British Superbikes returns to our screens this coming weekend and it has all the credentials to be yet another scintillating championship which will go all the way to the final round at Brands Hatch in October. With Shane Byrne staying in the championship and runner-up Leon Haslam promising to challenge him all the way, we could see the most explosive season ever. However, there are other riders who will be desperate to rock in the best domestic superbike championship in the world.
Shane Byrne stays in BSB and remains in the Paul Bird Motorsport Ducati outfit. The 40-year-old Londoner took a record-shattering 5th title last season, his third for Ducati. ‘Shakey’ is more determined than ever before but he has a young teammate out to relegate him in the rankings. Enter Glenn Irwin. The 27-year-old comes into the BSB paddock for a 2nd season with PBM Ducati, having had a successful 2016 campaign. Podiums last season and 12th overall in the championship, Irwin could be a dark horse for success in 2017 as he looks to confirm his place in the top six.
Leon Haslam spearheads Pete Extance’s JG Speedfit Bournemouth Kawasaki team. After Mark Smith-Halvorsen pulled the plug on his GB Moto efforts last season, the former WSBK ace was left without a ride, having finished 2nd in the series on his comeback last year. As he and JG Speedfit move to the Bournemouth Kawasaki team, they’ll be looking for victories from the word go and to challenge for the championship. Cambridgeshire rider Luke Mossey remains in the team for a third consecutive season. Taking podiums throughout last year, Mossey has potential to once again upset the pecking order. Don’t expect him to consider himself number two for very long.
Tyco BMW retain Christian Iddon for 2017, after the Derbyshireman did such a fine job last season. Despite finishing on the podium six times last season, it was all too late as he recovered from a nasty injury mid-season. Iddon started the season strongly last year and will definitely be out to take his first victory in the class. Alongside him is one of a flurry of new/returning riders in 2017. Davide Giugliano was unceremoniously dumped out of Ducati’s Factory WSBK effort at the end of last season and found himself out of a ride come the end of the year. However, the Italian superstar has been thrown into the BSB mix, having joined the Tyco BMW team. He will be exciting to watch on British tracks, especially Cadwell Park. He knows Donington Park and Silverstone well, so expect strong performances at these venues.
Suzuki return with a full factory effort for 2017. The new GXR is run by the Hawk Racing Team, switching from BMW, a bike they’ve run for the past five seasons. Sylvain Guintoli is another big name coming back into the championship, after he was left out of Crescent Yamaha’s revised line-up for the 2017 WSBK season. The Frenchman’s BSB career was cut short after a terrifying accident at Donington Park in 2009, which involved Josh Brookes. Having won one race in the series and finishing on the podium on four occasions, he has unfinished business to deal with. Teaming up with him is reigning National Superstock 1000 champion Taylor Mackenzie. It’s great to see the Mackenzie name back in the BSB championship, although Taylor did compete in WD40 colours back in 2015 but he never scored points. Taylor promises to be exciting to watch, although for us journos and fans, his rivalry with Ian Hutchinson from the Stock 1000 championship last year will be put on hold for now.
Keith Flint’s successes in the British Supersport class have seen the outfit move to the premier class of British motorcycle racing. He remains on Yamaha equipment and takes on the experience of James Ellison and Michael Laverty. Ellison took victory in the final race of last season in an epic four-way scrap whilst Michael Laverty started last year with a win for Tyco BMW. Neither rider has ridden the new R1, although Ellison has Yamaha experience from 2013. The McAms Yamaha pairing will be wanting to hit the ground running with a bike that has won the title but as Tommy Hill’s EPayMe Yamaha team proved last year, it might not be love at first site. Ellison believes the bike has the potential to fight for the championship and who’d bet against that?
Honda Racing UK have retained their line-up from the past two seasons, minus the efforts of Jennie Tinmouth. Dan Linfoot leads Jason O’Halloran as the team prepare to race the new Honda Fireblade, which has seen its difficulties in the WSBK championship. Linfoot is yet to win a race in BSB but always goes well at Donington Park, whereas Jason O’Halloran has won a race and will be hoping to build on that success to propel him into a title challenging spot. It won’t be easy for the team but with experienced riders and crew members, it may not be as bad as they think.
Another Yamaha team this season is Tag Racing. The Anvil Yamaha squad have Josh Brookes who makes a shock return to BSB after an unsuccessful season in WSBK with Milwaukee BMW. The Australian took the BSB crown in 2015 and will want it back in 2017 to give Anvil Tag Racing their first win and their first title. Brookes says that he “has to win” and I have a feeling that he will be taking no prisoners on his way back to British success. Joining him in the team is Shaun Winfield. The Brit had a best result of 16th in 2016 and will be wanting to secure points in 2017.
Moto Rapido Ducati return once more in 2017, with their 2015 rider John Hopkins. The American was left without a ride when Tommy Hill’s team folded at the end of 2016 but was quickly snapped up by Steve Moore. After a tricky 2016 with numerous riders (starting the year with Danny Buchan, then enduring Alessandro Polita before finishing with Stuart Easton) the team will want to remain consistently quick throughout the season to challenge the more ‘factory’ PBM team. And if anyone can do it, 2011 runner-up John Hopkins most certainly can, as he comes into the year in fine form following a brace of podiums at Brands Hatch in the final round of last season.
Quattro FS-3 Kawasaki remain on the grid for a 2nd season, after a rather successful 2016. Based in Coventry under the watchful eye of businessman Nigel Snook, the team are hoping to run a two-bike team with their National Superstock 1000 rider James Rispoli towards the end of the season but it will be Billy McConnell who once again shines for them in BSB full-time. The Australian was a podium finisher in 2015 and scored a best of 4th in 2016 at Snetterton. On the brand-new Kawasaki for the first time, we could see some surprises from the relatively new team.
Lloyd and Jones (PR Racing) return to the championship in 2017, after a tricky few seasons. Jakub Smrz is their man in the saddle in 2017, having finished 18th in the championship last year with two top-10 results. The Czech rider will be looking to repeat his efforts from last year and return to the higher positions with BMW. A hard-working rider and a hard-working team could see them, like FS-3, cause a few upsets.
The RAF Reserves team, run by Lee Hardy Racing, switch manufacturers this year from BMW to Kawasaki, whilst retaining Jake Dixon as their sole rider. Snapped up almost immediately after his BSB debut last year, Dixon had some great rides with a best result of 6th in race one at Snetterton. However, two massive accidents – the first at Knockhill before a high-speed crash at Oulton Park – showed us that even the protégé of Shane Byrne will get it wrong. Having fully recovered from terrible hip injuries, Dixon promises to be a firework coming through the BSB ranks. 16th in the championship competing in half of the races last season is no fluke.
Smith’s Racing BMW made the step up to BSB two seasons ago, with the then-champion in British Supersport, Billy McConnell. Whilst the team has evolved, their results dropped somewhat last season. However, Ryuichi Kiyonari joined the team for the final few rounds and was as high as 2nd in the final outing of the season at Brands Hatch, so it wasn’t all negative. Lee Jackson and Peter Hickman join the team for 2017, with the hopes of podiums being not too far away. Hickman took victory in the first round of last season and I’m sure that Rebecca Smith wouldn’t mind a repeat performance, should ‘Hicky’ be able to do it for her at Donington Park.
Team WD40 are still on the grid in 2017, fielding former race winner Tommy Bridewell. Martin Halsall’s team didn’t stay in the BSB class for 2017 so Tommy needed a ride. It was a last-minute deal that saw the #46 sign for Brent Gladwin’s outfit at GR Motorsport. Having had a tricky few seasons in the championship, Team WD40 deserve some luck and deserve some real success. Bridewell could be the rider to do it. He made the Suzuki look amazing last season (despite it being seven years old) and could do the exact same this year. The team have an all new Kawasaki ZX10 to play with, so keep your eyes open for the blue and yellow machine making headway through the field.
Riders Motorcycles BMW once again has Martin Jessopp on board. Phil Jessopp runs the outfit and his ambition is a repeat of 2016, just with more top 10 finishes. It could be a tricky year for the team but with Martin’s experience and success, who would bet against another relatively decent campaign.
Aaron Zanotti again lines up on the BSB grid this season. 16th place was his best result last season and will be looking to return to the points in 2017. He is about as privateer as they come, being both the rider and owner of the Platform Hire Yamaha team. The Loughborough based rider is eager to get on with 2017.
Gearlink Kawasaki are once again in the series for 2017, with James Westmoreland returning to the championship after having a title challenging season in British Supersport last year with Keith Flint’s Traction Control Yamaha team. A podium in 2015 is Westy’s best success in the British Superbike class and will be looking to put Gearlink Kawasaki in a regular point-scoring position for 2017.
There’s a new team in the championship for 2017, with Buildbase Suzuki giving British Supersport sensation Bradley Ray an opportunity at the big time. Bronze medallist in last year’s British Supersport championship, this year will be the first time he has raced a 1000cc superbike. Brad will take time to adapt but believe me, the lad has some incredibly scintillating pace.
So that is the incredibly strong line-up for 2017 and we will be bringing you all the action, news and interviews this season. Who will win the opening race of the season and which lucky six will make it into the showdown? Never has BSB had so many fast riders and never has it been so competitive. What a year we are in for.
A big thank you to our wonderful British Superbike photographer, Gareth Davies. Not only does he supply this image but he supplies us with thousands of images from all over BSB. He is very high up with certain teams and riders and even Tommy Hill has one of Gareth’s images framed. Find him on Facebook here.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko