Brands BSB: Where did that come from?

I’d previously said on Twitter that this year I had become a little lost and bored with British Superbikes which if you’ve been reading “In the Gravel” for a while you’ll know is quite shocking as BSB is my first love… It’s the series that I write about most, it’s the series that I know most about and it’s the series that I spend a lot of time and money on to be there.

Josh Brookes has confirmed his place in the showdown
alongside Tommy Hill and Shane Byrne.

Photo: Kev Hattle

My last BSB blog was entitled The status quo has resumed” and documented how now the weather has began to improve it’s the usual four riders at the top of the BSB standings after every race, Brands Hatch was no exception to this – in fact it perhaps highlights it more so as Tommy Hill, Shane Byrne and Josh Brookes have concreted their places in the showdown (with two rounds to go before the showdown even begins!!) with Michael Laverty not far behind them. Perhaps this was why I had become slightly disenchanted by BSB? I think not, those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I went to Brands on Sunday and had a fantastic day – perhaps my falling out of love with BSB was due to not attending an event since Brands round 1 in April, which in all honesty was a largely miserable affair due to the weather. Sitting in the sun at Brands on Sunday really got me back in the spirit of things and reminded me exactly why I love British Superbikes.

In terms of racing, Brands wasn’t all that different to what I’ve just mentioned – the same old riders at the front however, I feel that Brands was very different to what we’ve been seeing over the past few races. After Hill’s triple win at Oulton In the Gravel’s co-writer, Matt wrote about how the Swan Yamaha seemed all-so-dominant and that Tommy Hill looks the clear favourite for the championship as contenders such as Laverty and Haga have consistency issues and others such as Brookes and especially Byrne don’t seem to have the machinery to keep up with the magnificent Yamaha R1s… I shared these views with Matt but wow, how did Brands Hatch show us we were wrong or what? Read on to find out why and what we think the BSB championship could turn into now… 

Something I simply have to touch on before discussing the actual racing at Brands is the Friday “test” day in which all classes were given “test sessions” on the Brands indy circuit, while the actual qualifying and races were to be held on the much longer and vastly different Grand Prix circuit. This isn’t a particularly new thing, it’s happened for a couple of years now and I believe it is due to Brands Hatch only being able to run X amount of days “loud” racing on the GP circuit and should the Friday sessions use the GP circuit, Brands Hatch would be in breach of this. However, it’s worth a mention as a large number of riders tweeted sounding a little miffed about spending a days testing on a circuit that they aren’t actually racing again this season… with some riders branding it a “pointless day” whilst Josh Brookes opted to be the most vocal (as ever) by tweeting “On the indy circuit today, the shorter, shitter one”. As usual, some BSB fans on Twitter were quite critical of this, my views however are somewhat mixed.

Blue pins show the 9 circuits which are hosting the 12 rounds
of BSB 2012, 3 races are held at Brands Hatch, 2 at Oulton Park

Photo: Google Maps

I can understand the reasons behind it, noise restrictions are noise restrictions however if my memory serves me correctly, there were never any issues prior to there being an excessive three rounds of BSB at Brands Hatch. Brands Hatch is a fantastic racing circuit and the only qualm I have with going is the 160 mile trip there and the 160 mile trip back, although, really I’m quite lucky, if I was to live in Newcastle I’d have to travel even further and when you actually check, the nearest BSB round to Newcastle is now Knockhill as Croft is no longer on the calendar (through choice of the circuit, not MSVR). I believe BSB is generally pretty well spread out, however I feel that MSVR could probably be branching out to more of the UK rather than sticking three races at Brands Hatch – especially if they are looking to expand the series further into Europe. The discontinuation of the Mallory round for example – in my eyes was a bad decision – surely the aim should be to have rounds at more central circuits? It has to be difficult though, as a lot of circuits in the UK don’t have amazing facilities or safety standards so you can understand why MSVR are wary, however I do worry that BSB won’t be accessible to all UK fans should the series branch out to Europe.

Shakey did the double at his home circuit following
improvements to his ZX10R since Oulton Park. 

Photo: Kev Hattle

Back to the racing. Shane Byrne pulled out an astonishing performance – Matt had written in his last blog how he wasn’t sure Byrne had the machinery underneath him to have a real shot at the championship this year and whilst the Kawasaki seemed improved at Brands the signs of the machine struggling were still there, in both races Shakey dropped back close enough for Brookes to make a serious challenge, however at the end of the race – where it mattered – Byrne simply had enough to pull the pin and put enough air between him and the Tyco Suzuki to claim another 2 victories at his favourite circuit. It seemed like two very calculated and clever rides and it was purely astonishing. Perhaps Shakey does have it in him to win the championship afterall? It was reversed fortunes for Tommy Hill at Brands though, the circuit he famously clinched the 2011 BSB title at by six thousandths of a second. The Surrey-born rider having a “dismal” weekend bringing it home in third in both races (at the expense of team mate Nori Haga in race 1), Hill did seem however, confused at just how much better Shakey’s Kawasaki had become… I wonder if there are about to be fireworks here?

Haga fell from a podium position in race one and finished
fifth in Race 2. 

Photo: Kev Hattle

Speaking of Nori Haga, I was quite vocal at the start of the season that he wouldn’t be someone to challenge for the title, Matt, in his last blog stated that Nori could be a dark horse for the title and this is true. He showed some very good form at Brands Hatch (until he threw a podium down the road on the last lap of race 1) and if he continues on form like that, he could very well sneak into the top six, although with riders such as Lowry, Walker and Lowes snapping at his heels it could end up being a little difficult, especially with Cadwell Park the next round – a circuit that perhaps couldn’t be more different to what the former WSB-runner up is used to, a bad weekend at Brands without a superb weekend at Donington a week later could end Nori’s hope for a top 6 finish, let alone his title hopes.

Tommy Bridewell has been one of the biggest surprises
of the 2012 season, currently 5th in the championship.

Photo: Kev Hattle

Definitely worth mentioning Tommy Bridewell who is having a fantastic season on the Supersonic BMW, another couple of top ten finishes makes him quite comfortable in 5th place in the championship standings and looking likely to be the surprise of the season should the top six remain unchanged, I’d place a bet to say the Supersonic BMW team were not expecting that when Anthony West told them to forget it…

Again, it looks like the need for the “Showdown” isn’t necessarily there again this year, with Byrne & Brookes close to Hill’s title lead however, the “Showdown” looks quite likely to stir things up even more, especially if riders such as Nori Haga remain in the top 6 with three showdown circuits he knows very well. I’ve gone from being a little disillusioned with BSB to being incredibly excited about what the next few rounds hold… See you at Cadwell!


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