In 1996 Niall and James were team mates in the British Superbike championship. Niall won the title and James came second. Now, for the first time in 11 years, they prepare to face each other on track again on identical Yamahas for one final showdown
The 1996 British Superbike year was special for a number of reasons. This was the year when the series really started to gain popularity.
Big name sponsors such as Cadburys and Old Spice were onboard and the TV coverage was increasing. Bikes were very cool in the mid-'90s and so was racing, helped in no small part by Carl Fogarty's success in World Superbikes.
The British championship was starting to build its reputation as the premier domestic racing series and it was attracting big name riders. Lining up alongside James Whitham and Niall Mackenzie were Terry Rymer, Sean Emmett (who would later play a big part in the title race), Chris Walker and Dave Jefferies to name just a few.
After the first few races it was clear that the season would be a straight battle between the two Boost Yamaha riders on their 160bhp YZF750s, with fans split over who to support. There wasn't any such thing as an impartial supporter, you were either on Niall's or James' side.
Throughout the year the press were hyping up the tension between the two riders, desperate to create some kind of rift between them, but it simply wasn't there. On track they raced hard, but in the garage they were the best of friends.
With Niall's relaxed attitude having returned from the GP scene and James' typical light-hearted approach to life the team gelled perfectly. But there was still a title at stake, which both riders desperately wanted to win. In the end Niall lifted the trophy and was crowned British Superbike Champion, but James is always quick to remind him that he won twice as many races that year. Here's a history lesson from the lads.
Continue for Whitham and Mackenzie's Memories of 1996
those guys are 2 british greats....
I remember watching them as a boy.
Posted: 01/04/2008 at 13:27
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