After 11 rounds and 23 races, the 2017 British Superbike Championship will be decided at the twelfth and final round at Brands Hatch this weekend. And whilst the smart money will be on Leon Haslam taking his first title, anything can still happen in the final three races at the Kent venue.
Haslam leads the way
Now in its eighth year, the Showdown – where the top six riders dispute the Championship in the final three rounds – continues to have it detractors but 2017, has arguably, been the closest battle for supremacy since it was introduced in 2010.
Fortunes have continued to fluctuate especially with the autumnal weather coming into play but it’s the JG Speedfit Kawasaki of Haslam that’s currently sitting pretty at the top of the table. In the two rounds held so far in the Showdown, he’s scored the heaviest and arrives at Brands with a 32-point advantage over Josh Brookes with reigning Champion Shane Byrne one point further back.
Haslam can seal the title with three third place finishes whilst Brookes and Byrne have to go all-out for the three race wins. The latter took the double around the Grand Prix circuit in July with Brookes claiming the lap record so Haslam will be wary of playing it too conservative. One DNF could see the table turned on its head so attacking the weekend in his usual fashion will probably his best option.
Byrne favourite for victory?
Londoner Byrne has the best track record of all the leading protagonists with 17 wins on the GP circuit to his name, more than double that of Brookes who has eight, so that’s why many are predicting him for the race honours this weekend if not the title.
His Showdown challenge has been almost a disaster and although he’s a five-time BSB Champion, the one thing he’s never done, for various reasons, is defend a title. The odds are against him doing that this weekend so all he can do is go for the wins and apply the pressure to Haslam in the hope he’ll make a mistake.
Brookes still in contention for title number two
Many questioned the wisdom of Brookes at the beginning of the year when he joined the unfancied Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha team and whilst there’s been a few ups and downs, he’s more than proved the cynics wrong by making the Showdown.
The 2015 champion has the pace undoubtedly to win but a number of mistakes at crucial times, as well as some lowly results at some of the circuits, has prevented him from being closer to Haslam. If the combination of bike and rider find the sweet spot this weekend, there’ll be front runners but, like Byrne, he’s a second favourite at best.
Of course, the weekend won’t be just about these three with fellow Showdown contenders Peter Hickman, Jake Dixon and Jason O’Halloran all in the mix. The first two-named can still, mathematically, win the Championship although there’ll need all of the three riders in front of them to hit misfortune.
The trio haven’t recorded the results they’d previously done during the season so will be looking to turn that disappointment into ending the season with the three best possible results they can.
Rider’s Cup wide open
The BSB Rider’s Cup, awarded to the rider who finishes seventh overall, is also still very much wide open with just seven points separating Christian Iddon (187), James Ellison (185) and Luke Mossey (180).
Ellison is seemingly in the best form of the three so may have the edge and he too could have a major say in the overall Championship as he’s more than capable of getting the better of Haslam, Byrne and co. Indeed, he has 12 podiums at Brands to his name already and if he can repeat those kinds of results this weekend, he’ll take seventh overall and the trophy too.
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.