The British Superbike Championship
The British Superbike Championship’s six ‘Title Fighters’ were decided yesterday at Cheshire’s Oulton Park race track, with TT ace Peter Hickman and young guns Tarran Mackenzie and Danny Buchan joining the already confirmed Ducati trio of Scott Redding, Josh Brookes and Tommy Bridewell in the battle to be 2019’s champion.
BSB rules see the top six points scorers after the main season go into a separate shootout over the last three rounds, starting in Assen in a fortnight’s time, and with the Ducati riders all qualified for the ‘Showdown’ ahead of this weekend’s three-race final round of the main season, all the interest was around who would take the remaining places.
As expected, Buchan secured his slot in the top six with fourth in Saturday’s race, while three solid results saw Mackenzie, son of three-time BSB champion Niall Mackenzie, also make it through.
The main story surrounding the weekend revolved around the battle for sixth. Where Honda riders Andrew Irwin and Xavi Fores, as well as Hickman, were separated by just five points going into the weekend.
Irwin endured a nightmare round in Cheshire. Handicapped by a back of the grid start in Saturday’s race, a result of him knocking Redding off at Cadwell Park, the young Northern Irish rider hit the deck in Saturday’s race after an incident involving riders in front of him.
While the accident was not his fault, Irwin picked his Honda Fireblade up and returned to the pits, in contravention to BSB’s ‘no restart’ policy. As he rode back, his damaged machine leaked fluid onto the circuit, which in turn caused Hickman and Dan Linfoot to crash.
Hickman was unable to restart the race and failed to score points, while Irwin was punished by being banned from Sunday afternoon’s first race. With two eighth places on Sunday, TT ace ‘Hicky’ was able to secure the final spot, as the Honda riders failed to make an impact.
“Practice and qualifying had gone really well and I was confident of a top six finish in the first race so for it to end with a crash through no fault of my own was very disappointing and I was lucky not to pick up injuries,” said Hickman “It made race two difficult with having to start a long way back on the grid, but we did what we needed in race three and it’s great to be in the Showdown again. I’ll be giving it my all at the final three rounds and will ensure I leave nothing on the table.”
“This weekend has been a disaster really,” added Irwin. “This is racing and is the way it goes, I’m still young and I don’t think anyone really expected me to fight for the Showdown this year but we were so close and we fought until the end. I won a race and now we have three rounds to have fun and get the best results we can for Honda. This weekend we showed how much the Fireblade has progressed here, before we were just about able to make Q2 and this time we made Q3, even though it didn’t count for anything we were still there. Thanks to the team, we have all worked hard so far this season and we still have three rounds, I’m not going to give up just yet and will be looking to get on the podium again and finish the year where I know I’m capable of.”
Away from the battle for the final Showdown spot, Brookes, Redding and Bridewell shared the wins, with a resurgent Bradley Ray taking a pair of second places on his Buildbase Suzuki GSX-R1000, while superbike rookie Australian rider Ben Currie had his best result of the season, with 11th in Saturday’s race on the Carole Nash-backed Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki ZX-10R.
He said: “The start of the weekend was really positive: we were strong in the lead up to and during qualifying. It was testament to my Crew Chief Simon who did a lot of work during the week which helped me take a big step forward.
“My problem this weekend was arm pump, something I’ve never struggled with before. It hindered me towards the end of the race on Saturday and really affected my progress and riding in both races on Sunday.
“On the plus side we turned it around this weekend and we’ve actually got good pace and are sure we can have a good end to the season.”
Team-mate Héctor Barbera’s bad luck continued after injuring himself during Friday’s free practice sessions. The Spaniard tried to race on Sunday but was defeated by the pain from his cracked ribs, as team manager Jack Valentine explained: “It’s been a struggle this weekend; Héctor was happy after doing a track day at Oulton, he liked the circuit and was making good progress every time he went out.
“However, he was involved in a huge crash on Friday through no fault of his own and he was sent to hospital. He cracked a few ribs and had some fluid on his lungs. He tried so hard to get back out there this weekend, but it just wasn’t possible as he was too injured.
“Ben has been making really good steps, the best he has done all year. The team have worked really hard on his bike and his set-up and he’s got a lot of confidence back.
“He’s built steadily and got his strongest result of the season. Sadly, he was hindered with arm pump today and, although he was running well again, he was unable to hold on so had to pull in. Hopefully it can be sorted before we go to Assen.”
The championship continues at the legendary Dutch TT Circuit Assen on the weekend of 21-22 September.