Six Of The Best: BSB Nuggets

As the countdown to the 2020 Bennett’s British Superbike Season ticks towards the series roaring into life at Donington Park on August 7th, here are a few fun facts about the series’ history for you to wow your mates with down the pub when taking in a (socially distanced) cold one.  Each fact is relevant to its numerical position in the list.

1. The Birth Of The Championship 

The British Superbike Championship (BSB) can trace its origins back to 1988 at the start of the Superbike racing boom, which coincided with the inaugural World Superbike Championship season.

The first BSB season was contested under Formula TT rules with race number one taking place in May 1988 at the Carnaby track on the site of a former RAF base near Bridlington in East Yorkshire. The first race winner was Darren Dixon who piloted his Suzuki RG500 all the way to the first championship title later in the year.

Dixon went on to become a star in the field of sidecar racing, winning the World Sidecar Championship in 1995 and 1996. Dixon’s son Jake came second in the 2018 BSB Championship and now competes in Moto2.

2. Always The Bridesmaid 

Fact number two refers to the second position in the BSB Championship achieved by Chris ‘Stalker’ Walker four years on the trot between 1997 and 2000.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking of these second placed finishes came at the climax of the 2000 season. With just three laps remaining in the final race, Walker led the pack only for his engine to fail on him. Despite trying desperately to reignite his machine, the mechanical problem allowed title rival Neil Hodgson to overtake Walker not just in the race but overall in the championship.

3. Niall’s Treble Triumph 

They say three is the magic number and it certainly was for Niall Mackenzie who became the most dominant rider of the 1990s, taking the BSB title three years in a row in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

Riding on the spectacular Cadbury’s Boost Yamaha team—run by former Grand Prix rider Rob McElnea—Mackenzie racked up 14 wins over the course of the 1997 season. This record was only bettered by Leon Camier with 19 during his dominant 2009 title win, and only Shane Byrne has won more BSB titles than the super Scot.

The Mackenzie name lives on as Niall’s sons Tarran and Taylor both now compete in the BSB and Superstock championships respectively.

4. Champions From Afar 

Over the course of British Superbike history, there have been four riders from outside the UK and Ireland who have finished the season top of the pile.

The first was Australian Troy Bayliss who piloted his GSE Ducati 996 to the 1999 title before going on to win a hat-trick of championships in World Superbikes. Spaniard Gregorio Lavilla only got his ride aboard the Airwaves Ducati 999 just days before the start of the 2005 season as a substitute for the injured James Haydon, but ended the season as champion after surprising many and holding off the challenge of the Honda riders and team-mate Leon Haslam.

Ryuichi Kiyonari became the first Japanese rider to claim the BSB title when he prevailed at the end of the dramatic 2006 championship decider at Brands Hatch. ‘Kiyo’ repeated the feat in 2007 and then after a spell in World Superbikes returned in 2010 to make it a hat-trick of titles all aboard the HM Plant Honda CBR1000RR FireBlade.

The most recent foreigner to win the British championship was Australian King of the Cadwell Park Mountain Josh Brookes who won his first (and to date only) BSB crown aboard the Milwaukee Yamaha R1 in 2015.

5. Rockin’ All Over The World 

Five British Superbike riders (including two former champions) have gone on to win the World Superbike crown after making the move from the domestic series.

As mentioned earlier, Troy Bayliss won the British title in 1999 before going on to add the World crown on three occasions in 2001, 2008 and 2009. Lancashire rider Neil Hodgson capitalised on Chris Walker’s dramatic engine failure in the final race of the 2000 season to win the BSB title aboard the GSE Ducati 996 (same bike ridden by Bayliss the previous year) and then conquered the world in 2003.

James Toseland rode the Paul Bird-backed Vimto Honda VTR1000 during the 2000 BSB season before moving up to the World Championship, winning the global crown on two occasions in 2004 and aboard the HannSpree Ten Kate Honda in 2007.

In the same year that Toseland bagged his second World Championship, Tom Sykes made his BSB debut aboard the Stobart Vent-Axia Honda FireBlade. After a year with Rizla Suzuki in 2008, Sykes made the step up to WSBK with Yamaha Moto Italia. Four years after making his World Championship debut in 2013, Sykes won his maiden title aboard the Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R.

Perhaps the most successful rider to have won the WSBK title after making his debut in BSB is none other than Jonathan Rea. After making his bow aboard the Red Bull Honda FireBlade in 2006 and then eventually stepping up to the factory HM Plant Honda team for 2007, finishing second in the championship behind team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari, Rea made the move to World Supersport for 2008. After eventually making the step up to the WSBK Championship in 2009, Rea went on to record five successive World Championships between 2015 and 2019, becoming the most successful rider in the history of the series.

6. Shakey’s Supremacy 

We couldn’t mention this number without making reference to the six British Superbike titles won by the most successful rider in the championship’s history, Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne.

Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne At BSB Oulton Park 2017. Image courtesy of Ducati

The first of Byrne’s titles came aboard the Monstermob Ducati 998 in 2003 before spells in World Superbikes and Moto GP. After returning to the British series in 2006 with Rizla Suzuki and Stobart Vent-Axia Honda in 2007, another ride aboard a Ducati (this time the 1098) yielded his second championship in 2008.

Following another brief stint in the World Superbike Championship and then a return to BSB with HM Plant Honda, Byrne reunited with former team boss Paul Bird in 2012 and netted his third British title the same year aboard the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki, repeating the trick in 2014. After the PBM team switched to a factory backed BeWiser Ducati Panigale 1199, Byrne notched another two back to back titles in 2016 and 2017.

Another rider will have to go a long way to depose Shane Byrne’s place in the BSB history books.

Those are our top six facts from BSB history. We look forward to seeing what the 2020 season can add to that when we hit Donington Park on August 7th.

Featured Image courtesy of Ducati

Quick 10 With……James Whitham

His Twitter bio reads “Ex bike racer . . have been skilfully avoiding a proper job for 30 years .. stunt dad”

Prior to gracing our screens, he has won the 80cc British Championship, the 1300cc Production British Championship and the TT Superbike Challenge.

He is a British Superbike Champion having won the title in 1993, was BSB runner-up in 1996 and raced in World Superbikes from 1994 to 1998, a team mate of Carl Fogarty. He competed in World Supersport from 2000-2002 and held the track record at Donington Park until 2007.

He runs trackdays with Paul Drinkwater Sports Motorcycling and his famous “6T9” logo can be seen on the leathers of big names in bike racing and around the circuits all over the UK.

British and World Superbike viewers will recognise him from Eurosport as a TV commentator and pundit. His quick wit, humour and amazing technological insight into bikes is without doubt the best you will find on television. His commentary partnership with Jack Burnicle for British Superbikes is quite possibly the most entertaining TV motorsport duet on air.

He is a true legend, a fantastic bike rider, a respected man on and off the circuit and a genuinely top bloke. His biography ‘What A Good Do!’ is a brilliant read (I highly recommend it).

These are his Quick 10 questions and he is……James Whitham.

What is your favourite racing circuit?

You tend to favour the tracks you go well at, regardless of whether they’re interesting to ride . . my fave UK circuit is Cadwell Park and worldwide is Monza

Who was your racing idol?

Mike Hailwood

Who would you regard as your toughest opponent?

Carl Fogarty

Considering racers of all time, you are a team principal and money is no object. Which two racers would you have in your team?

Mike Hailwood and Jarno Saarinen

If you could invite four famous people to dinner (past and present), who would you invite?

Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Nando Parrado and Muhammad Ali

Your personal racing number? What was it and the reason behind it?

69 – reads the same either way up !

What is the best race you have been involved in?

’01 World Supersport race Monza . . . 6 of us glued together for the whole race

Is there a race or series you have not competed in that you would like to or had wanted to?

I would’ve loved a season on a 250cc (2 stroke) GP bike

How did you get interested in motor racing? What ignited that spark?

My dad was a motorcyclist and took me to spectate at some race meetings as a kid . . . I was doomed from there really !

What is the best advice in racing you have been given?

Mick Grant always said that I should leave a team or sponsor on the best of terms . . . Don’t burn your bridges I suppose . . . good advice.

 

I have said this before, but when you get to interview somebody who you are a fan of and have great respect for then as a writer it is a dream come true.

In this instance I am truly thankful for James taking the time out from his busy schedule to answer the Quick 10 and can’t wait to see him and hear his funny, intelligent and interesting insight on BSB next season. I want to wish James all the best of health and thank him and Paul Drinkwater for this opportunity.

For more information on James and the track days on offer please visit http://www.jameswhitham.com/ and you can follow him on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/Jimwhit69

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing