Niall Mackenzie Column - Jul 2009

Niall’s predictions for the 2009 British Superbike championship prove comically wide of the mark, but he’s not laughing about the late arrival of the new RSV4. Come on Aprilia

Posted: 1 July 2009
by Niall Mackenzie

With every top British Superbike team changing either bikes or riders for 2009, it was always going to be tricky predicting the outcome of the season opener at Brands Hatch.

But with my vast experience of racing, my inside knowledge and my no-nonsense logic, I felt pretty qualified to forecast what might unfold. For a start I thought it pretty unlikely that the Airwaves GSE team could swap from Ducati to Yamaha, put in zero pre-season testing and be instantly competitive. I also knew that a French former MotoGP star almost certainly couldn’t jump on an unproven bike at a tight, quirky English circuit and mix it with the BSB regulars. And on a more positive note, I was confident the lighter, fitter Karl Harris, who had been flying during Brands testing, would probably win his first BSB race on that bank holiday Monday.

Luckily I didn’t put down any big money at Ladbrokes. Leon Camier impressed everyone with a victory on the new R1, Sylvain Guintoli headed home leading the championship on the K9 GSX-R and Karl crashed out of race one before working his way backwards in race two. Another two of my great prophecies for that weekend were that, after a successful UK testing programme, Rob McElnea’s North West 200 Yamaha team would be fighting for podium positions, and that Hydrex Honda’s Stuart Easton wouldn’t be anywhere near the podium. Needless to say I was completely wrong again on both counts. Rob’s riders ended up having too much midrange power, making traction difficult on corner exits, while my fellow countryman Mr Easton finished a fine third and fourth. We Scot’s used to win BSB titles with ease so I’m more than happy Stuart proved me wrong – his BSB podium at Brands was the first for a Scottish rider in seven years.

Other things I got quite wrong included the MSS Colchester Kawasakis of Julian de Costa and Simon Andrews. They actually turned out to be very competitive. And double Japanese champion Atsushi Watanabe didn’t return from Japan ready to carry on where Riyuichi Kyonari left off in 2007. I hope poor old Atsushi can get going – it seems such a waste of a proven, race-winning bike.

I obviously won’t be doing any more BSB analysis in the near future but being dumb and getting it completely wrong from time to time only makes racing more interesting. Well, for me at least.

Just before they were taken over by Piaggio, I visited the Aprilia factory and you couldn’t wish to meet a more friendly, helpful bunch of people, top management included.

At the time I was told of exciting future models set to be put into production just as soon as the takeover was complete. Four years down the road the public are now gagging to touch, see and ride these bikes, but this isn’t happening and I’m worried people will take their hard-earned cash elsewhere.

Even a glimpse of the superb new RSV4 at the NEC bike show would have helped, but Aprilia UK management chose not to exhibit, claiming typical Aprilia customers don’t go there. So just where does the typical Aprilia customer go in December? I certainly didn’t see any t-shirts bearing the lion’s head logo at the Good Food show. I’ve owned two Aprilia RS125s – one race bike, one road bike – for over two years now and I love them. I see them most days in my garage and never get bored checking them out. At the end of the day bikers simply love to see bikes! I’m not sure who’s even looking after Aprilia in the UK now but, if anyone is listening out there, please get your act together.

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