The final round of the 2018 British Superbike Championship was very much a weekend of two halves as unusually warm sunshine on Saturday was replaced by more typical October rain and darkness on Sunday but, as expected, the outcome remained the same as Leon Haslam saw off the challenge of Jake Dixon to finally become BSB Champion.
Haslam clinches maiden BSB title
It’s fair to say, Haslam put together an exemplary season and together with his team, they finished every single one of the 26 races. Statistics don’t lie and it’s a credit to both Haslam and the entire JG Speedfit Kawasaki squad that they were able to achieve that and a first BSB title was the least they deserved.
Since returning to the UK in 2016, the Derbyshire rider has challenged for the Championship each and every year, which he was expected to do, but after a number of team and manufacturer changes, he, like Jonathan Rea, has found his spiritual home with Kawasaki.
Fifteen wins this season was a phenomenal achievement and although the title went to the final round thanks to the efforts of Dixon (see below), realistically, there was only ever going to be one winner. He now heads back to the World Superbike Championship in 2019 as the reigning British Champion, a title that has always been his goal.
Heroic season for Dixon as new challenges beckon
In any form of motorsport, the privateer is the backbone of the championship but, realistically, they’re never expected to have serious Championship credentials with their lower budgets and reduced resources.
However, Dixon and the RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki team showed what could be done in 2018 as they pushed Haslam all the way to the end of the year in an heroic second place overall. Still only, 22, Dixon completed his second full season in BSB as the man most likely to deny his fellow Kawasaki rider the crown and although he fell just short, both he and the team can look back at their season with immense pride.
With a total of three wins and an additional 13 podiums from his campaign, Dixon proved he was the ‘real deal’ in 2018 and also why he’s seen as the next best hope from these shores. That comes with pressure which not everyone can deal with but with a two-year Moto2 Grand Prix deal already signed, Dixon has the attributes to succeed and everyone will be hoping he does exactly that.
Brands win gives Irwin third
Although Haslam winning the title looked a foregone conclusion heading into Brands Hatch, the battle for third was still wide open with just eight points separating Josh Brookes, Glenn Irwin and Peter Hickman as they arrived at the Kent venue.
All three scored a mixed bag of results but it was Irwin’s dominant win in the opening (dry) race of the weekend that saw him take third overall. The 25 points gave him a good buffer over Brookes and Hickman and although he only scored a further seven points, it at least gave the Be Wiser Ducati team a positive end to the season.
Brookes’ weekend on the McAMS Yamaha was very much like his year in general – up and down – whilst Hickman again showed his pace in the dry for Smiths Racing and, for the second year running, the privateer team were again the best BMW performers.
Bridewell takes Rider’s Cup
The race for the Rider’s Cup – awarded to the rider who finished seventh overall – went right down to the wire and on the final race day there were still at least five riders in contention. And, amazingly, it was the rider who started Sunday’s final two races in 11th overall that clinched the trophy – Tommy Bridewell.
The Wiltshire rider controversially lost his seat at Halsall Racing after just three rounds but bounced back well after joining the Moto Rapido Ducati team. A brace of podiums at Oulton Park in September hauled him up the leaderboard and two more at Brands in the wet ultimately saw him pick up the prize for the ‘best of the rest’ after the Showdown contenders.
He saw off the challenge of Honda’s Jason O’Halloran in the final race, the Australian slipping back in the closing stages and missing out on the Cup by just two points, whilst Tarran Mackenzie’s hopes were dashed when he fell from the McAMS Yamaha and suffered concussion in Sunday morning’s warm-up. The latter, however, did more than enough in the second half of the season to suggest he’ll be a title contender in 2019.
Changes aplenty for 2019
The big news already announced for 2019 is that MotoGP rider Scott Redding will join the series with Be Wiser Ducati, arguably the biggest coup the Championship has pulled off in recent years.
With four Grand Prix wins and 18 podiums to his name, Redding has competed on the world stage for 12 years now and clearly knows how to ride a motorbike so although he’s never competed on the UK circuits before – except when the GP has come to town – he’ll be expected to be fighting it out for the Championship right from the word go.
With circuits to learn, as well as a new team and brand new V4 Ducati, it won’t be easy though that’s for sure but Paul Bird has made another shrewd move by signing perennial BSB front runner Brookes to join him in what, on paper at least, looks like a ‘dream team’. It could be exciting both on and off the track!
Irwin has replaced Haslam at Pete Extance’s Kawasaki team with O’Halloran expected to take over Brookes’ seat at Yamaha. And with both Honda Racing and Tyco BMW both set to field two new riders, it looks like we’ll have one of the busiest off seasons and rider/team changes compared to recent years.
It’s just a shame we have to wait six months until Silverstone hosts the opening round of 2019!
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.