Josh Brookes versus Shane Byrne for British Superbike glory as BSB Showdown set for Brands Hatch season finale
Brands Hatch will host the final dogfight for the 2015 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship this weekend (16/17/18 October) as Australia’s Josh Brookes and Britain’s Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne go head-to-head in the triple-header title decider: the #BattleofBrands.
Josh Brookes arrives in Kent in the strongest position he has ever been to secure a first MCE BSB crown for the Milwaukee Yamaha team and if he pulls of the feat this weekend he will become the first Australian rider since Troy Bayliss in 1999 to celebrate title victory.
Brookes currently holds the advantage over arch rival Byrne, but the war between the pair will continue to rage for the final three wins of the season and the PBM Kawasaki rider hasn’t given up hope of snatching an unprecedented fifth crown at his home circuit.
Whilst the Brookes versus Byrne contest continues, the pair will still have to fight off their closest rivals on the Grand Prix circuit in their quest for title honours. James Ellison, Tommy Bridewell and Stuart Easton all have scored victories this season whilst a further nine different riders have already stood on the podium including Michael Laverty and Dan Linfoot who are desperate to hit the top spot this weekend.
America’s John Hopkins may not be in with a chance of championship glory this season after joining the Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati team mid-way through the campaign, but after missing out on the title by 0.006s back in 2011 the former MotoGP contender will have high hopes of a winning end to his year.
As the #BattleofBrands rages on track, on Sunday the iconic sound of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine will ring out above Brands Hatch as the legendary Spitfire is scheduled to perform a display in the build up to the first MCE BSB race of the day on Sunday.
The MCE BSB season finale gets underway on Friday with free practice ahead of the Datatag Qualifying session and first MCE BSB race of the weekend on Saturday. The Main Raceday on Sunday (18 October) will feature the final two MCE BSB races and a further five support races before the champions are crowned and the spectators are invited onto the track to enjoy the end of season celebrations.
Josh Brookes (Milwaukee Yamaha) – Championship leader: 653 points – “I think that I am looking at this weekend as I have in any other year of coming into the final round. I feel pretty much the same, the only difference is in previous years I have gone into the event with the belief that I can win the title and then I have had the acceptance stage of not winning and thinking about how I could the next time. I am still in that same mental space right now; it is just that on paper I am in a more favourable position this year.
“The last visit to Brands Hatch was where it all came to the stage we are at now with the Milwaukee Yamaha and since then it has been fine tuning because the ideas we had worked with had come to fruition. I am just focusing on the racing this weekend. In my head I could try and work out the maths and the different scenarios but to hell with it! I just want to win all three races!”
Shane Byrne (PBM Kawasaki) – Second in the standings: 606 points – “Obviously right now we are not in the best of places; having won two championships under the Showdown format I know exactly what I need to do in order to win championships, but things just haven’t been going our way. That said, I am not one to dwell on bad results and the first race at Silverstone was good and I enjoyed it a lot, coming through from the fourth row to finish second and then start on pole for race two. I had an issue which meant we were unable to fight which was incredibly frustrating. The team have regrouped and we will be doing everything possible to come back in the best possible shape for Brands Hatch.
“The target can be nothing less than three wins at Brands Hatch. Potentially we may lose the championship this year, but if that happens I feel like we lost it, we didn’t get beaten to it because at the moment it is incredibly difficult to get near, but we will come back stronger because I don’t like being P2 and I don’t intend to finish P2 this year. I will be giving it my all to win all three races and see what happens from there.
“The Brands Hatch GP circuit is one of my favourite circuits anywhere in the world and I absolutely love the place, it is just awesome and there is no better meeting. It has been equally cruel and kind to me but I have had some really strong results there which I hope to emulate at the final round. You know I didn’t turn into a dolloper overnight in the same way that my rival didn’t turn into Valentino Rossi overnight so we need to do a lot better next weekend so we can try and win these final three races.”
James Ellison (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) – Third in the standings: 573 points – “For us it has been a bit of a bitter blow after Silverstone to be knocked out of the title fight. We tried so hard to get back after the injury and a lot of people thought we couldn’t do it or even make the Showdown, but we made it. We backed that up with a couple of second places at Assen and then to go to Silverstone with such a strong pace that we had, we left with the lap record, but nothing to show for it. We led both races and I think we had a really strong bike and package and we took it to Josh and the boys, managed to get into the lead, and felt comfortable but unfortunately a tyre issue forced us out of contention. It was disappointing as it really doesn’t happen very often at all.
“We really need to redeem ourselves now this weekend; if Silverstone had been the final round I would have been devastated going into the winter break and it has made us even more determined to end the season on a high. Even though the title fight is over for us, the fight for second place in the championship isn’t so we will go into this round as we always do, work really hard, and try to get as many wins this weekend as possible. I think it is certainly possible for us to win all three; we have the pace, we have the bike and I feel like I have the ability to do it but obviously we need to put that into practice.”
Michael Laverty (Tyco BMW) – Fourth in the standings: 553 points – “There is definitely still a lot for us to prove at the final round and I am really looking forward to it. I am a bit disappointed in some ways that the season is already drawing to a close as we have only been getting rolling with the Tyco BMW over the last few rounds. It will be a big climax and I have had a third place at Assen and a second place at Silverstone and it would be a nice way to finish the year by standing on the top step of the podium for the first time this season at Brands Hatch. I think it is entirely possible, we weren’t too far away in July, we had a reasonable weekend then and the bike is quite a step forward since for me personally. I feel a lot more at home on it. That’s why I am looking forward to the final round and hope we can be strong from Friday practice so that we can have a good go at trying to get on that top step of the rostrum.
“It’s a tough one to predict this year in BSB because from one weekend to the next you can have different riders cropping up in there. I definitely think I can be on the podium but the top step is my ultimate goal. I have two goals for Brands Hatch – one is to win a race and the other is to try and get third in the championship and one of those will take care of the other. If I can win races then that third place is entirely possible.
“I feel that Josh has been strong all year, but he has a championship to try and box off so you would think that he would err on the side of caution and that might give us riders who are chasing him more chance of taking the wins from under him. There are a lot of us at a similar level but he has that little bit extra at the moment so it would be nice to get one over on him as he is almost the champion elect – it would be nice to beat him in a head-to-head at Brands Hatch. I have done it before and there is no reason why I can’t do it again.”
Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) – Fifth in the standings: 534 points – “This weekend will be quite important because Michael Laverty is just 19 points in front of us in the standings and we have three races to try and bridge that gap if possible. That is my sole focus so I need to be on the podium or as close to it in every race, last time we were at Brands Hatch it wasn’t a massively strong round for me but it was early days still after coming back from my broken wrist so I am taking a lot more confidence into next weekend after the good result from Silverstone and we are coming into this round on more of a high to be strong hopefully. That’s the plan. We can have all kind of curve balls thrown at us during the weekend but I am up for it and looking forward to the last one of the year to try and end the season on a high.
“I need to keep consistent and chipping away and getting faster and faster and as I discovered at Silverstone I need to be starting from a grid slot that puts me in the mix with the leading guys, I can’t afford to start row three or four so that’s also the focus to deliver on that front and then go for it in all three races.
“I badly want to win a race and I need to win my first race, but bridging the gap to Josh and to Shakey when things go his way is tough as they are very strong so I need to be going for regular podiums because I feel like going from fourth or fifth to winning is a big gap, so I need to be consistently finishing in first or second before I can make the jump to the win. I am desperate to win one and I will be doing everything I can, if there is some opportunity for whatever reason to try and win one I will go for it 110%.”
Tommy Bridewell (Tyco BMW) – Sixth in the standings: “I am obviously looking forward to Brands Hatch because we have had a really difficult couple of rounds for one reason or another. We had quite a strong performance there the last time we were there in the middle of the year so I want to get back on the bike and get the confidence back up and ideally finish the season with some podiums.
“Three races will help us; we have been struggling with a few little gremlins but three races mean three chances. The team and the bike are feeling strong, I really like the circuit and hopefully we can get ourselves back to where we should be and that is fighting for podiums. The goal is to be on the podium in all three races – that would be the best way to end the season.”