It’s time for the Isle of Man TT races to get underway, it's expected to be hard fought, fast and spectacular! What can we expect from this year's season?
BSB and Byrne Look Tailor Made
As the saying goes, the cream always rises to the crop and that was certainly the case at Snetterton last weekend, venue for round five of the 2016 British Superbike Championship, as Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne put in a majestic performance on his Be Wiser Ducati.
The four-time champion fired an ominous warning to his rivals over the course of the weekend and having taken pole position by over half a second, he put himself in the ideal position to take a double victory and also take command of the title race. The combination of having tested at the venue a month ago and a new exhaust system looked to have given him the ideal base to stamp his authority on the title race.
Head and shoulders above the rest:
A near coming together with Leon Haslam threw a spanner in the works in the first race but the 39-year old tore through the pack to come from dead last to third. 2016 is, arguably, the most competitive season in BSB but Byrne either proved that theory wrong or proved he’s head and shoulders above the rest of the field by achieving such a feat.
He then controlled the second race from the front and it saw him reclaim the Championship lead. Obviously, there’s still a long way to go but, as stated at the beginning of the year, the combination of Byrne and the Ducati Panigale R are only going to get stronger as the year wears on and the opposition will have taken serious note of his Snetterton performance.
JG Speedfit struggle:
For the first time since the opening round, Haslam failed to finish on the podium in at least one of the races but he’s still only four points adrift of Byrne with seven rounds still remaining. With three riders in the team, the JG Speedfit Kawasaki have taken a lot on this year and whilst Haslam’s lack of rostrums wasn’t necessarily attributed to that, they will perhaps have to make the decision soon on who they’re backing for the title.
With the garage looking increasingly busy and room getting scarcer, the team have certainly a lot on their plate this year. Both Peter Hickman and James Ellison were caught up in crashes over the course of the two races whilst Haslam’s relative struggles were attributed to the tyres.
Ellison had a weekend to forget in Norfolk, leaving the venue pointless, so maybe now’s the time to throw their weight behind Haslam in case their three-rider attack peters out – after all, it’s better to have one rider challenge for the title than none.
Life still left in the ageing Honda:
Snetterton also showed how serious a threat the Honda challenge is with both Jason O’Halloran and Dan Linfoot impressing. The Fireblade may be long in the tooth compared to the other manufacturers but both O’Halloran and Linfoot have been well to the fore all season in wet and dry conditions.
Aussie O’Halloran has been competing in the UK since 2008, in various championships, but Honda’s loyalty is being rewarded with the 29-year old now a consistent front runner. A broken femur at Thruxton last August ruined his Showdown hopes but Honda stuck by him and he’s now delivering, his maiden BSB win at Snetterton fully deserved.
Linfoot, meanwhile, was in danger of losing his way a few years ago as he swapped and changed both teams and championships. A year with Quattro Plant Kawasaki in 2014 saw him reassert himself, getting in the Showdown, and Honda immediately snapped him. His 2015 season was also hampered by injury but he’s in a great run of form now and, settled with the Louth-based team, a Showdown place beckons.
Indeed, at this moment in time, Honda are the most likely team to have two riders in the Showdown places come the conclusion of round nine.
For the second meeting in a row, Superstock 1000 Championship contenders Taylor Mackenzie and Josh Elliott clashed both on and off the track with Elliott this time accused of being the aggressor subsequently being given an 11-place penalty. He clearly wiped Mackenzie out in the race just two weeks after the reverse happened at Knockhill.
This time it was more clear cut but the rival BMW riders – Mackenzie rides for the Buildbase team and Elliott Tyco – exchanged more words afterwards and it looks set to be a rivalry that runs and runs.
What do you think of the season so far? Could it be Shakey’s year again? 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.