The shortened 2020 British Superbike Championship came to a conclusion at Brands Hatch at the weekend and in true BSB fashion, it served up some tremendous racing.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic meant there was no fans trackside but the fact that six rounds and 18 races took place was testament to all involved with some of the best and closest racing seen in the series for some time.
The title went all the way down to the wire but it was ultimately Josh Brookes who came out on top.
Brookes delivers when it matters
It hasn’t been the smoothest of seasons for Brookes but he came into the final round with a slender championship lead of seven points but safe in the knowledge the Brands GP circuit had been his most successful on the BSB calendar.
Fourth in race one, which could have been so much worse had it not been for a late fight back to claw his way back up the leaderboard, meant he had to come out fighting on the final race day of 2020 and he did just that.
His two race wins on the VisionTrack Ducati were nothing short of a master class as he led both from start to finish, excelling under pressure and never putting a wheel wrong. If ever there’s a way to win a title, that was the way to do it and five years after his first title, the Australian finally had his second crown.
“My talking was done out on the track today,” he said after taking his 54th career BSB win. “When I’m under pressure, I seem to be able to find that little bit more and get the results when I need to, which is exactly what I’ve done today. I had to ride aggressively in both races and although I only needed to finish third in the final race to clinch the championship, I didn’t want to win the title with a third, I wanted to win.”
It was way back in 2007 when Jason O’Halloran first came to the UK shores to contest the British Superbike Championship and it’s fair to say he’s had his fair share of ups and downs along the way but 2020 was when it all came together.
Injury and bad luck has often hit him just as it appeared he was getting to the top and he’s had to re-boot on more than one occasion, sometimes dropping into Supersport or Superstock to get his season back on track.
Continuing with the McAMS Yamaha team for a second season meant he had a settled environment coming into the shortened season though and although the R1 Yamaha was a new machine for 2020, the hard work had been done in pre-season testing and he was able to hit the ground running.
He was able to sustain his title challenge all year long, his three wins at Oulton Park and Brands arguably three of his finest ever rides in the series. He had more podiums than any other rider and was rightfully proud of his season.
“We gave it our all this weekend. Of course, I’m disappointed not to have won the championship especially as we got so close but we need to remember this has been our best ever year in BSB with three wins and 11 podiums in total.”
“I did exactly what I needed to do on Saturday but Josh upped the game on Sunday and fair play to him; he beat us fair and square. I’ll definitely be back in BSB in 2021 to try again.”
Best ever season for Iddon
Just as O’Halloran had his best ever year in BSB, so too did Christian Iddon and he was in contention for the title all the way until the end, which was his aim from the very outset back in August.
It’s taken him some time to fight his way to the top of the BSB tree and a few eyebrows were raised when Paul Bird signed him as replacement for the outgoing champion Scott Redding. But whilst he was seen by many to be very much the number two to Brookes he, quite rightfully, never saw it like that.
One of only two riders – O’Halloran being the other – to score points in every round, Iddon took his riding to new levels in 2020, claiming his first ever BSB win and standing on the podium more times than ever before.
Tyre issues hindered him in some of the early races but once he and his team had solved the lack of grip at the end of the races, he was always running at the front as seen by his four successive second place finishes across the Oulton and Donington meetings.
He ultimately fell short but was another rider to have made significant strides forward and deserves to keep his ride at PBM next year.
Joining a new team and riding a brand new bike means winning the BSB title at your first attempt with them is always going to be a tall order but Glenn Irwin and Honda Racing came mightily close.
After a torrid 2019, this year was always going to be a rebuilding one for the Carrickfergus rider but he was immediately at home in his new environment where he had brother Andrew as team-mate.
They shocked the paddock at the opening round with Andrew winning two races and Glenn coming away with the championship lead and Glenn continued to shock people as his fine form continued, only losing the lead at the penultimate round.
He was still only 19 points adrift of Josh Brookes coming into the final round at Brands but, just like it had done at Oulton, the new Fireblade found the undulating circuit a difficult one to tame and his year ended on a bit of a low note. However, Irwin was back to his best and pleased with how his season had panned out.
“The final weekend didn’t go to plan but fourth overall is pretty good going and probably exceeds the expectations we had at the beginning of the season,” Irwin said at the conclusion of the 2020 season.
“We know where we need to improve but we’ve won races and had podiums this year and it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable season. It’s re-ignited the fire in me and given me the belief that I can do the job.”
Struggles for BMW
All of the manufacturers enjoyed varying levels of success at varying times of the season except for one – BMW. The German giant failed to register a podium, let alone a win, all season with fifth place finishes for Bradley Ray their best achievement.
Despite four high profile teams on the grid, it was a struggle for all of them with braking issues and the new-for-2020 spec Pirelli tyres affecting them more than most.
Ray had good turns of speed on the Synetiq BMW, particularly in qualifying where he qualified on the front row at both Snetterton at Oulton Park, but lacked consistency in the races, his two fifth places finishes the highlight of his season.
Peter Hickman, a Showdown contender for the last three seasons, could only manage a best finish of eighth all season with braking issues affecting him all season on the Global Robots BMW.
Running on into the corners severely compromised him, especially in the races, and it was a low key season for the Smiths Racing-run team to bring their tenure in the paddock to an end.
Luke Mossey was the highest placed BMW rider in the Championship, the Rich Energy OMG Racing rider taking 11th overall thanks to some consistent finishing at the bottom end of the top ten.
All of the above teams will be hoping for a marked improvement with the new S1000RR in 2021.
The BSB series may have seen all the familiar faces running at the front but the British Supersport Championship unearthed a potential star in Rory Skinner – quite simply, the 19-year old was a revelation.
The Scot has had a varied career thus far, running in the Red Bull Rookies Cup and Honda Talent Cup but despite his success there, a Moto 3 World Championship ride failed to materialise and he turned his attentions to four-strokes in 2019.
Running his own Kawasaki with his Dad saw him have a strong year, particularly at the end of the season, and he was snapped up for this season by Robin Appleyard’s Tysers Yamaha team but few could have expected him to put in the performances that he did.
With ten wins from 12 races, Skinner dominated the races and demoralised the opposition to establish himself as the hottest property in British racing right now. He’s rumoured to have offers for both BSB and World Supersport for 2021 and deserves to land a seat with one of the best teams in either series.