SEASON PREVIEW New bike, new motivation, same goal. Byrne targets BSB title number five 39 297 68 4
Welcome to MCN’S 12-page MCE British Superbike season preview celebrating 20 years of the championship and what promises to be an epic year of racing. With 26 races over 12 rounds, including the edge-of-the-seat three-round final Showdown, the season will be both long and intense.
In terms of riders and teams it promises to be a golden year for the championship with an intriguing mix of established old guard up against an exciting breed of young guns desperate to make their mark on the world.
Four-time champion Shane Byrne remains the benchmark every other rider on the grid has to aspire to. Byrne may be one of the oldest on the grid at the age of 39, but he is also one of the fittest and most focused. And for 2016 his motivation couldn’t be higher following his PBM team’s switch from Kawasaki to Ducati during the off season.
But while on paper he starts as favourite, try telling that to his rivals who include WSB returnee Leon Haslam, a rejuvenated John Hopkins who’ll be riding 2015 BSB champ Josh Brookes’ Yamaha R1 and the ever present race winners James Ellison and Michael Laverty.
The young hopefuls gather both numbers and momentum each year and will be focused on mixing up the BSB pecking order. There’s so many to mention which is why we’ve covered every single BSB rider on the grid over the next six pages so that you have the low down on all the contenders.
We’ve also put together a guide to championship to turn you in to BSB expert and taken a look at the history of the series and what makes BSB so unique and special.
QUATTRO PLANT KAWASAKI
BE WISER DUCATI
The 39-year-old is the only man to have won the championship four times but he remains hungry for another title to add to those he collected in 2003, 2008, 2012 and 2014.
Shakeyõs 2016 challenge was given new impetus with his PBM teamõs switch from Kawasaki to Ducati for 2016. V-twin power holds no fear for the Londoner, having raced and won WSB and BSB races on the Monstermob, Airwaves, Sterilgarda and Althea liveried Ducatis during his long and successful career.
History has shown that the Italian machineõs competitiveness at world level has been dependent upon the high level exploitation of electronic aids that are now banned in BSB. Trying to adapt the big V-twin to the constraints of a controlled ECU has proved testing at times for both Shakey and his PBM team Ð but only a fool would dismiss the chances of such a proven class act as Shakey.
Shakey remains convinced that he will be in the running for that fifth championship come the Showdown. One of his prime motivators in achieving that goal has been the pain he suffered in losing his title to Josh Brookes and the Milwaukee Yamaha last year.
Òthat was a pretty bitter pill to swallow,ó he says disconsolately.
Òjosh and I donõt get on, that is a fact. I had no idea why in the beginning but he certainly gave me good reason not to like him. It is hard to take when you have raced a guy for six or seven years and beaten him every single year and then he jumps on a bike that seems to be that much better than everybody elseõs, takes a title, acts like a hero and clears off.ó
Byrne has kept that agony close as he plots his comeback in 2016. Òevery time you are in the gym and you feel that you canõt give any more it is there to remind you that if you want the title back you are going to have work harder.ó As with all great champions, Shakeyõs self belief remains intact, regardless of the challenges and challengers that now surround him.
Òevery year I get asked who is going to be my main rival,ó he smiles.
ÒI never pick anyone because I never look any further than myself and my own crew. If I start focusing on what other people are doing, I am not focused on what I am doing myself. But if we focus on what we need to do, then by Sunday afternoon we will be there or thereabouts.ó
Christian Iddon may have joined Tyco BMW in 2016 as number two to Michael Laverty but that means the 31-year-old can use his team-mate as a gauge for his own progress on the S1000RR.
“The bike is already in a good place, both riders were in the Showdown last year and I’ve an excellent rider on the other side of the garage who is good at getting a bike set up,” the Manchester man says.
“That means I can relax a little bit and concentrate on getting up to speed.”
Iddon was only a tenth off Laverty’s
TEAM WD40 KAWASAKI
Part of the MCE British Superbike furniture now, Jessopp will be a consistent points scorer during the season and looking to break into the top 10 regularly in 2016.