THE SURPRISES JUST KEEP ON COMING
BENNETTS BRITISH SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP
For starters, it would be unfair to start this column without giving a nod to Brad Ray – coming out of round two with the lead in the championship is beyond impressive, even if Byrne equipped with that shiny new swingarm did have the measure in a straight up scrap at Brands. But what can you expect? The kid is still, well, a kid and if his confidence keeps on building I’m not convinced it will be as easy at the end of the year, which is a worrying thought for most of the established royalty who are having a real tough time – although sometimes through no fault of their own.
And with BSB being what it is, even though we’re only at round two every point and podium credit is vital – meaning just one mistake can cost you a shot at the title. I hate looking at points, but lying outside the top ten you have genuine championship fighters and former showdown contenders Josh Brookes, James Ellison, Jake Dixon and Tommy Bridewell – and the list of talent goes all the way up to the likes of Sylvain Barrier, a double European Superstock 1000 champ who hasn’t even broken into the top 15 yet. It’s almost unfair how ruthless BSB is yet it does make for some absolutely stonking racing. But why is everyone struggling so much? Is it the tyres? The bikes? The pressure? It’s hard to say until further into the season, but it’s looking like a mixture so far, and with the rollercoaster-esque race track of Oulton Park up next there won’t be any hiding a lack of confidence which is bad news for the likes of Mossey and Brookes, who haven’t quite found their rhythm yet. To make a mark in BSB you have to be in the top six by the end of the year, and now the ice has been broken, the dodgy weather is out the way and everyone has settled in, things are going to get even tougher – although I really don’t think it will be normal service resuming.
And by normal service, I mean the ‘factory’ teams running away with things, with the likes of Haslam, Shakey and Brookes being at the very sharp end week in, week out. This is because the thing that stuck out the most at the first two rounds is the approach a lot of riders are taking; whereas a few years ago, we knew that four or five guys truly believed they could win, it’s nowmore like ten or eleven, and listening to post-race interviews being laden with disappointment at not finishing on the top step rather than joy of being on the box only confirms that the chasing pack are hungrier than ever. Buckle in ladies and gents, because things are going to get tasty…
Brands delivered first class racing.