British Superbikes 2023 – Some of the Story so far.
Round 3 Donington Park. Baking under the early Spring sunshine, the Derbyshire track once again provided a great weekends racing. Dominated by a trio of wins from Yamaha, namely Kyle Ryde Lami Vape OMG Yamaha (2) and Jason O’Halloran McAMS Yamaha (1).
Followed up with podiums from regulars to the box and clear championship contenders, Josh Brookes, Glenn Irwin, Tommy Bridewell and Leon Haslam. Surprise of the weekend coming in the form of 2nd place finisher from Race 2, Ryan Vickers bagging his maiden podium in the Superbike class on board his Lami Vape OMG Yamaha.
With the new points system in place, cast aside have been the moans and groan of the pessimists as the new points system is proving to be keeping the points close this season, that in addition to the different mix of riders able to win races in 2023 and the unfortunate DNF’s of the Beermonster Ducati team (neither rider finishing the first race on Sunday). Also add in to that the unexpectedly problematic start to the season from widely acclaimed preseason favorite, championship contender Jason O’Halloran and you have the top 5 in the standings covered by 10 points after 9 races.
So who’s got 2023 right so far?
For one it seems now the move by both Glenn Irwin and Tommy Bridewell to Paul Bird’s Beermonster Ducati has been a stroke of genius for all involved, especially Paul for pursuing the 2 riders. Many expected fireworks from the Ducati pairing, with Irwin being a feisty character who commands ‘full gas’ from those around him while Bridewell has been the solo entrant for his team for the last 5 years under the Oxford Products Ducati banner in the MotoRapido team ran by Steve Moore, it was thought by those in the know that the two potentially wouldn’t co-exist in the same environment.
So far though, the 2 British Superbike veterans are remaining professional, co-existing nicely and keeping the on-track battles clean and respectful. Whether this will remain the plan come Brands Hatch in a few months remains to be seen. Both Irwin and Bridewell are in the best position they have ever been to be crowned British Superbike Champion this year. Tommy is leading the championship on 119 points followed closely by Glenn on 116 points.
Another rider to be kicking 2023 off on the positive foot is Lami Vape OMG Yamaha rider, Kyle Ryde.
With 5 podiums, including 1 win throughout the whole of 2022 season, Ryde has already chalked up 3 dominant wins in 2023. He is 5th in the championship, but crucially only 10 points behind leader Bridewell. According to paddock sources, Ryde is fitter, stronger, more determined and professional this year. It seems nothing but a championship is the goal for the team which secured the 2022 BSB crown with Brad Ray, and Kyle is on course for being right in the mix come the end of season. Depsite a DNF at Donington Park, Ryde has laid down a marker that he IS one of the men to beat in 2023. Kyle Currently sits 5th in the standings on 109 points. Also a special mention to his team mate, Ryan Vickers who despite missing a full round of the BSB after an opperation, he currently sits 8th overall, helped by his maiden podium this weekend at Donington Park.
Some of us are not surprised at all!
Josh Brookes left the PBM Ducati team at the end of 2022 with some questions as to whether he was past his best? Struggling with form since his Championship winning 2020 season, Brookes made no secret of the fact he believed it was the Ducati Panigale V4 that was the problem during the 21 & 22 seasons.
FHO BMW announced Brookes as partnering their long-term rider Peter Hickman on the BMW M1000RR and from Round 1, Josh has come out swinging. 5 podiums including 2 wins so far in 2023 shows Brookes still has the will to win, the skill to win and the determination to be British Champion. It also points towards the fact Josh could have been correct, claiming it was the previous version of the V4R that was hindering the popular Australian. The PBM team have returned to winning ways under new riders Irwin and Bridewell aboard the new for 2023 V4 Ducati, but it’s somewhat Ironic that the rider joining them, winning races and sharing the podium is the very same rider who left the team the previous year under scrutiny. No doubt Josh finds humor in this, ‘coz I know we all do. Josh currently sits 3rd in the standings on 114 points.
Rokit BMW Motorrad Team.
In true Haslam style, grit and determination have put Leon on the grid this year in a true privateer effort. Sponsorship coming from the Rokit company with some support from the SMR BMW team in World Superbikes bringing together the infrastructure for Leon to start his own team with a view to bringing talent through the ranks all the way to BSB. No surprise to most, after a very successful test out in Spain at the start of the season, it was clear Haslam has gelled with the BMW machinery and it has enabled him to mount a strong start to the 2023 season. While race wins have evaded him so far, 4 podiums in 9 races is a vast improvement on his 2022 campaign aboard the Lee Hardy Racing Kawasaki and one that Leon would have snapped your arm off had you predicted this before the season got underway. Outshining all but Brookes on the FHO BMW, Haslam’s operation is certainly turning heads. Leon proves a case for experience will always carry the series forward over youthful exuberance. Leon currently lies 4th in the standings on 110 points.
2023 is shaping up to be a strong debut from the Mar-Train Yamaha team.
Making the step up to Superbikes from Supersport after years of domination, Jack Kennedy and team are regularly inside the top 10 and has scored points in all but 1 race so far this year. Being honest, I think it’s surprising the team can run in such company so early in their superbike tenure, while vastly experienced in the 600 category, the Superbike is still new ground. However, I am not shocked Kennedy has been so competitive. If anything as a multiple Supersport Champion, I feel Jack should be able to run with the front pack. I’d go as far as saying by next year he should be running for the podium. Kennedy has the experience and the calibre to do so. Hopefully over the summer of racing, the team and Jack keep making them marginal gains and start to knock on the door of regular top 5’s. Kennedy will be under survailance from some of the other teams in the paddock, if not already on the radar for the likes of McAMS Yamaha, Honda Racing UK etc. Well done Jack and Mar-Train Yamaha I say! Jack currently sits 9th in the championship on 50 points.
Jack Kennedy – MarTrain Yamaha – Image Official BSBMy final hurrah goes to Danny Kent of Lovell Kent Racing Honda. While the standings themselves do not show it, Danny has pedaled some good laps this season. Running in the top 5 and spinning some fast laps in qualifying. For another true privateer team, Kent has adapted to the Honda well and hopefully a little consistency will come his way and bring the points. A DNF at Oulton Park and 2 DNF’s at Donington haven’t helped Kent, but by the same vain the points gaps are closer and if Danny can spin it around, he will soon make ground on the top 5. He is a World Champion after all.
Who hasn’t 2023 been kind to?
Unfortunately the first name on the list has to be Jason O’Halloran. The curse of Oulton Park kicking in again for the 3rd year running with a double DNF during iffy weather conditions, also affecting his qualifying positions for Race 3 where he was able to fight his way back into the top 10 to finish off the weekend, some 22 seconds back from the leaders. Unfortunately for Jason, Donington didn’t start well either. What appeared to be a wrong tyre choice left him battling to save points with Jason crossing the line in 14th overall. Luckily a change of tyre compound for the Sunday racing, O’Show was out of the blocks bagging his first race win of the season in Race 2 and a close battle between Oxford Products Christian Iddon, FS3 Lee Jackson and O’Show in Race 3 saw Jason come off worst with a 7th over the line.
39 points separate O’Halloran from Kyle Ryde in 5th position overall and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that Oulton Park and Doningotn Race 1 have left O’Halloran with quite the hill to climb. Later in the season we enter the showdown races and the finale. Showdown in title only, the new points system could give Jason the opportunity he needs to recoup some points on his competitors if a late season flurry of wins is on the cards. Jason currently lies 6th in the championship on 70 points.
Another victim of 2023 cruelty?
Christian Iddon. Widely anticipated to hit the front winning races from the very get go, Iddon seems to have had no luck so far this season. A few early technical gremlins for the Ducati, combined with Christian being taken out of the race by Charlie Nesbit (Silverstone) and Andrew Irwin (Donington) have left ‘fan favourite’ Iddon pedaling like mad playing catch up. Unfortunately, once you are on the back foot it is very difficult to bridge the gap without other riders suffering misfortune. Hopefully Iddon will benefit from the new points system, while working on fighting his way back to the front of British Superbikes. Christian is currently 10th overall in the championship on 49 points.
Poor Andrew Irwin of Honda Racing UK.
A triple DNF at Donington Park has left the Honda rider down in 12th position in the standings. Many expected Irwin to be resurrecting his winning form of 2019/20 where he teamed with brother, Glenn but so far it hasn’t gone to plan. With a lot of fans arguing over “Do you go for the gap or not” after Irwin was involved in an incident with Chrstian Iddon, going for the gap at the hairpin with both riders going down. BSB Race Direction said “Following analysis of multiple video sources including onboard cameras, and after hearing the accounts of both riders, the Race Direction concluded that neither rider acted in a careless, reckless or dangerous manner and no further action was required”.
However after an incident with Storm Stacey in subsequent race, in almost identical moves, Irwin was handed 3 penalty points and a 3 place grid penalty for the next race following the incident with Stacey. Irwin apologised to Storm, his team and the Honda Racing UK team in a post on social media.
The truth be told it’s a conversation for race direction, Andy Irwin himself and team principal Harvier Beltran. Only they know if this is a homecoming combination of their dreams or whether it’s going tits up. Andy Irwin comes across as a lovely lad, popular with some fans and hopefully can find some consistency and finish races. I wish him luck.
So that’s it. A bit of a wrap up on 2023 so far.
Who’s your money on moving forwards? Are you more interested in the story from the back half of the grid? The progression of riders such as Davey Todd, Jack Scott, Tom and Tim Neave? Are the rookies performing as you expected? For more thoughts, chat and a bit of banter follow me on twitter and we can continue this discussion @RacingArmchair