Think everyone in BSB is a professional rider? Think again. We caught up with three aspiring young hopefuls.
If you're running at the front of British Superbikes, you get more coverage and support than you know what to do with but to get there, you've had to battle it out with hundreds of hard-charging hopefuls. For every podium trophy there are countless long drives home in silence. Racing isn't all champagne and grid girls, it's hard graft, sacrifices and monumental effort.
So where are tomorrow's champions and what are they doing today?
Some of them could be in the Triumph Triple Challenge, a support series in the British Superbike Championship, running at nine rounds throughout the season. It has a simple aim; to attract and develop the best racing talent in the country.
The rules are simple too: riders are all on the same bikes, with sealed engines and everyone's on the same Metzeler Racetech tyres. This keeps the costs to a minimum and puts the focus squarely on the riders.
I spoke to three guys competing in the TTC this season. Although they're all on the same grid, their route to it couldn't be any more different. Here's their story.
"Right now there's no pot and there's no money!" says 21-year old James, who's racing for the first time in the UK this year having reached the top level in South African Superbikes.
James has followed a well-trodden path into road-racing; starting on a PW50 aged 5, he won his first junior motocross championship on a PW80 aged 12. He then made the switch to road racing, from 125s to 600s and after a few seasons, he jumped up to the Superbike class on a BMW S1000RR, scoring a podium finish on his debut.
All ready for the 2012 season on the same bike, James came across a problem all too familiar in racing: his main sponsor pulled out.
That's where his team name PFR comes in.
"When our sponsor pulled out, I took it as a sign I had to head overseas" says James. "I knew a few guys from South Africa who are racing over here in BSB and I was recommended to enter a series that had a level playing field. In South Africa there are three or four guys who could win but over here it's more like 15."
So what attracted James to race in the Triumph Triple Challenge? "The 675 is a step down for me in terms of machinery but what attracted me to this series was the fact the bikes are strictly policed, every bike has the same parts, the engines are sealed. I wanted people to judge me on my riding and not my bike. I've got my work cut out learning the circuits but I've got to start somewhere."
So what does PFR stand for? Pension Fund Racing. James's old man had put aside some savings for a rainy day, a backup for if things didn't quite go to plan.
After three rounds things are going to plan: James is third in the championship, an impressive show of form considering he's got so little experience of the British circuits.
"I'm amazed at the crowds here at BSB. I've realised the UK is motorsport mad and this is the place I need to be. I've got my sights set on a British Superstock 1000 ride, maybe next year, we'll see how things go."
So how big is the PFR pot and is it big enough to take him to Superstock 1000?
"Right now there's no pot and there's no money! We've spent it to get here and sold the pot but I feel inspired to be here, I feel there's potential for me to be seen and to grow."
James's website is at: jamesegan81.blogspot.co.uk
Follow James on Twitter at: @JamesEgan81
Jake's lining up infront of thousands of racing fans barely a year since his first ever trackday.
Without being cocky, he boasts the sort of limitless confidence and unswerving optimism that I'm sure we all had at 21, but I'm not sure I channeled mine quite as well.
Jake wants to be a professional road racer, pitching himself against a wealth of more established racing talent.
He took his Street Triple to a trackday in March 2011 where he met an instructor who inspired him to race.
"The trackday instructor said to me, 'What are you doing with your life? You should go racing' so I sold my Street Triple and bought a Daytona 675. I raced it at club level last year to get my novice bib off and when I was on the grid for the first Triumph Triple Challenge this year that was my first national race."
Jake's currently 8th out of the 13 riders in the Triumph Triple Challenge Premier class, the class for competitors in the series with less experience.
So why did he choose the Triple Challenge?
"This is a good series to get me into the British Superbike paddock. I want to race in the Superstock 600s next year but right now I've put all my money into this and I'll see how I go. If I can run somewhere near the front of the TTC, I know I'll go well in Superstock 600 on this bike."
So what's the most daunting thing going from a trackday to racing?
"For me it's the crowds and the other riders.You think you're fast on a trackday but then you come here and that knocked me back a bit. When I did my first club race I wasn't nervous but now I know I need to push harder and go faster. I've learned just how fast you can enter a corner and I probably have to go in faster still!"
So would he go back to just doing trackdays?
"No. I've got my sights set on the next level, I want to move up and a trackday just wouldn't have the buzz that it used to before I went racing."
Jake would like to thank: www.laguna.co.uk and Vivid Visions PaintworX
Follow Jake on Twitter at: @JRR-Racing
With a father who's a former British Champion - from a time where you'd fail scrutineering if you didn't have a moustache - you'd think Justin would be feeling the pressure for his first season of road racing but he's got a quiet confidence about him.
A late starter, Justin got into racing motocross when he was 12 after his Dad Steve retired from the sport. "He won the Marlborough Dunlop 1000 championship and had just finished a few season's racing for Phase One Endurance. I wanted to give racing a shot." says Justin. "I started in motocross, wasn't very good, moved to an 85 in Supermoto and wasn't very good at that either!"
Don't be fooled by the modesty. Justin's a quick rider, who's already proven his talent in Supermoto. He's gone from top of the time sheets in one series, to battling it out in the Triumph Triple Challenge, his first season in road racing or, as he puts it, 'doing the knee scraping stuff'.
He won the Southern Supermoto Championship two years on the bounce on a 250, beating a host of riders on 450s. He then he moved to the British Supermoto series and came third in the 250 Championship. That's some going.
So what attracted him to the Triumph Triple Challenge?
"We're at BSB and that's a cool place to be. There's no cheating, all the bikes are even and the fact the engines are sealed so we can't work on them is a bonus - it means there's less for my old man to do. The whole package is set: we park our bike in the awning next to the other riders and get on with it. We worked out a deal with Pure Triumph and if it wasn't for their support, I wouldn't be here."
So what's Justin bringing to the series with his Supermoto experience?
"I don't mind the bike moving at all, especially at the rear. This is my first time riding a proper bike on track, I need time on the bike to get used to it. I'm used to racing on second-rate tarmac, so I know I can make the most of that here where the tarmac is so good. In Supermoto, we max out at 80mph but on the Triumph that's just getting going. I enjoy the challenge of the TTC but I don't enjoy being at the back. That said, I don't plan on being here that long."
So what's it really like following in your Dad's footsteps?
"I don't really feel the pressure" says Justin, "Dad tried Supermoto and I'm better than him at that!"
"He's pretty lenient on me really. This series is new to both of us, so he gives me a steer based on his past experience and if I'm doing badly in quali he'll tell me to go back out, but he doesn't push me if I'm not comfortable."
"I just wish I'd got into this earlier."
Justin would like to thank: www.puretriumph.net
Follow Justin on Twitter at: @JustinBateman14
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