finish each at Donington; had it not been for that, they would have at least had at a fighting chance at the final round.
Brookes had a nightmare first half to the season but picked up both pace and form in the latter rounds to give him a chance, albeit slim, of retaining his title on the VisionTrack Ducati. He scraped into the Showdown at the final qualifying round and then took two podiums at Oulton Park to keep his hopes alive.
However, they disappeared completely at Donington with the 2020 Champion suffering two crashes and picking up just five points from the three races. He goes into the final round desperate for a victory particularly as he’s strongly rumoured to be looking for a ride in 2022.
Irwin shouldn’t have any particular problems on that score with his berth at Honda Racing as secure as it can be but he was another to hit the deck at Donington, crashing out of Saturday’s race.
He ended the weekend with a brace of tenths but since winning at Silverstone in mid-September, a result which clinched his Showdown position, he’s been finishing at the wrong end of the top ten. Still suffering with the shoulder he dislocated at Thruxton, it’s another year of ‘so near, yet so far’ for both the Ulsterman and the Honda Fireblade.
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, Classic Racer and Road Racing Ireland, as well as being 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 PBM Ducati, RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki, Dafabet Devitt Racing, John McGuinness, Lee Johnston and KMR Kawasaki. 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