THE SHOW­DOWN

Back in the day, when BSB rules em­braced the de­sires of the man­u­fac­tur­ers, who in re­turn iden­ti­fied that the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar se­ries was the per­fect mar­ket­place to pro­mote their wares, the near­est thing the riders came to a Show­down was a spaghetti we

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In the his­tory of mo­tor­sport, cham­pi­ons had al­ways been crowned sim­ply by tal­ly­ing up the points scored in the var­i­ous races through­out any par­tic­u­lar sea­son and bar­ring an odd protest or oc­ca­sional failed drugs test, those with most points were de­clared the win­ners. That still hap­pens to­day. Only as far as BSB is con­cerned, it’s a lit­tle more com­plex. True, the guy with most points is still de­clared the win­ner, but while not quite need­ing a de­gree in math­e­mat­ics to de­ter­mine who’s cham­pion, it’s not quite so straight­for­ward.

For a num­ber of sea­sons, the var­i­ous Ja­panese and odd Ital­ian fac­tory had de­ployed plenty of re­source into BSB and hired the best riders, bought the best tyres and threw an un­lim­ited bud­get at the win­ning post. Ryuichi Kiy­onari (Honda) and Gre­go­rio Lav­illa (Du­cati) were a class apart in the mid-noughties and af­ter Shane Byrne’s run­away suc­cess in 2008 aboard a Du­cati, the winds of change were blow­ing in.

Then along came Leon Camier, the brand-new at the time Yamaha R1, and the ul­tra-suc­cess­ful GSE Rac­ing Team headed up by Colin Wright who mas­quer­aded as Airwaves Yamaha in the 2009 sea­son. Be­tween even­tual cham­pion Camier and run­ner-up team-mate James El­li­son, they won 23 of the 26 races that sea­son, wrap­ping up the in­evitable crown with three rounds still to go. Job done for all con­cerned, but hardly con­ducive to a last-race thriller the crowds wanted to see.

Some­thing needed to be done and as well as the first seeds of the cur­rent BSB rules be­ing in­tro­duced by chang­ing the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of the bikes, whereby an ‘Evo’ for­mat was tri­alled, thus lev­el­ling the play­ing field with lim­ited elec­tron­ics and me­chan­ics, a wider-reach­ing so­lu­tion was sug­gested.

Time for a change

A change in the way the cham­pi­onship points works was to be one so­lu­tion, with a rev­o­lu­tion­ary new points scor­ing sys­tem in­tro­duced to de­ter­mine the win­ner. The idea was to re­duce the chances of any­one se­cur­ing the ti­tle well in ad­vance of the fi­nal round while main­tain­ing a fair rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a rider’s per­for­mance dur­ing the whole sea­son. The sys­tem con­sisted of a ‘Main Sea­son’, held over the open­ing nine rounds of the se­ries, where riders in the top 15 of each race score points in the tra­di­tional man­ner (25 for a win, 20 for sec­ond, 16 for third etc.). At the end of those 19 races, the top six in the se­ries are el­e­vated to the sta­tus of ‘Ti­tle Fight­ers’ for the fi­nal three rounds (seven races) mean­ing that only one of these six riders can win the cham­pi­onship.

Each Ti­tle Fighter be­gins ‘The Show­down’ with a base 500 points, added to which are the ‘Podium Points’ ac­crued through­out the Main Sea­son (five points for a win, three for sec­ond and one for third). There­after, it’s a straight race to the end of the sea­son with no fur­ther bonus points, mean­ing the rider with

the most points at the end of ‘The Show­down’ is cham­pion. Easy, in­nit?

The orig­i­nal con­cept fea­tured 3-2-1 for scor­ing Podium Points (orig­i­nally called Podium Cred­its) and also riders were al­lowed to drop two scores but that was soon phased out. And for the past eight sea­sons, this is the way the des­tiny of the Bri­tish Su­per­bike Cham­pi­onship has been de­cided. Of course, it’s had it crit­ics over the years, it still does and the purists still main­tain it’s a con­trived means to guar­an­tee a bumper crowd (and thus big gate re­ceipts) at the cir­cuit host­ing the fi­nal round. That cir­cuit has ei­ther been Oul­ton Park or since 2011 Brands Hatch, both of which are MSV tracks. MSV own the com­mer­cial rights for the se­ries.

Oth­ers look at it as a mas­ter­stroke, in­au­gu­rated (in con­junc­tion with the teams, re­mem­ber) by the for­ward-think­ing race and se­ries di­rec­tor Stu­art Higgs, who has al­ways been of the opin­ion that BSB, like so many other leisure ac­tiv­i­ties, is in the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness and such evo­lu­tion is nec­es­sary for the sport to not only sur­vive, but pros­per. And it’s true as never has there been more com­pe­ti­tion for the leisure pound.

The se­ries needs spon­sors, spon­sors need fans and fans want en­ter­tain­ment. Sports evolve, look at T20 cricket, the foot­ball league play-offs and NASCAR – which also runs a sea­son-end­ing com­pe­ti­tion to de­ter­mine the win­ner, orig­i­nally called ‘The Chase’, now it’s ‘The Play-offs’.

It’s just not cricket

Per­haps the most vo­cif­er­ous op­po­nents over the years have been the riders them­selves who have gone on record stat­ing their dis­plea­sure, but those dis­sent­ing voices are fad­ing into the back­ground as they, like the race fans, re­alise that The Show­down is here to stay. But they’ve not been bat­tered into sub­mis­sion. With the likes of Shane Byrne and Josh Brookes, vet­er­ans of seven Show­down cam­paigns each, they have come to re­alise that the ac­tual con­cept can help them. Take Shakey for ex­am­ple, he’d tell any­one who would lis­ten how hor­ri­ble it was in the early days, but he’s now ac­cepted that it has played into his favour in re­cent times. He’s missed races through in­jury in the ‘Main Sea­son’, in­clud­ing of course the open­ing round at Don­ing­ton Park this year, and still man­aged to qual­ity for the Show­down whereas if it was a straight points race, he’d have been 75 points down be­fore his sea­son got started.

And given you’ll be read­ing this know­ing who has been crowned cham­pion for 2017, it could well be Byrne, who go­ing into the Show­down had seven no scores, so if he’s boxed it off this year, he might not quite be of the same opin­ion.

Now any­one that knows me, knows how I like a statis­tic or two and hav­ing heard the cries of how un­just and ar­ti­fi­cial the sys­tem was, I took it upon my­self to do the var­i­ous permutations to see ex­actly how the var­i­ous cham­pi­onships would have turned out had they run to the stan­dard points tally. So, locked away in a dark cup­board for a few days, I emerged with some star­tling rev­e­la­tions. Bar­ring one or two no­table ex­am­ples, vir­tu­ally all the cham­pi­onships would have gone the way of the win­ner in any case, all the or­gan­is­ers did was made it a lit­tle more ex­cit­ing.

Who will ever for­get that last lap at Brands Hatch in 2011 when Hill pipped Hop­kins, or Alex Lowes tak­ing out Shakey at Assen in 2013. Tommy Hill crash­ing on the grid to end his 2012 ti­tle de­fence and the same rider crash­ing and burn­ing on the Suzuki at Oul­ton Park the very first year the Show­down was held. And what about poor Kiyo crash­ing out in FP1 at Brands Hatch in 2014 to end his chal­lenge with a bro­ken col­lar­bone. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that The Show­down has had its mo­ments and will con­tinue to do so. When it comes to en­ter­tain­ment, it does ex­actly what it says on the tin…

These two have done their bit to make 2017 an epic (and un­pre­dictable) sea­son of BSB.

Crashes and tech­ni­cal is­sues gave Byrne a scare pre-Show­down. Mul­ti­ple champ Kiyo has had the Show­down work for and against him. Tommy Hill beat Hop­per to the cham­pi­onship by the nar­row­est of mar­gins. The depth of tal­ent at BSB has never been so high.

Camier’s white­wash high­lighted the need for the Show­down.

This man loves a good rule.

Some riders ar­gue that the Show­down robs them of their best cham­pi­onship fin­ish.

Go­ing off this year’s re­sults, it’s any­one’s guess who’ll be champ in 2018.

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