The Bennetts British Superbike Championship makes its much-anticipated return to the track this weekend (August 7/8/9) at Donington Park, 292 days after the final race of the last season.
The season finally gets underway in the East Midlands with three races, to kick off the revised schedule of six triple-header events. With no Showdown in this pandemic altered season, this is a straight, 18-race fight for the title.
Josh Brookes, champion in 2015, missed lifting last year’s title by just five points and the Australian is back aiming to go one better with the PBM team, rebranded as VisionTrack Ducati. The team undertook a comprehensive test programme in Spain in early Spring before the COVID-19 pandemic struck meaning it was then June before the new machines could be rolled out again in anger with private tests at Croft and Knockhill. Last week’s official test at Donington Park also gave them vital data going into the weekend’s opening triple header at the same track.
“The focus in testing was to experiment in order to improve what is already a brilliant package so now that’s over, we will start with a refined set up and stick to what we know works. Our Ducatis were very competitive at Donington last year so I’m confident especially having found a few things in testing which work better. The shortened season and three-race format is different for everyone and we have a new Pirelli tyre to use also so it should be a fair and interesting fight. We’ve all had enough waiting around so I’m ready to get cracking but it’s just a shame we won’t be racing in front of the fans just yet.”
New recruit Christian Iddon will line up alongside Brookes, as he switches to the championship’s most successful outfit.
“It’s been such a long time since I started a race, I’ve never known such a delay, but Christian Iddonwe all know the reasons for that and being honest, I’m a little apprehensive. The shortened series will be very exciting, and you need to be on it from the start. I know from racing against them last year, the Ducatis are fantastic around Donington so I hope to take advantage of that, although we do need to find the final piece of the jigsaw which we didn’t manage at the test. Once we find that good base setting, we’ll be OK so I’m hoping for a solid weekend which will allow me to push on in the remaining rounds.”
Tommy Bridewell was another title contender last season after forming a formidable partnership with the Oxford Products Racing Ducati team. The Devizies-based contender finished third in last year’s title race and he is hungry to emerge with the advantage after the opening three races after topping the times pre-season at the Monteblanco test.
Massingberd-Mundy Kawasaki, the official Kawasaki Superbike team for 2020, has expanded to a two-rider line-up this year, with previous race winner Danny Buchan, joined by Lee Jackson. Buchan delivered his best season to date in 2019 with fourth place finish in the standings for the FS-3 Racing run squad, whilst Jackson topped the recent official test last week at Donington Park.
McAMS Yamaha has the 2020 specification YZF-R1 at its disposal and continues with its line-up from 2019 for a second successive season. Previous race winners Jason O’Halloran and Tarran Mackenzie will arrive at the opening round confident of success in their battle for the title.
TAS Racing returns with an all-new look as SYNETIQ BMW and an exciting fresh rider pairing too in race winner Bradley Ray and former Pirelli National Superstock 1000 champion Taylor Mackenzie, as the team aims to add to its previous podium success in the series.
Rival BMW team Smiths Racing recently announced a new title partnership with Global Robots, ahead of the season opener, and Peter Hickman’s front-running tenure with the team continues. ‘Hicky’ is joined with Alex Olsen who, after making his Superbike debut last year, gets his first shot at a full season with the team.
Eyes will be on the Honda Racing team this weekend as the new Honda Racing CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP debuts following months of development. The team has Andrew Irwin back for the 2020 season alongside brother Glenn and, with the pair both former race winners, the squad will be gearing up to take on its rivals after promising pace at the official Donington Park test.
“I’m really looking forward to the weekend, I believe we can do a decent job and hopefully start the year off with three consistent finishes. It will be nice to line up on the start line again, it feels like a lifetime ago since the final round last year, so it will be good to just get out racing again and get that butterfly feeling. I enjoy riding the new Fireblade and testing has been great, but I really enjoy race weekends and everything that comes with it, so can’t wait to rock up to Donington this week and get the season started. It’s a shame that the fans won’t be able to come to watch, but I’m sure we’ll all put on a good show for everyone watching back at home!”
“I’m looking forward to lining back up on the grid, it’s been a long time since Assen last season and to be on the grid on the all-new Fireblade is something I’m really looking forward to. My focus for the weekend is to get the most out of what we have underneath us, I’m excited and also curious to see where that will put us in the order. We had a strong test last week, but we don’t know what our rivals were working on, so let’s see where we are come Sunday evening and hopefully we’re leaving Donington Park with a few decent results.”
Buildbase Suzuki is another team with an all-new line-up. Former Superstock 1000 champion Keith Farmer makes his return after his 2019 season was cut short through injury, alongside British GP2 champion Kyle Ryde, and the team will be eager to start the season in style at its home round.
OMG Racing has readied for battle with a switch to BMW over the winter. The Rich Energy OMG Racing BMW team has former MotoGP rider Héctor Barberá, who showed strong pace in pre-season testing, paired with another former race winner, Luke Mossey who remains with the team.
Another former race winner, Dan Linfoot, returns to the grid with the Santander Salt TAG Yamaha team after scoring a podium finish together last season. He teams up with reigning Quattro Group British Supersport champion Jack Kennedy as they also field the latest specification YZF-R1.
Ryan Vickers returns with the RAF Regular and Reserve Kawasaki team for their second season together following top ten finishes last year. Following in his wheel tracks, moving from the Pirelli National Superstock 600 Championship into the premier class, is 17-year-old Storm Stacey, who makes his debut with the GR Motosport team.
Joe Francis showed his pace on the Lloyd & Jones Bowker Motorrad BMW in pre-season testing, whilst Gino Rea will be making his debut on the Bike Devil Kawasaki this weekend. Josh Owens is back for a second season after success in Quattro Group British GP2, and series debutants Bjorn Estment, Brian McCormack and former British Motocross champion Graeme Irwin complete a packed grid for the #BSBrestart.
The support classes include huge Superstock 1000 and Supersport fields. In Superstock 1000 there is an ANZAC presence with Kiwi Damon Rees lining up in the category along with Brayden Elliott and South Australia’s Billy McConnell.
In Supersport young Tom Toparis will join long running countryman Ben Currie in the Supersport category while Levi Day is expected to ride in the Ducati Cup once again.
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