The 2019 British Superbike Championship came to a conclusion at Brands Hatch at the weekend and whilst it wasn’t quite the thrilling finale we’d hoped for, with good conditions for the three races limiting the drama and the results taking the pattern predicted, Scott Redding did exactly what he needed to do to claim the title in his rookie season.
With Be Wiser Ducati team-mate Josh Brookes winning all three races, Redding knew he had to take three podium finishes and with a second and two thirds he took the championship by five points before heading off to pastures new and, specifically, the World Superbike Championship in 2020.
After 11 years in the World Championships, it’s fair to say eyebrows were raised when it was announced that Scott Redding would be joining Paul Bird’s Be Wiser Ducati team to contest the BSB series this year. With no experience of Superbikes and no experience of the UK circuits, with the exception of Silverstone and Donington Park, many expected him to find it both an eye-opener and a struggle. It proved to be anything but.
His last five years in the MotoGP World Championship may not have quite gone to plan but just because you’re finishing 10th-15th in the world’s premier class doesn’t mean you’re a bad rider, quite the opposite in fact as the 24 riders contesting the MotoGP are either world champions or multiple GP winners. And his talent was clear to see from the outset in BSB.
Openly admitting some of the UK tracks were a culture shock, his application, attitude and determination was out of the top drawer and whilst his off-track behaviour could be described by all manner of words – fun-loving, daft, eccentric, crazy or strange being just a few – his riding and race craft showed just what a shrewd and intelligent operator he is. What was also clear was that he rapidly established himself as the fans’ favourite.
Both Redding and Brookes took 20 podiums during the course of the season but the 26-year old delivered when it mattered most. The World Superbike Championship now beckons and whilst it won’t be easy, with his confidence and love for racing now comfortably restored, there’s no reason why he won’t be challenging Jonathan Rea for the world title.
Second again for Brookes
Brookes made his 250th BSB start at Brands Hatch and whilst he’s featured in the Showdown every year since it was introduced in 2010 (the exception being 2016 when he was contesting the World Superbike Championship), he only had one title to his name, something he was desperate to rectify. However, although he did all he could do and win the three races on the Brands GP circuit, a place where he excels, Redding ultimately had too much for him and put the Australian in second overall for the fourth time in his career.
The duo will never be close friends but maintained a professional relationship all season and Brookes, as expected, was magnanimous in defeat and also philosophical with the outcome, knowing full well the championship is judged over 12 rounds and not just one.
His Brands Hatch performances were faultless but everyone knew Redding would be strong at the final three rounds, particularly Donington Park and Assen where his previous GP experience came into play, and so it proved. His four wins there and 100 points to Brookes’ 69 were where the latter ultimately lost out.
“I came here with the objective of winning all three races and that’s exactly what I’ve done, it’s elsewhere where I’ve lost out on the championship,” the 2015 champion said afterwards. “A championship is judged on the whole year, not just one weekend, and there are opportunities at every round to get points.”
Whilst Redding won’t be featuring next year, Brookes will start as favourite for the championship when he’s expected to return with Paul Bird’s Ducati team although he’s mindful of the fact new challenges will undoubtedly lie ahead.
Close but not close enough
The new Ducati Panigale V4R has been the machine to be on in 2019 and whilst Redding and Brookes gave the Paul Bird Motorsport team their first ever 1-2, Tommy Bridewell was a thorn in their side all year long on the similar Oxford Products/Moto Rapido machine. Nowhere was this typified more than at Brands Hatch where the Wiltshire rider took three more podiums and ran with the Be Wiser machines in all three races as he ended the year in third place overall.
It’s easy to forget that in June last year Bridewell faced an uncertain future after being relieved of his duties at the Halsall Suzuki team but that’s proven to be a blessing in disguise and he’s never looked back. A flurry of strong results at the back end of 2018 on the Moto Rapido Ducati saw him win the Rider’s Cup and he hit the ground running this year, fast from the outset and immediately establishing himself as a title contender.
He’s finished third overall in the BSB Championship before, in 2014, but this year was far and away his best ever season as he ended finished on the podium on 18 occasions (his previous best in a single season was six) but just one win – compared to Redding’s 11 and Brookes’ 10 – meant he was close but not close enough. His pace on the Ducati is without question but he didn’t quite have that last little bit so turning the multitude of seconds and thirds into race wins will be one of his main aims in 2020.
Work to do
No one really gave the three remaining Showdown contenders – Tarran Mackenzie, Danny Buchan and Peter Hickman – a chance coming into the final three rounds and so it proved with only Buchan and Jason O’Halloran preventing a Ducati lock-out of the podiums with a third place each at Assen.
All three had their moments, Mackenzie starting the season with a bang before injury ruined his season and Buchan winning at Knockhill and Cadwell Park, but the Ducati Panigale V4R has been an all-conquering force in 2019 taking 22 of the 27 race wins and 58 of the 81 podiums available which gives not just the riders but also the manufacturers plenty of food for thought for next season.
Kawasaki, Yamaha, BMW and Honda could only occasionally get close to the Ducati’s and there’ll need to do that on a regular basis in the year ahead particularly with Brookes and Bridewell continuing on the Italian machines. They, along with the riders and teams, will need to up their game in 2020 and, no doubt, they’re already planning to do just that.
Iddon finally claims Rider’s Cup
The battle for the Rider’s Cup, awarded to the best rider outside of the Showdown (i.e. the one who finishes seventh overall) was in doubt right until the very end and although the Honda Racing pairing of Xavi Fores and Andrew Irwin were favourites coming into Brands, it was the Tyco BMW of Christian Iddon who walked away with the silverware after three strong rides at the Kent venue.
On his day, Iddon is a front runner but injuries at crucial times and a lack of consistency have held him back in his four seasons with the Northern Ireland-based team which is why he’s never made the Showdown. He’s subsequently missed out on the Rider’s Cup too but he ended the year strongly and although he failed to score a point Assen, he finished in the top six in every race after that to overhaul Irwin and Fores.
Fores will have been disappointed to have missed out especially as his results at Brands last weekend were considerably better than what they were at the circuit back in June. His maiden season in BSB has been a topsy-turvy affair as he’s acclimatised to the UK tracks after years on the world stage but, if he returns next year, he’s sure to benefit from what he’s learned in 2019.
Irwin, meanwhile, ran consistently inside the top ten all weekend but couldn’t quite get close enough to the top six positions he needed. Brilliant first and second place finishes at Thruxton should have given him the springboard he needed to perhaps even make it into the Showdown but a crash and then grid penalties at Cadwell Park and Oulton Park was where his season unravelled. Nevertheless, it was a good first full season in BSB and he remains one to watch.
The 2019 season may have only just finished but thoughts will already be turning towards 2020 and no less than ten riders have already confirmed their plans including Bridewell, Mackenzie, Buchan, Hickman and O’Halloran. Brookes is expected to be confirmed at PBM imminently and most of the off-season attention will focus on the identity of his team-mate now that Redding has moved on.
The series tends to have a major signing from the World stage and the return of Leon Haslam has been mooted but whatever happens, BSB remains the most competitive national series in the world and will so again next year.
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 Racing, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, 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.