Ex-grand prix legend turned super-fast roadtester Niall Mackenzie is relishing the opening few rounds of the British Superbike season
With freezing temperatures thwarting any serious testing at Snetterton, then snow forcing the abandonment of Brands Hatch two weeks later, the Bennets British Superbikes season opener at Thruxton was always going to be spectacular.
For most riders the new season starts on the drive home from the final race in the previous year. At this point the planning starts of what Championship to compete in, what bike to use and for most, how to pay for it and probably most importantly: where to start grovelling?
During the winter there will be much excitement, optimism and disappointment as promises of deals and sponsorship are made and broken. But then two weeks before the new season begins, everything falls into place (it’s always last minute) with the racer primed and ready for action.
So this year when the last test and then first event in the British Championship was cancelled we suddenly had three hundred frustrated riders overflowing with testosterone (girls included) and gagging for conflict. An exciting prospect.
One man more anxious than most to get his BSB campaign off to a solid start was Leon Haslam. If luck had gone his way Haslam could have won the BSB title in any of the last three years, so hitting the front from day one this year was vital.
Unfortunately Thruxton wasn’t kind to Leon and to make matters worse new teammate Cal Crutchlow, with only one year of superbike experience under his belt, had 2nd and 1st places making him joint championship leader. And as I put this column to bed, hard charging Haslam’s bittersweet season continued at the May Bank Holiday Oulton Park round. After a stunning ride to second place in race one the Tom Sykes/Rizla Suzuki magnetism struck again in race two. Unfortunately an out-braking maneuver caused Sykes to crash which lead to Haslam’s disqualification.
In the meantime Shane Byrne seems pretty cool on and off track, as he appears to cruise round on the awesome Airwaves 1098R Ducati. Many have called Superbikes ‘diesels’ for some time now but the 1098R comes closest yet to justifying the oil-burner label. According to Shakey, it only revs to just over 10,000rpm and on some corner exits carries only 4,000rpm, so in my book that makes it a Cummins. Torque or midrange power is the key ingredient in making the 1098R fast but probably even more importantly it’s kind to the Pirellis.
The best description of torque is it’s ‘work in progress’ as opposed to bhp, which is ‘work completed’ and as torque happens before bhp surely the one that comes first is best? I wish I had understood my own logic when I raced Ducatis, then I might have been a bit faster! It’s certainly shaping up to be a belter of a season, but believe me the BSB Championship is never over until I’m drunk and naked at the end of season party.
And finally my favourite BSB quote so far this season comes from my mother in law, Bette. After watching the hectic Thruxton Relentless125GP race and post race interviews on telly she came out with a beauty. Thinking the British Championship had the same MotoGP age limit of 28, she said, “isn’t it such a shame Michael Wilcox has such old looking features for a young lad?” The evergreen Wilcox is 41, haha!
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