Figures of 8 | Brilliant Bradley Ray leads 2022 BSB Title Showdown contenders

The 2022 BSB Title Showdown whittles this year's potential championship winner down to eight riders... but who will walk away with the big prize?

Bradley Ray - OMG Racing Yamaha

The eight riders that will go forward to contest the 2022 British Superbike Championship Title Showdown were confirmed over the weekend at Snetterton with triple winner Bradley Ray with the edge coming into the three-round shootout.

While only three riders - Ray, Jason O’Halloran and Rory Skinner - arrived at the Norfolk circuit with their entries into the Showdown confirmed, in reality only the out-of-form Kyle Ryde in eighth looked under threat from being bumped out at the final time of asking by a latecomer.

That usurper could have come from any one of Danny Buchan - who reignited his Showdown hopes with a surprise double win at Cadwell Park - Leon Haslam or Peter Hickman.

However, a return to the podium for Ryde in race one - coupled with an opening lap fall for Buchan - all but formalised his place in the Showdown on Saturday before completing the deed in Sunday two races.

It means he joins the aforementioned Ray, O’Halloran and Skinner, plus Lee Jackson, Tarran Mackenzie, Tommy Bridewell and Glenn Irwin in having the chance to win this year’s coveted BSB title.

Who is favourite for the 2022 BSB title?

While the smart money  a couple of events ago would have been on a McAMS Yamaha rider coming out top at the end of the season, arguably it is Bradley Ray on the satellite RICH Energy OMG Yamaha that heads to Oulton Park as the rider to beat.

Bradley Ray - RICH Energy OMG Racing Yamaha

1061 points 

In what has been a transformative season for the Kent rider, Ray will make his first appearance in the Showdown since 2018 when he competed with Hawk Suzuki. Tipped as a potential future BSB champion when he burst onto the BSB scene as a 19-year old in 2017, Ray however struggled to discover the same form in the ensuing years.

Nevertheless, though a switch to BMW machinery - first with Tyco TAS Racing and then OMG Racing - failed to yield a return to the upper echelons, his team’s decision to run last year’s title winning Yamaha R1 package has been inspired.

Making the most of his proven package to hit the ground running from Round 1 - unlike McAMS, which spent several races dialling in its upgraded parts - Ray has strayed no lower than fourth in all but one race so far this season (a DNF while leading at Silverstone) and clinch seven victories, plus 19 podiums.

With a late flourish of four wins from the last six races, it means Ray leapfrogs O’Halloran in terms of ‘podium credits’, meaning he begins the Showdown with 1061 points, 13 points ahead of his Aussie rival.

Jason O’Halloran - McAMS Yamaha

1048 points (13 points behind Ray)

While no doubt fearing a repeat of history, O’Halloran might fare better without the pressure of leading into the Showdown this year. 

The McAMS Yamaha rider was a hot favourite coming into the 2021 Title Showdown after a crushingly dominant showing during the first phase of the season, only to see his lead - and confidence - dismantled in just one round at Oulton Park, from which he never recovered.

That said, O’Halloran has gone off the boil in recent rounds after a run of superb results during the summer that yielded 12 podiums in 12 races, seven of which took him to the top step.

However, modest results at Cadwell Park and Snetterton might spark some anxiety, not least because they were achieved in entirely different ways having gone backwards during races of the former, before having to fight his way back from a lowly qualifying result in the latter.

Tarran Mackenzie - McAMS Yamaha

1031 points (30 points behind Ray)

Though only sixth in the reckoning come the end of Snetterton, Mackenzie starts the Showdown in third place thanks to some high value podium credits during his own purple patch in the summer.

While his targets for the opening part of the season were trained on simply making the Showdown after injury forced him out of the opening two events, Mackenzie is primed as the big threat now he is there.

Of course, he has form here, the Scot overturning team-mate O’Halloran’s pre-Showdown advantage as he romped to title in formidable fashion when it mattered, the impression is we haven’t seen the best from Mackenzie as yet.

That said, after using the Showdown format to win with fewer overall points than O’Halloran, a second success in such a manner is unlikely to go down too well again.

Glenn Irwin - Honda Racing

1016 points (45 points behind Ray)

It’s no exaggeration to say Glenn Irwin did the vast majority of his hard work to get into the Showdown way back in April when he reeled off three dominant wins out of the box at the Silverstone opener.

It also contributed to 15 of his 16 podium credits, placing him fourth coming into the Showdown, albeit 45 points shy of Ray.

A third successive run to the Showdown on Honda machinery for Irwin, save for his Silverstone rout, alas there hasn’t been much evidence to suggest he can spring a title challenge since.

Lee Jackson - FS-3 Kawasaki

1014 points (47 points behind Ray)

Good things come to those who wait - and hard graft - as demonstrated by Lee Jackson making the Showdown for the first time some eight years on from his BSB debut.

After just missing out in 2021, six podiums - including a long awaited first win - during the opening four events set him on course to reach the title fighting stage of the year.

However, he too has seen his form waver in recent rounds and he hasn’t stood on the podium since Knockhill, though a return to his beloved Oulton Park - scene of his first win - could see him spring a surprise with a FS-3 Kawasaki outfit making its return after a three year absence.

Kyle Ryde - RICH Energy OMG Racing Yamaha

1013 points (48 points behind Ray)

After a lull in form that saw him at risk of being dumped out of the Showdown by Danny Buchan, a return to the podium at the right moment sees Kyle Ryde make his first appearance in the final stage format.

Joining Ray in making the most of the well-oiled R1 package to secure strong results initially, though form tailed off thereafter, the 25-year old - a winner at Knockhill - both has the potential to go with Ray, not to mention help him in the title fight.

Rory Skinner - FS-3 Kawasaki

1009 points (52 points behind Ray)

Rory Skinner becomes the youngest-ever Title Showdown contender at 20-years old, the Scot proving exactly why he is being touted as the UK’s brightest future talent.

After a solid maiden campaign on the FS-3 Kawasaki, Skinner has belied his experience at this level by emerging as a reliable front runner through the year with five podiums to his name.

Indeed, while Skinner is still seeking his maiden BSB win, his results - compared with Irwin, Jackson and Ryde - show a more consistent spread of top five finishes, an asset that could make him more of a contender than his seventh place in the Showdown standings might suggest.

Tommy Bridewell - Oxford Racing Ducati

1008 points (53 points behind Ray)

Like Mackenzie, Tommy Bridewell comes into the Showdown as something of a dark horse despite having a fair amount of ground to make up on the leaders from the start.

In a year that has seen the Ducati Panigale V4 R - so dominant between Oxford Racing and PBM in 2019 and a title winner in 2020 too - flag compared to its rivals, Bridewell has squeezed out some strong results amid a smattering of disappointing ones.

A sixth showing in the Showdown for the experienced racer, on his day - the best of which could very well still be just ahead - Bridewell can trounce the opposition, though his frequency of off days has risen this season.

It’s worth noting though that Bridewell was the highest scorer during the three Title Showdown rounds last year.