The countdown to the 2016 British Superbike Championship has begun; round one takes place at Silverstone between 8th and 10th of April, and we’re in for a mix-up on the track.
A lot of changes have occurred during the winter break with: teams departing the championship; teams switching bike manufacturers; riders switching teams and riders returning to the championship; meaning it is impossible to predict what is going to happen and who the front-runners are going to be. Although, one thing that is for sure, there are going to be plenty of riders on the grid gunning and battling hard for the championship crown.
The biggest news is the departure of the current British Superbike champion, Josh Brookes, and his winning team Milwaukee Yamaha. They’ve switched manufacturer to BMW and made their World Superbike debut in February. Judging by last season’s results, some may think that this means a clear victory for Brookes’s main rival, Shane Byrne, and a loss of rivals for Byrne. However, there are plenty of riders willing to push Byrne to his limits.
Not only this, there has also been a change in the PBM racing team garage. The team have ditched Kawasaki and made a return to the Italian Manufacturer, Ducati, who they won the British Superbike crown with in the early 2000s, with Byrne and the late Steve Hislop. They are now known as BeWiser Ducati and will be running the Ducati Panigale R. Also, riding the team is rookie Glenn Irwin.
Hot on Byrne’s heals will be the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team, who have extended their contract with the Japanese manufacturer for another three years and have taken over from PBM as the official Kawasaki team. They enjoyed a successful debut year last season, with three race wins, 7 additional podiums and a spot in the final showdown. This year they are debuting the new ZX-10R Ninja and are fully supported by Kawasaki. Headed up by James Ellison, Peter Hickman and Leon Haslam, who is set to stir things up at the front, when he makes his return to the championship from the World Superbike Championship. ‘Pocket Rocket’ Haslam looks set to be providing entertainment for the fans, if his previous record in British Superbikes is anything to judge by.
Throughout his 6 seasons in the championship, from 2003-2008, he enjoyed some scintillating battles with the likes of: Byrne; Karl Harris; Leon Camier and Tom Sykes. He narrowly missed out on title twice, so he may have some unfinished business to settle in the championship. Having both Ellison and Haslam on their team, the 2016 season is looking promising for the Kawasaki team.
Another returnee to the championship is 2011 champion Tommy Hill. However, he is not returning as a rider but as a team owner and manager. Hill unveiled his team ePayMe Yamaha at Motorcyle Live. Lining up on the grid for Hill are Stuart Easton and John Hopkins. With Hill’s knowledge, the team will be battling hard for a spot in the final showdown.
Tyco BMW look set to challenging for a spot in the final showdown, after grabbing a race win at the season finale at Brands Hatch and leaving their name indented in the fans minds. Michael Laverty and Christian Iddon will be on the start grid for the team at Silverstone.
Racing the solo flag for the Japanese manufacturer, Suzuki, this season is Bennetts Suzuki, with Ryuichi Kiyonari and Tommy Bridewell. Bridewell returns to the manufacturer who he made his British Superbike debut with in 2007.
The Honda Racing Team continue to be the only Honda team in the championship. Their line-up remains unchanged from the start of last season, with Jenny Tinmouth, Jason O’Halloran and Dan Linfoot taking their spots on the grid. O’Halloran was dealt a huge blow, crashing out of fifth place last season and was force to miss the remainder of the season. However, he is back strong and raring for the 2016 season to begin.
Luke Mossey looks like a strong showdown contender, after winning the Riders Cup in 2015. He became the first rookie to achieve top position outside the showdown six, since it was introduced in 2010. Mossey is staying with Quattro Plant Kawasaki for the 2016 season and his new teammate is Filip Backlund. Former Quattro Plant Kawasaki rider, Harry Mainwaring, has switched to Smiths Racing BMW alongside Jakub Smrz.
Riding for Anvil Hire Tag Yamaha this season is Shaun Winfield and James Rispoli. Rookie Rispoli has moved up from Supersport with his American dream of securing a top six spot in the showdown in his debut year in Superbikes.
Another rookie joining the championship for this season is Sam Hornsey, who has progressed up from British Supersport and is joining Jack Kennedy in the WD-40 Kawasaki team.
Danny Buchan has joined a new team for the new season and is the solo rider for British Moto Rapido Team. Buildbase BMW have announced that Richard Cooper will be joining Lee Jackson in the team.
Finally, there is a new team joining the grid. FS-3 Kawasaki will make their Superbike debut, with the 2014 British Supersport Champion Billy McConnell as their solo rider.
All the changes that has happened so far this winter, has made the championship as unpredictable as ever before. However, it’s certain that this season is going to bring delight to the fans faces; with thrills and spills, exhilarating battles and all the fast-paced drama that the British Superbike Championship is renowned for.