The clocks have gone forward, Easter eggs are on Supermarket shelves, and MotoGP is under way, it can only mean one thing – the first round of the 2015 British Superbike Championshop season is upon us.
Back to school – the class of 2015.
Photo: MCE BSB
It’s set to be the biggest ever BSB season – literally – with 40 riders set to grace the grid at Donington Park on Easter Monday. Making up the numbers are riders from 11 different countries. With young guns looking to make their mark, returning heroes from the world stage, and highly experienced BSB veterans out with a point to prove; a mistake at any single round could be pivotal in who will make the cut through to the Showdown in September.
PaddockChatter has been keeping an eye on testing and come up with seven things we’re most looking forward to seeing when the lights go out in Derbyshire on Monday…
Aussies on a brand new bike with a point to prove…
Photo: Milwaukee Yamaha
The new Yamaha R1 has been arguably the most eagerly anticipated Superbike of the year, and has received praise far and wide. The first test for the Milwaukee Yamaha squad, Josh Brookes and new team mate & compatriot, Broc Parkes, went smoothly for the team on the whole, with team manager Mick Shanley beaming at the bike’s ‘huge potential’, stating that the team “haven’t even scratched the surface yet”. Brookes seems more determined than ever before to wrap up a BSB title, he has even backed out of road racing for this year in an attempt to fully focus on the short circuits. Meanwhile, former World Supersport ace and Yamaha factory Superbike golden child from the EWC, Broc Parkes, took a hat-trick of podiums the last time he competed in BSB as a wildcard with PBM at Brands Hatch in 2009. Should he be able to adapt to the tricky nature of the British circuit calendar, who could bet against the Andorran resident for being a permanent podium threat? Both will be immensely strong contenders throughout the season, but there is always a degree of uncertainty when developing a brand new bike.
A healthy James Ellison in the same team, on the same bike…
Fan favourite James Ellison is staying aboard the factory supported GB Moto Kawasaki for 2015, the first time the BSB veteran has done so in his British Superbike career. The 2014 season started off in fine style for the Cumbrian, and the former MotoGP rider looked set to make the Showdown fight for the overall Championship up until a horrendous crash at Brands Hatch last summer resulted in a broken femur and the end of his title aspirations for the season. This year, Ellison is fit and on one of, if not the strongest package from the get-go, but it’ll be one step at a time for Mark Smith-Halvorsen’s squad, who are yet to claim their first victory in BSB. However, after learning his way around the new machine in 2014, Ellison acknowledged after the pre-season test at Donington Park a couple of weeks ago that “it is different this year as now podiums are not good enough” – he’s ready to battle for wins.
Bennetts Suzuki with Iddon and Waters…
With Moneymore based TAS-Racing having split with Suzuki GB for the 2015 season after a long and relatively successful partnership, Martin Halsall’s squad in the impeccably capable hands of Jack Valentine, struck a deal with the manufacturer to run as the official Suzuki BSB team for 2015, and as announced just two days ago, under Bennetts bike insurance colours. Australian Josh Waters returns to British shores once more with Suzuki, returning to Halsall’s squad, whom he rode with toward the end of the 2013 season, while Christian Iddon makes his ‘real’ BSB debut having spent 2014 achieving frankly remarkable results on an unhomologated Alstare Bimota BB3 in World Superbikes.
With this being Waters’ third consecutive whack at the BSB series, the pressure is on the fuelled by XpressCoffee rider to build on the two wins and consistent top 6 finished he earned last year in Tyco colours to progress into a Showdown contending position in 2015. Having wild carded at Assen last year on the Bimota, where he qualified on pole and finished 5th in the first race, clearly the Supermoto demon is fully capable of mixing it with the best. Should the package be up to it, could we see Suzukis participating in the Showdown once again?
The young guns looking to make their mark on the Superbike stage…
|Lee Jackson – One to watch
Photo: MCE BSB
The WD-40 squad have invested in the future of Superbike racing by acquiring the services of budding Supersport riders, WSS star Jack Kennedy and son of 3-time BSB Champion Niall Mackenzie, Taylor Mac (no relation to Ronnie). The pair will be riding the missiles that are the Kawasaki ZX10Rs and have made good progress so far in testing, but are under no illusions with overly ambitious expectations so soon in their Superbike careers.
The same can be said for the other side of the Buildbase BMW garage and Lee Jackson. ‘LeeBob’ has shown his immense talent on a motorcycle over the last few years in the Superstock classes, claiming 3rd overall in the STK1000 class last year, amongst several BSB appearances where he scored a best of a top 10 at Assen. With a permanent ride in the class for 2015, we look forward to watching the 19 year old’s progress throughout the year under the watchful eye of his vastly experienced team mate.
It’s take two for Danny ‘Boom-boom’ Buchan’s Superbike career. The essex boi had a false start in MSS Kawasaki colours back in 2012 and 2013 on the back of a 2nd place finish with the same team in the STK1000 championship in 2011. Despite taking a best result of 4th, the potential he showed in 2011 failed to germinate. Last year, Buchan took a step back into the the Superstock championship once more on a Kawasaki, dominating the series and taking the title ahead of Jason O’Halloran by 28 points. This year he joins the all-new BeWiser Kawasaki SBK team, under the guidance of former BSB champ and all round good egg, Tommy Hill. Buchan has been in fierce form during testing and looks set to come out in Donington’s races firing on all cylinders – here’s hoping it is second time’s the charm for the fuelled by Xpress Coffee rider.
|MLav returns from MotoGP
Photo: MCE BSB
Bridewell and Laverty on the Tyco BMWs…
Having spent two years in MotoGP wilderness, riding to score points rather than podiums or wins, it’s safe to say Michael Laverty will be more hungry than ever to clinch victory at every opportunity and show the world what he’s really capable of on the right package. The Ulsterman finished 5th overall the last time he competed in BSB with Samsung Honda in 2012, and a 4th overall finish the last time he rode for Phillip and Hector Neill’s TAS-Racing. With the all new machine for both the team and rider, it may take him a round or two to get up to speed, but this is a rider who was able to put a ‘garage job’ MotoGP prototype into the top 12 last year in Malaysia – no mean feat!
In the other side of the garage is fan favourite Tommy Bridewell. 2014 a largely successful year for the Devizes rider, despite obvious issues with the out-dated R1 Yamaha. In 2015, Bridewell is back on his beloved BMW, which he professed to have adored back when he rode with the Supersonic squad in 2012. The West-Countryman has built up a lot of expectation on himself through testing for the coming season, ready to go two places higher in the championship standings come the end of the October. He’ll be a force to be reckoned with provided he gels with the new BMW model as well as he did with the last…
Honda UK return…
They’re BACK! After a year long sabbatical from BSB after taking the title with Alex Lowes in 2013, Honda UK have brought out a factory supported squad, running Jason O’Halloran, Dan Linfoot and Jenny Tinmouth in the official colours for 2015. Arguably, the pressure is on the two men in the team, given the results experienced over the last two years in their respective classes. Linfoot performed valiantly on the Quattroplant Kawasaki in 2014, securing 5th in the overall standings and claiming a single podium. With factory support in 2015, the former 250GP rider will be looking to step on the podium on many more occasions and looking for that inaugural win.
Jason O’Halloran’s commitment to the Japanese factory in both BSB Superstock 1000 and on the EWC stage has paid dividends (finally), with the Aussie rewarded with a full-time BSB ride. The XpressCoffee backed rider missed out on a Stock1000 championship win last year, but showed that he has the speed capable of running up the front with the best in the premier class. The only question surrounding Honda this year (aside from WHY are they running the same colours as Milwaukee? – Spectator nightmare), is whether the bike is still up to the challenge. Our opinion? In BSB, yes. Honda will no doubt expect the duo to be Showdown threats in 2015.
The Strive for Five…
|Fitness concerns for start of 2015 for Byrne?
Photo: MCE BSB
The most obvious question surrounding British Superbikes this year is, can Shakey make it 5? Whether you call it the strive for five, the drive for five or whatever, can Byrne carry through his confidence high from 2014 to fend off Kiyo (and the other contenders) for another star on the helmet? Kiyonari was a reformed character in 2014 after such a disappointing period in his career. It was a remarkable comeback, and had he not suffered that crash on Saturday morning at Brands Hatch in October, who knows what would have happened on race day. Kiyo has stuck with Stuart Hicken’s Buildbase BMW team for 2015, but has lost the factory BMW support to Moneymore’s TAS-Racing. However, it’s still the same bike and we don’t expect this to have any practical hindrances to Kiyo’s potential this year – he will be a fierce championship contender once again. Pre-season has gone well and smooth for the Japanese rider, which is more than can be said for PBM Kawasaki’s Shane Byrne, who suffered a heavy accident and hand injury while testing in Spain last month, resulting in surgery and copious amounts of time in the hyperbaric chamber over the last 3 weeks. Is Byrne ready for round one? The Kent rider has admitted that he isn’t fully fit just yet, but he is ‘back up to speed’ in time for the lights to go out on Monday.
What are you most looking forward to this season? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @PaddockChatter on twitter!
The weekend’s action gets underway tomorrow with televised Datatag Extreme qualifying on British Eurosport 2 (HD) from 15:30 on Sunday, and full race day coverage on Monday, 12:30 on British Eurosport 2 (HD). If you’re not heading to the circuit itself, it comes highly recommended that you tune in on Monday, it’ll be a cracker of a season.