Who’s sitting pretty after BSB round one?

Byrne is still the man to beat

Before the lights went out for the first at the opening round of the 2013 British Superbike Championship from Brands Hatch, there were many debates as to what fans should expect to see once the talking stops, and the flag finally dropped. For instance, does Kiyonari still have ‘it’? Will Ellison be able to go one better than he did in 2009? Will Lowes be able to mount a season long championship challenge? In PaddockChatter’s opinion, some of these questions can be answered now, but for others, we’ll need a bit more time to get the full gist…

A known known before the start of the season was that triple champion, Shane Byrne would be out of the starting blocks like a man possessed, especially at his home circuit. The veteran won the first race by a comfortable margin, though was pushed all the way by Samsung Honda’s Alex Lowes. As for the second race, Byrne also looked as though he was preparing to launch an attack on Ellison for the win, and had he not almost torpedoed the Cumbrian braking into Surtees, the Kawasaki rider could well have pipped Ellison to the line. As it happens, he still finished 3rd, leaving him top of the championship, a single point ahead of Alex Lowes. Nothing more really needs to be said about #67, he is still the man to beat in BSB.

‘Read more’ to see PaddockChatter’s thoughts on other title contenders and who could take the final Showdown spot this season…

Sticking with the BSB veteran theme, if PaddockChatter is completely honest, it’s surprised at Kiyo’s results from this weekend (8th and 4th). Brands has been a circuit that the Japanese rider has endured good success at in the past, at world level, too. The triple champ has always been quite a reserved character off the track, making analysing whether he’s content or not very difficult. That said, one thing is for sure, watching Kiyo on track, he looked his usual ‘visibly fast’ self, i.e. very comfortable on the bike. Does he still have it, to make ‘the four’? Probably. Perhaps he is just steadily easing himself back into the game, following the year out from the series last year. Don’t be surprised if Kiyo is not fighting for the win at Thruxton either, he hasn’t won there since 2005… success will come in time for King Kiyo.

Lowes had a solid weekend with two 2nd places

Kiyo’s team mate at Samsung Honda, Alex Lowes in PC’s opinion, has done exactly what we expected him to for the first round of the season. Lowes has developed brilliantly in the past couple of seasons, by the end of last year, the Lincolnshire rider had seriously calmed down, and this weekend was no different; he showed good patience and maturity by securing two solid 2nd places. Speaking to PC following the second race at Brands, Lowes said how he intends to “stay calm” throughout the first part of the season, to help with the Showdown. He already has more podium credits than he got for the whole of the ‘regular season’ last year, which will no doubt give him a big shove up the backside come the start of the Showdown in September… so yes, Lowes can bring the noise to the party, all season long.

What happened to Brookes this weekend? It seems, not even he knows. The Aussie expressed prior to the racing that it was too high maintenance to go for first position this year, so he’d stick with going for second, as he’s managed to achieve that in the championship twice now. But the Tyco Suzuki rider ironically sits in third ahead of round two. At this point in time, that’s not really a worry for the Australian. Speaking after the race on Sunday, Josh told PC that the only real issue with the weekend was the results – he, the team and the bike were getting on like a house on fire as per; however, “for some reason, the guys I’m against have lifted their game”. Brookes has a few wins to his name at Thruxton, don’t be surprised to see this number increase, this weekend. PC is still very confident that Brookes one of the stronger championship contenders for 2013.

Returning veteran (nearly), James Ellison had a successful weekend, bar a Shoei related mishap on the grid, before race one. Had it not been for that hiccup, PC is sure that the Cumbrian would have been on the podium there too, but clearly it wasn’t meant to be. Ellison then gave a masterclass around the Kent circuit in race two, though as was mentioned earlier, one has to question whether Byrne could have pipped the Yamaha rider to the line, had he not almost mounted him towards the end of the race.

Brands was a bit of a statement from Ellison, everyone knew he’d be fast when back in BSB, he got a podium at the end of 2011, and in the process made the finale to the championship even more difficult for messrs Hopkins and Hill. But there was a question mark as to whether, after a difficult year in CRT, he would be the racer we all saw back in 2009 on that Airwaves Yamaha; and able to be a real threat to the top spot of the championship. After the first round? The answer is yes, he is.

The 2013 BSB championship was shaping up to be a real scrap for the title, but Brands Hatch has confirmed it. In PC’s opinion, realistically, either one of Byrne, Brookes, Ellison, Lowes or Kiyonari, could take the title this year.

Don’t discount the rookies for Showdown places

That would leave one more spot in the Showdown. And the first round confirmed that the battle for the all important final place, will be almost as fierce as the fight for the championship itself. Jon Kirkham, Chris Walker, Keith Farmer and Tommy Bridewell, were the main riders situated around the 6th spot this weekend. Although, to discount newbies like Waters, Jacobsen, Smrz and old boys like Hickman and Harms, so early after the game has started, would be nothing but foolish.

PaddockChatter does not expect to get a truly valid idea of showdown/championship contenders until after everyone has settled in, come the mid-summer rounds in Brands Hatch and Oulton Park. Pinch of salt for now…

To sum up PaddockChatter’s thoughts following Brands: in the War for Four, it’s first blood to Byrne.

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