Brands Hatch beckons as fight to be in the BSB Showdown six intensifies in Kent
Barry Sheene inspired livery for the Bennetts Suzuki GSX-R1000 at Brands Hatch
The MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship heads to the legendary Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit this weekend (August 5/6/7) and the battle for the top six in the standings has never been closer ahead of the two races in Kent.
A highlight for many this weekend will be the special livery of the Bennetts Suzuki GSX-R1000, which has been dressed in colours to commemorate the 40th anniversay of Barry Sheene’s first World Championship title.
Inspired by the famous livery of Sheene’s XR14 Suzuki, which he rode to world championship glory in 1976, the team’s GSX-R1000s will run in the famous Heron Suzuki colours at a circuit that Sheene himself enjoyed great success at. The weekend at Brands Hatch also marks 40 years since Sheene won the last international Hutch 100 race, which raced anticlockwise around the Brands Hatch circuit.
Barry Sheene’s 1976 and 1977 world championship-winning bikes will also be on display over the course of the weekend.
Bennetts Suzuki Team Owner Martin Halsall
“Like so many, Barry Sheene was a hero of mine and the reason I got into bike racing. I remember lusting after Suzukis through the glass of the dealership in Bolton when I was younger, and I was really keen to come up with a way of doing something special this year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his first world title. Having been such a fan, and having watched the bikes race in those colours in the ‘70s, it’s going to be really special to make this happen and see our bikes race in the same iconic livery.”
Tommy Bridewell is eager for a return to the podium at Brands Hatch, having made big steps forward with his Bennetts Suzuki after a positive outing at Thruxton and productive two-day test at Cadwell Park. His team-mate, Ryuichi Kiyonari is also confident of a good weekend, coming off the back of a strong showing at the Suzuka 8-Hour race in Japan where he finished sixth with Team KAGAYAMA. The former champion was also on the pace at the Kentish circuit earlier in the season before suffering a broken collarbone, and is looking to make strides towards the podium this weekend.
“We had two really good days at Cadwell. We continued our work on engine braking performance and our electronics strategy, and just continued to make progress in the direction we’ve been working-in since Snetterton. I was surprised at how strong our lap times were for a test, so that’s given us a lot of confidence going into Brands Hatch this weekend. It’s going to be a privilege to roll down pit lane in the iconic livery too, and it’s fitting to do it 40 years since Barry Sheene won his first world title. It’s going to be great to showcase and celebrate an important part of the history of our sport.”
“Suzuka was good and has given me lots of confidence coming into Brands Hatch. I led the race for 18 laps in Japan, and even though we had some issues, a top-six finish has given me a good feeling for this weekend. We made some improvements to the bike at Thruxton, I was fast here earlier in the year, so hopefully we can have two good races. I’m also very excited to race in the colours that Suzuki and Barry Sheene raced-in in the world championship. It will be very special.”
At the top of the championship table is Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne, who rides the Be Wiser Ducati ahead of his home round and after a disappointing end to the previous event at Thruxton, when a technical issue forced him out of contention, the Kent contender is focused on returning to winning ways.
“We can’t spend time looking back at what could’ve been at Thruxton, we now work harder, we test more and we train harder to make sure we’re in the best shape to make it happen at the next round instead which just so happens to be one of my favourite tracks in the world. Brands Hatch GP is practically in my back garden and I love it there, and had a lot of success over the years. We’ve tested up at Cadwell Park since Thruxton and made some progress so as ever I’m raring to get out and hope to pull off a win or two this weekend.”
Fresh from a podium finish at the gruelling Suzuka Eight Hour race in Japan last weekend, JG Speedfit Kawasaki’s Leon Haslam is Byrne’s closest rival in the standings, and is hunting a winning return to the Grand Prix circuit.
Honda Racing’s Jason O’Halloran has accelerated up the standings courtesy of his recent debut race win and string of podium finishes, but the Australian has also been closed by Michael Laverty who returned to winning ways last time out at Thruxton for Tyco BMW.
Laverty splits the Honda Racing contenders with Dan Linfoot also holding a top six position, as the Yorkshireman chases his first race win in the championship after claiming a trio of second places so far this season.
James Ellison holds the crucial final place in the top six ahead of the two races this weekend, but just two points separate him from seventh placed Christian Iddon, who in turn only holds a single point advantage over Oulton Park race winner Richard Cooper.
The event also marks the return of American hero John Hopkins with the ePayMe Yamaha team after recovering from a nasty shoulder injury. The Californian has a strong history on the Grand Prix circuit and is determined to battle for his first podium finish of the season this weekend.
“I am really looking forward to getting back out there this weekend because it has been frustrating just watching from the sidelines, especially as the last two circuits would have potentially been strong for myself and the ePayMe Yamaha. I have a good history at Brands Hatch and I love the Grand Prix circuit so I feel that we can pick up where we left off and that’s fighting at the front. That is certainly the plan and I am feeling much stronger now and my surgeon has been really impressed with my progress. I have been working hard to have the laser and physio sessions and I am sure it will take some laps to loosen up, but I feel ready for it. The team have also made some improvements since I last rode the bike at Knockhill so I am hopeful that together we can be back at the front this weekend.”
Broc Parkes will arrive at Brands Hatch fresh from his fourth place at Suzuka and brimming with confidence.
There have been six different race winners and a further six podium finishers already this season and with just seven races remaining before the Showdown, every point is vital in the two races this weekend.
MCE BSB Championship Positions (after six rounds)
- S Byrne 181pts
- L Haslam 166
- J O’Halloran 146
- M Laverty 135
- D Linfoot 118
- J Ellison 109