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Being a national championship, the British Superbike Championship has visited circuits throughout the United Kingdom, as well as European venues, over its history. At present, the series visits nine different tracks in England, Scotland and the Netherlands.
These tracks are Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Snetterton, Knockhill, Thruxton, Cadwell Park, Donington Park, Assen and Silverstone. Assen is the most recent addition to the calendar, in 2012, and is currently the only circuit outside of the UK to be used.
In the past, the BSB Championship has visited Croft, Mallory Park, Rockingham and Mondello Park whilst before 1995 other circuits were also used in the British Championship including Pembrey, Carnaby and Oliver’s Mount, Scarborough.
The TT Circuit Assen is popularly referred to as “The Cathedral” of motorcycling and is the only circuit to have hosted a round of the World motorcycle championship every year since the inaugural season in 1949. The original Assen track, however, was first used in 1925 before moving to its current site in 1955 when it measured 4.7-miles and was unique in that the corners were traditionally banked with an extremely grippy surface.
The circuit was redesigned again in 2006, undoubtedly losing some of its charm but it has remained one of the most popular venues in the world, so much so that in 2012 it became the first circuit in mainland Europe to host a BSB round, forming a part of the ‘Showdown’ ever since.
Brands Hatch race circuit opened in 1950 and now offers two layout configurations: the shorter “Indy” layout (1.2 miles) which is located entirely within a natural Amphitheater and the longer “Grand Prix” layout (2.4 miles).
The latter is one of the most thrilling race circuits in the world with constant changes in elevation and high speeds although noise restrictions and the proximity of local residents to the GP loop mean that the number of race meetings held on the extended circuit are limited to just a few per year.
The circuit hosts three BSB rounds a year, one on the Indy course and two on the GP circuit including, traditionally, the final round.
Located in the Lincolnshire Wolds, Cadwell Park was established in 1934 by Mr Mansfield
Wilkinson of Louth with the original circuit consisting of gravel-drives of the country estate and measuring just 3/4 miles. Tarmac and concrete were added in 1938 with widening and lengthening in 1953, growing to its current length of 2.25 miles in 1962.
Sited on a steep-sided valley with dips and crests, the circuit features sharp changes in gradient, including the famous Mountain section where bikes can become airborne by up to several feet. It’s tight, narrow and twisty layout has resulted in a number of modifications to be made in order to ensure BSB can still visit the venue and it remains the most popular meeting on the calendar with its traditional August Bank Holiday date regularly attracting crowds of 40,000.
Donington Park was created as a racing circuit during the pre-war period for both cars and
motorbikes. It fell into disrepair after World War 2 but local construction entrepreneur Tom Wheatcroft revived it with the first race back at the track, for motorbikes, taking place in early 1977.
It soon became recognised as one of the UK’s premier venues, a status that was enhanced with the addition of the Melbourne Loop in 1985 which increased its length to 2.5 miles. It has hosted a BSB round every year since 1995 except 2010 when a brief change in ownership resulted in a fall in standards and lack of facilities.
Oulton Park is located near the small village of Little Budworth, Cheshire and hosted
its first motorcycle meeting in 1953. At 2.8 miles in length, the track is characterised by rapidly changing gradients, blind crests and several tight corners and is one of the most popular venues on the calendar both with riders and spectators.
Various improvements and changes have been made to the circuit over the years but it has retained all of its original character and has played host to the BSB series from its inception, now hosting two rounds a year.
Knockhill Racing Circuit is in Fife, Scotland and opened in September 1974, now being Scotland’s national motorsport centre. The circuit was created by joining service roads to a nearby disused mineral railway and has two layouts, the 1.3 miles International layout and the 1 mile National layout.
The former is most traditionally used and the circuit has been constantly developed, hosting a BSB round every year since 1996. Tight and twisty, a lap of Knockhill takes less than fifty seconds.
A former site of a World War II Royal Air Force bomber station, Silverstone
in Northamptonshire was first used for racing in 1947. When the Isle of Man TT no longer became suitable for the British motorcycle Grand Prix, it moved to Silverstone, who had been running a top flight International meeting for a number of years, in 1977.
The circuit hosted the GP until 1986 and was one of the fastest on the calendar with Kenny Roberts’ lap record in 1983 close to an average of 120mph. Changes over the years meant the circuit didn’t always host a British Championship round but by the mid-1990s, its owners were keen to have top flight racing there on a yearly basis and it’s hosted a BSB round from 1996 onwards.
Thruxton is located in Hampshire and is the fastest short circuit currently in use in the UK
with the British Superbike Championship lap record currently standing at 113.26mph. Originally constructed in 1940 as an RAF airfield, it was first used for motorbike races in 1950 and although it wasn’t a regular choice for British Championship rounds in the 1980s, it has hosted a BSB round every year since 1995.
The 2.3-mile circuit is renowned for being bumpy and abrasive whilst it’s also unique in the fact that only a third of the circuit is accessible to spectators.
The first records of racing at Croft date back to the 1920s, but it was after the Second
World War that it became a significant motorsport venue. Racing came and went over the years but in 1997 the circuit underwent a major transformation being extended to 2.127 miles and having new pits, paddock complex, control tower and spectator areas constructed.
By 2004, it was back on the British Superbike Championship calendar and was extremely popular with both riders and fans. However, noise restrictions and disputes with locals have seen activity at the circuit restricted heavily and the last BSB meeting there was staged in 2011.
Situated in Leicestershire in Central England, Mallory Park is one of the UK’s oldest circuits and was a permanent fixture on the British Championship calendar from the 1960s onwards. Despite only being 1.2 miles in length, it was one of the most popular circuits in the UK with its natural banking giving excellent viewing opportunities.
With famous corners like Gerard’s and Devil’s Elbow, safety and infrastructure issues gradually meant it wasn’t viable for top flight racing to be staged there and the introduction of three chicanes over the years complicated an already short lap even further. It last hosted a BSB round in 2010.
Built in 1968, Mondello Park is Ireland’s only international motorsport venue located in County Kildare. Measuring 2.2 miles in length, the circuit had a tight and twisty layout but proved a popular addition to the BSB calendar in 2003, the first time the series had left the mainland.
However, it proved to be a short venture as costs and infrastructure issues meant it was removed after just five years. The circuit continues to hold national status events.
Located in Northamptonshire, the Rockingham Motor Speedway was opened in 2001 and was heralded as the UK’s finest motorsport facility with 13 configurations of track, which can be used for anything from touring cars to motorbikes to rally cars. It featured an oval circuit as well as a more traditional circuit similar to that of Daytona in the USA.
However, although it hosted a BSB round for three years, it wasn’t popular, particularly with race fans who were a long way from the action, and it hasn’t hosted a top flight motorbike race since 2003.
Words by Phil Wain.
Now you know the courses it’s time to meet the famous riders who have made history at the British Superbikes…
The age-old debate continues but which race is the best; BSB or WSBK?