With 3 rounds of the World Superbike series down and with Motogp heading into their third round this weekend, it’s finally time for what is arguably the best domestic championship in the world, British Superbikes.
The line up for this seasons British Superbike Championship consists of 32 riders all vying to get into the top 6 showdown at the end of the season, these 6 then fight it out to become British Champion. The 12 round championship always throws up some amazing races helped in part by the series visiting amazing circuits like Oulton Park and Caldwell Park.
There has been a lot of bike/team/rider changes since the last race of last season at Brands Hatch. Notably the biggest change is that there will be no back to back champion, as Josh Brookes and the Milwaukee team as a whole has shifted it’s efforts to WSBK. His absence will probably be a relief to most of the grid, as his domination on the Yamaha in the last few rounds of the season saw him win 6 of the 7 showdown races.
The move away from BSB by Milwaukee has meant Yamaha has had to find pastures new for the 2015 championship winning bike. That team is Tommy Hill Motorsport, with a rider line up of John Hopkins and Stuart Easton. Both riders have something to prove with Easton having an injury affected 2015. John Hopkins came into the championship late on in the year, unfortunately niggling technical issues caused him to lose more than one podium towards the end of season.
Paul Bird Motorsport have made the switch from Kawasaki to Ducati bringing along with them Shane Byrne. With factory support directly from Bologna, I see Byrne as the favourite this season. The combination of Byrne, PBM and Ducati winning the championship in 2003, Byrne had further success with the manufacturer in 2008. He is also the most successful rider on the grid with 4 BSB titles and will be favoured by most to get his 5th, especially with the current successes of Chaz Davies in WSBK on the same machinery.
Last year Michael Laverty struggled on his return to the British circuits on board the BMW. After some mid season upgrades he found his form and a lot more confidence in the bike, ending the season with a win. He has been going well in testing so will hopefully be fighting for wins every round.
JG Speedfit Kawasaki are back for 2016 keeping on James Ellison whom has had varied success with them. He ended 2015 injured but returns fit and ready for 2016. Joining the team is Leon Haslam, who is making his return to the British Championship after leaving for WSBK after the 2008 season. Like Laverty last year I think he will struggle for the first half of the season getting used to riders he hasn’t ridden against and on tracks he may not of ridden on since 2008.
Tommy Bridewell and Ryuichi Kiyonari are with the Bennetts Suzuki sqaud for 2016. With an uncharacteristic season from Kiyonari last year, 2015 saw him finish outside the top 10 more often than not. A major plus for Kiyonari is he is back riding the bike he helped get onto the podium at 2105’s Suzuka 8 hour. He is joined by Tommy Bridewell, who has finished in the showdown in 3 out of the last 4 seasons.
The riders mentioned above are my tips to duke it out for the title, but with a large grid, a massive of depth of field and a healthy mixture of bikes from all manufacturers it shows why this championship is one of the best year on year for unbeatable action.
I’ve gone with my gut predicting Shane Byrne is going to take his 5th title, but with the last round being 7 months away, anything can and will happen. Hopefully the 2016 championship can produce the action, thrills and spills we have been used to seeing in recent years.