The wait is almost over! In just two weeks’ time, the British Superbike teams will take to the track for the first official test of 2022.
BSB never fails to disappoint in its action-packed and thrilling races. And with some big stars returning to the grid this year, we’re in for a treat.
2022 will see the return of two favourites in the British motorcycle world, with Tom Sykes heading to Paul Bird’s squad and Leon Haslam racing on Lee Hardy’s Vision Track Kawasaki.
Amongst these two names, we will see the likes of Rory Skinner contest his second season in the championship after bursting onto the scene last year at his home race at Knockhill.
His compatriot, Tarran Mackenzie, will remain at McAMS Yamaha after winning his maiden BSB title in 2021 despite interest from the World Superbikes paddock.
The Scotsman suffered a scare at the beginning of the year after breaking his ankle during a training accident in Spain which led to surgery. For now, it seems he will make a full recovery and ride at the first test at Snetterton.
Although turning down offers for a full contract in WSBK, Mackenzie will contest three rounds as a wildcard at Donington Park, Assen and a third circuit which is yet to be known on a full-spec R1 this year.
Elsewhere on the grid, Christian Iddon has moved to Buildbase Suzuki to line-up alongside Danny Kent. Rich Energy OMG Racing also retain the services of Bradley Ray and Kyle Ride who look to build on a promising 2021.
Looking at the calendar, the season will get underway with Round 1 taking place at the Silverstone National Circuit on the weekend of 15-17 April and will end with the usual finale at Brands Hatch in mid-October.
As a very early prediction, here’s who I think will make the top three:
The thrill and excitement. The smell of the fuel. The sound of the engines. The anticipation for the race to start. The energy building. The lights going out. The speed of the racers. The elation when the racer you support wins or the deflation when they don’t. We as fans feel it all.
But, how did Silverstone get to where it is today?
Built in 1942 and used up until 1947 as RAF Silverstone, its sole purpose was for Wellington Bombers in WWII to take-off at the airfield that used to occupy the space. At the end of the war it was left abandoned.
In 1948 the Royal Automobile Club were thinking of bringing back motor racing to England and chose the abandoned airfield located in Northamptonshire as the start of their journey. 30th June 1948 a one-year lease had been secured and later that year in October the first international Grand Prix was held. Behind the scenes a lot of effort took place, 620 marshals were hired, 170 tonnes of straw bales were used and 10 miles of signal writing put into place. The event drew in an audience of 100,000 spectators. The RAC Grand Prix victory went to Luigi Villoresi.
We couldn’t speak about Silverstone’s rich history without Formula One. During an F1 race there is an average of 52 laps to complete at Silverstone and the circuit length is: 306.198km/ 190.263miles.
Notable F1 moments:
1950 – King George VI and our now Queen (Elizabeth II) visited and watched the racing. This was the one and only time that a reigning Monarch had done so. The race was won by Giuseppe Farina.
1960 – Graham Hill was cruising to victory ahead of Jack Brabham but with only 5 laps till the chequered flag, Hill spun off, leaving Brabham to take the win.
1971 – Jackie Stewart won that years race and along with it a new lap record.
1983 – Alain Prost hailed victorious, claiming his first win at Silverstone.
1998 – Michael Schumacher oddly won that years race whilst being stationary in the pits.
2008 – Local-boy Sir Lewis Hamilton took victory (and would go on to win 8 times).
2022 – F1 will return to Silverstone 1st – 3rd July.
1964 –Trying to improve safety for the competitors and their mechanics, a new pit lane separate to the main track was put in place.
1975 – Brand new pit garages were erected and a chicane was added at Woodcote.
1987 – The s-bend was removed and replaced with a sharp left – right bend on approach and larger pit garages were also added.
1990’s – A massive renovation took place to the circuit, which remains today – extra seating was erected and changes were made to the layout of the track eg. run-off at Copse was increased and Stowe became tighter. Further alterations have since followed.
2000’s – A new pit and paddock complex was built between Copse and Abbey and a new “arena” complex was ready for the 2010 season.
2018/19 – In 2018 the track was resurfaced but drainage issues forced the Moto GP race to be cancelled. Ahead of the 2019 race, the track was resurfaced yet again.
It has become the home of iconic British Racing, with it’s incredible history stretching back all the way to those days in 1948. It is instantly recognisable and is one of the fastest tracks on the racing calendar.
But, it wasn’t all about cars. Britain had a taste for Motorbike racing also. During a motorbike race there is an average of 20 laps to complete at Silverstone and the circuit length is: 5.89km. With 8 left-hand corners, 10 right-hands and a 770m long straight.
On the weekend of 13th August 1977 the British Motorcycle Grand Prix debuted. It was to be legend Giacomo Agostini’s final race, he finished a respectful 9th and American Pat Hennon on the Texaco Heron Team Suzuki took victory.
Notable Moto GP moments:
1978 – Another American won, this time it was Kenny Roberts (Yamaha) who took the win, in-front of two Brits – Steve Manship and Barry Sheene.
1979 – 1981 – Americans dominated the podium: Kenny Roberts took a second victory (1979) and a third (1980). Kenny Roberts and Randy Mamola took 2nd and 3rd behind Jack Middleburg (Suzuki) (1981).
1986 – Australian Wayne Gardner (Honda) took the top-spot. Some may recognise the name – 2021 Moto 2 Champion Remy Gardner’s Father.
1987 – Eddie Lawson won from Wayne Gardner and Randy Mamola. The racing then left Silverstone in favour of another British track: Donington. But returned in 2010 with modern-day Moto GP.
2010 – Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) took the flag from Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) and Ben Spies (Yamaha).
2011 – Another Australian lifted the trophy this time it was Casey Stoner’s (Honda) turn. With Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) and Colin Edwards (Yamaha) third.
2013 – All Spanish podium consisted of: Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), Marc Marquez (Honda) and Dani Pedrosa (Honda).
2015 – All Italian podium: Valentino Rossi (Yamaha), Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati).
2016 – Maverick Vinales (Suzuki) took the win ahead of British-man Cal Crutchlow (Honda). The first time a Brit in Moto GP had stepped onto the podium since 1984. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) was third.
2018 – The race was cancelled due to torrential rain and the circuit having drainage issues.
2020 – Cancelled again this time due to Global Pandemic – Covid-19.
2021 – Current Moto GP Champion Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) took victory from Alex Rins (Suzuki) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia).
2022 – Moto GP will return to Silverstone 5th – 7th August.
As we immerse ourselves in the racing, witnessing wheel-to-wheel fighting and cheering on the competitors, we say the names given to parts of the circuit but never think twice about where these names originated from.
The story behind the name:
Abbey and Luffield – Luffield Abbey remains were discovered 200 metres from Stowe corner.
Becketts and Chapel Curve – Ruins of the chapel of Thomas Beckett are close to the circuit.
Stowe Corner – Named after the school which resides not too far away.
Maggotts – Maggotts Moor Field is also close to the track.
Copse – A small wood used to be adjacent to the corner.
Club Corner – In honour of the RAC Club.
Woodcote – Named for the Country Club, located in Woodcote Park in Surrey.
Hangar Straight – Two aircraft hangers originally lined the circuit where the straight sits.
Hamilton Straight – Named in 2010 in honour of the achievements of British racing driver Sir Lewis Hamilton.
Village – Commemorating Silverstone Village.
Ireland – Named for Innes Ireland (GP driver and President of the British Racing Drivers Club).
Wellington Straight – Vickes Wellington Bombers were based at RAF Silverstone.
Brooklands – Named for the world’s first purpose-built circuit at Weybridge, Surrey.
The Loop – Simply the shape of the corner.
The names may change over time and the circuit may yet again see change and growth. But one thing is for sure, racing unites fans and brings them together to enjoy the absolute ecstasy of the event. We all have our personal memories of a certain race at this legendary track, whether we were there in person soaking in the atmosphere or watching on TV – sitting on the edge of our seats. The magic of Silverstone will always live on.
Featured image: 2019 race win. Courtesy of: Ultimate Motorcycling Magazine
As the great Julian Ryder once said about racing at the highest level: “Talent will get you onto the stage, but winning is a matter between the ears”.
It is quite possible that Jonathan Rea has modelled his WorldSBK career on that line, and then some.
In 2020, given all the uncertainty that has gone with it, this attribute was overlooked by TV broadcasters (and in the interests of outright entertainment of the viewers, perhaps rightly so). However, as the dust has now settled on the season, it is high time to salute this remarkable, and ruthless attribute in Jonathan Rea’s arsenal:
The ability to read and control the championship.
Whilst Rea’s detractors will often highlight his supposed lack of charisma, however they cannot criticise or belittle his ability to know exactly what is needed to be done on track in any given scenario.
Few have the ability and it is the preserve of only the greatest champions: think Mick Doohan, Valentino Rossi or Carl Fogarty in the motorbike world – Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost from Formula 1. Jonathan Rea is the same.
They do not “see red” when a rival overtakes them. They do not panic and adopt a “win it or bin it” attitude. They can even accept that some days they will not be spraying the champagne on the podium.
That last one may come as a surprise to some, but it is true.
Immediate glory on the track, these few know, pales in comparison to lifting the championship trophy at the end of the season. Their place in the standings is the only thing that matters. It consoles them, when a race weekend heads south. You can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices when they give answers either on the grid or in the interviews in the build up to race day. They are fixated on it. It’s the obsession which pushes them further than the others.
This ability has been showcased on multiple occasions throughout Rea’s career. Perhaps the most clear example came in 2019. Whilst all and sundry had written off his title chances, after Alvaro Bautista’s incredible run of 13 wins from the opening 16 races, Rea’s head never dropped. By ensuring that he constantly mopped up the next best places, he had put himself in prime position to catch Bautista as an when the Spaniard’s incredible run came to an end.
The patience and discipline shown in sticking to what needed to be done ensured that, despite Bautista’s early-season dominance, Rea was never more than a couple of victories away from taking the lead in the championship. Once that happened, Rea hit the racers’ zenith. Such was the confidence in himself and his team, it was inevitable he’d hit his own ‘purple patch’
In 2020, the championship battle required a different tactic. With the Kawasaki being more competitive at the start of the season, Rea was able to trade early-season victories with Scott Redding. Once his rival faltered and a gap in the standings had been established, Rea defaulted to prioritising scoring only as many points as he needed to keep Redding behind. He was content enough to let other riders go up the road, safe in the knowledge that his rival could not score sufficient points to make any meaningful inroads (if any at all) to his lead.
Described like that, it is a brutal suffocation of his rivals. Yet there is a fine art to it – and is very difficult to spot on track. Certainly to a casual observer. Rea has to always ensure that his rival (Redding in 2020, Tom Sykes in 2015) finished behind him.
You cannot afford to ride slow with this tactic, let’s make that clear.
If someone puts together a string of qualifying-style laps in an attempt to break away from the field, Rea uses his judgement to let them go. He has a target pace to ride to, with a small margin to increase pace should he need to recover places later in the race.
Many riders attempt to employ this tactic. Few succeed. Even fewer succeed year after year. As racing goes, this is psychological warfare: Grind down your opponent until he believes you are always that little bit better or faster than him. When a rival cracks – as Sykes and Redding did respectively – it looks sudden and spectacular as the defeated challenger loses heart and finds himself falling back through the field – or worse crashing out.
This kind of moment ensures that race result which ultimately seals the championship, but it has taken weeks, sometimes months to grind the opponent down to such a state.
You cannot pull that off overnight. Neither can you be taught it. A state of mind. You have to be utterly ruthless with your opponent – yet at the same time make it so subtle very few can spot what you’re doing until its too late.