British Superbikes Season Preview

The wait is finally over, the British Superbike championship finally kicks off at Brands Hatch this weekend and PaddockChatter thinks it’s going to be yet another incredible season. There is a lot of talent lining up on

Who will beat this man in 2013?

the grid for 2013 from around the world, on paper the amount of talented riders suggest that we could have an incredible fight in the first 9 rounds of the season for one of those all-so-important top six spots to compete in the end of season showdown for the title.

It is quite a common opinion that only the top teams can win championships in BSB and with the line up the likes of Samsung Honda, Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki, Tyco Suzuki and Milwaukee Yamaha have brought to the battle this year it could be foolish to suggest the pattern will change. However, as GBmoto’s Mark Smith-Halvorsen highlighted to PaddockChatter the other day, the British Superbike championship is always open to surprises.

With the “Showdown” system, a different perspective is placed upon a preview to BSB than the ones PaddockChatter has published for WSB and MotoGP – with the season in two parts there are basically two championship battles – the battle to get into that top 6 and then the battle for the title. This preview will begin by focussing on those PaddockChatter thinks have the potential to be in that all vital top 6. We’ll also discuss who else may surprise in 2013.

You’d be a foolish man to discount Shane “Shakey” Byrne from getting into that top 6. In fact, if we talk better terms you’d get a much higher return if you bet on Shakey not making it into the top 6. Byrne’s skill is consistency and this consistency has taken him to three British Superbike titles. Although as Shakey learnt in 2011 – consistency sometimes isn’t enough in the cruel showdown format. Byrne’s aim has to be to win as many races out of the stocks as possible as he’ll know all too we’ll any other man with their eye on the title has a target on Shakey’s back. If you look at Byrne on paper though, this year he has the formula to be unbeatable, he’s on a very good bike, a bike he knows well, he’s with a very good team, a team he knows well and is comfortable with and I don’t think there’s a single person out there who’d question the man’s talent. Fortunately for the fans of good racing, British Superbikes is never that simple and there’s two very good reasons Byrne may be beaten in 2013, the first being the showdown system taking no prisoners – a mistake in one of those few rounds can cost you the championship as Byrne found out in 2011 and the second being the sheer talent of the hungry mob behind him, grinding their teeth, ready to charge after the champion.

Josh Brookes has to be the hungriest of the talented mob, three consecutive years now he’s been in the

Will the Aussie get the trophy in 2013?

running for the title and on two of these occasions he’s been runner up. Brookes may have entered BSB as a bit of a loose cannon but it’s so clear he’s now matured into a trained assassin – with his target set firmly on his first British Superbike crown and let’s be honest, it’s about time he won it really. Brookes has amazed us with spectacular racing skill over the past two years on the TAS Suzuki and after chasing Shane Byrne, literally on his tail last year the Australian will be almost desperate to clinch the crown. Brookes is also contesting the North West 200 and TT this summer, some have said this may detract his attention from the job at hand in BSB, however Brookes is certain he can do both. Whether he can remains to be seen but again, you have to think, like Byrne, there’s a place in the top 6 with Brookes’ name on already.

British Superbikes Media team are championing the return of three time champion Ryuichi Kiyonari, a man clearly talented in the British Superbike field however is it not important to remember why the Japanese rider left BSB after 2011? After he came 6th in the championship (thanks to the showdown, without it he’d have been further down the pack) and only three trips to the podium? At Donington he showed he still has pace however as many point out, testing is only testing. There’s no doubt Kiyonari is a talented rider and sure, he probably doesn’t want Byrne to overtake him as the most successful BSB rider ever however

Kiyonari back with a point to prove… Can he do it?

PaddockChatter feels Kiyo needs to prove himself and though we have no doubt he will, he hasn’t quite got his name on one of those top 6 places to the extent Brookes and Shakey have.

It’s always nice to see a young rider progress through the ranks, seeing their skills develop over the years until they become one of the best and Alex Lowes is a prime example of this. He is young, he has been erratic, he has thrown the bike down the road riding like a mad man but a fast mad man at that and a move into the Honda UK team will do the young Lincoln lad wonders. He showed his maturity from Cadwell Park last year where he admitted he’d decided to “calm down”, from then he took his first ever win and then double win at Silverstone and was even in with a shot at the title until the weather caught him out at Brands. You only have to talk to Lowes to see he really means business this year, he’s not in that team to be a number 2 rider to Kiyonari he’s in the team to win and he could very well be the guy to surprise everyone this year. But you have to admit, would it really be that much of a surprise?

There’s not been much talk of Shaun Muir’s Milwaukee Yamaha squad and it’s really confusing as to why, the team took the championship with Tommy Hill in 2011 and in the main season last year Tommy was

Milwaukee Yamaha have a strong line up for 2013

almost dominant over the competition. Admittedly the team have lost Hill to semi-retirement for this season however they’ve signed two riders who could well be in the mix. The last time James Ellison rode in BSB he took a podium, in 2009 he was the runner up and last year he rode a bucking bronko of a MotoGP bike bloody brilliantly at times. The R1 is capable and James has already proven he’s a race winner in BSB, a bit of consistency and he has just as much chance of getting into that top 6 as Kiyonari and Lowes. Ellison’s team mate, Josh Waters is a bit of an unknown quantity however the 26 year old has undoubtable talent, a two time Australian champion and someone who has finished on the podium at the Suzuka 8hr. He admits freely his challenge this year will be to learn the circuits, the only time he’s ridden any of them being in pre-season testing, so as long as he sorts that out he could be yet another surprise for 2013.

Speaking of overseas riders, PJ Jacobson is one to watch too, winning races he wildcarded in last year in both the Superstock 1000 and Supersport categories – he’s a rapid youngster with a desire to win, that was clear enough when he won a Stock 1000 race on the grass last year. Definitely an unknown quantity but certainly one to watch as team mate to Brookes on the Tyco Suzuki. Another to watch is PBM’s Keith Farmer, the nice-guy Irishman taking the Superstock 600 championship and Superstock 1000 championships in consecutive years, could he make it 3 out of 3? It’ll certainly be hard and Farmer admits it however Paul Bird’s talent at hand-picking talented riders and turning them into race winners is more than proven. These two youngsters could well shock in 2013.

Tommy Bridewell was one of the surprises of 2012, riding a BMW S1000RR for a team he signed for just

Walker won a BSB race for the first time in 12 years last year

days before the season began, Bridwell made it into the showdown and finished the season respectably too. He’s signed for a team who despite having had the last year out, know what they are doing – the Quay Garage squad scoring podiums in 2011 with their Hondas – Bridewell’s definitely out for a repeat, however with such talent in the top teams this year it could be a difficult challenge. Bridewell’s team mate, veteran Michael Rutter had a difficult year last year on a bike he has admitted not liking too much. Despite his age, Rutter is clearly still talented, as he demonstrated taking his 8th Macau win in the Autumn. On the right bike, Michael Rutter can be a surprise front runner in British Superbikes, especially in the wet…

Chris Walker returned to the top step of the podium for the first time in 12 years last year in difficult conditions at Oulton Park. Whilst the aged midlander probably won’t be challenging for the title he could well throw a spanner in the works, especially in the iffy conditions we so often see in BSB. Of equal spanner-throwing potential is his team mate, Danny Buchan who turned a few heads last year by putting fast times in when he replaced Peter Hickman on the MSS Kawasaki, even bagging a 4th place at Cadwell Park. Buchan’s also the youngest rider in BSB and PaddockChatter thinks he really is one to watch, not for miracles but for some interesting results, perhaps. Karl Harris, also on a Kawasaki has been known to throw in the odd decent result – perhaps not a top 6 title challenger but Harris could break into the top ten a few times this season, as could fellow Kawasaki men Lee Costello (Halsall Racing) and Howie Mainwaring (MH Kawasaski), both talented superstock racers keen to prove themselves in BSB.

Lloyds British GBmoto Honda are keen to up their game after a difficult 2012 campaign, signing Peter Hickman and Dan Linfoot fresh from his podium in World Supersport at Magny Cours. Both riders have shown potential in BSB, Hickman putting the Tyco Honda on the front row and podium in 2011 and Linfoot visiting the top ten regularly in previous years. PaddockChatter thinks that both of these guys have potential

Photo: Freeze Frame Photography

to impress in BSB if their bike is up to it and with testing showing nothing for anybody, we won’t find out until Brands Hatch. Similar things can be said about the Buildbase BMW team of Jon Kirkham and James Westmoreland, both riders having shown they can run on the pace however don’t seem to be able to be on the pace consistently, weekend by weekend. With a strong bike, there will be occasions where both riders are fighting for race positions within the top ten, but will their attack be consistent?

PaddockChatter does have a sneaky little punt for a potential surprise in 2013 and that’s Danish rider Robin Harms, OK the Doodson Motorsport team never really got far in the hands of Tom Tunstall but Harms showed at Assen last year the bike can have pace. Another from the continent is Mattao Baiocco, a reportedly fast Italian now riding for MotoRapido Ducati, obviously they had numerous difficulties with the Panigale last year, perhaps this year will see a change of fortune for the Winchester based team? It will be interesting to see how Martin Jessopp fares after a year away, the Yeovil lad showing significant pace in BSB before breaking his leg in 2010, is he Another who could make frequent visits to the top ten?

There’s certainly a lot of talent on the British Superbike grid for 2013, there may very well be quite the fight to even get into that vital top six by close at Donington Park and then the showdown, we’ll deal with that when we get to it.

You can see our picture guide to BSB by clicking HERE.


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