We like the BSB Showdown… but it’s a travesty if Jason O’Halloran isn’t champion

Jason O'Halloran is doing everything right in his quest for the 2021 BSB title - unfortunately, it's very possible he won't because of circumstance...

Jason O'Halloran - McAMS Yamaha

For a rider that had achieved only three wins since his British Superbike Championship (BSB) debut way back in 2008 to the conclusion of the 2020 season, we have become very accustomed to seeing Jason O’Halloran climb atop the podium in 2021.

It’s been an incredible, albeit long, route to the summit of the series he has called home for more than a decade now, so much so that you’re unlikely to find a single person who’d begrudge the Australian the crown, not least because he’d be doing it in crushingly dominant style.

And yet, thanks to the BSB’s quirk in the way it decides the title winner via the TItle Showdown, there is every chance O’Halloran WON’T win the title at all.

And this just doesn’t sit well with me. 

Now, before anyone as MSV begins furiously typing an email to me extolling the virtues of the Showdown format, let me just say I am actually a fan of this championship-deciding end-of-year shootout.

It serves a perfect purpose in BSB with a fan-friendly ethos that is designed to keep things on a modest budget and ensure the racing is close without denying the cream from rising towards the top, as it often does. 

Moreover, you would say that every title winner since the Showdown was introduced in 2010 has been deserving, though one could point to 2012 when Tommy Hill went into the final three rounds with a 35 point advantage, only for his results (and his motivation) to fade when it mattered.

However, this season O’Halloran on the McAMS Yamaha has been a class above his rivals to such an extent even organisers are perhaps sweating it out a bit on the prospect it might inadvertently be setting it up for him to lose.

The maths of Jason O’Halloran’s rise… and possible fall

So here are the facts as they stand after Round 6 (18 races) of the 2021 BSB season. O’Halloran is on 342 points, with Christian Iddon and Tarran Mackenzie level on 223 points in second position. 

Quick bit of arithmetic and that’s a 119 point lead… an advantage of almost five (yes, five) races. In short, O’Halloran could afford to go on holiday for nearly two rounds and still come back only six points off the top… and even then Mackenzie or Iddon would have to win each of those races.

Under a traditional format, O’Halloran would be champion with at least two rounds to spare at a current rate of form that has yielded nine wins and 14 podiums to this point.

However, by equalising the points to an arbitrary 500 at the end of round eight for what will now be eight riders (up from six) returning to de facto level-pegging, those wins won’t necessarily mean a lot when it comes to the last three events.

Yes, BSB does soften this impact by adding back on credits based on the podiums you achieved up to that stage (5 for a win, 3 for a second, 1 for a third), but the differences are usually fairly negligible. Right now O’Halloran would start on 556 points, but that’s only 33 points up on Iddon, even if this margin stands to fluctuate in the upcoming two rounds.

The argument for the Title Showdown…

Perhaps the question of O’Halloran deserving the title is as much to do with his journey to the top as it is his burst of exceptional form on the Yamaha R1. He has been one of BSB’s trusty front runners for a while now - this is his fourth Title Showdown showing - but endured a career ravaged by bad luck and poorly timed injuries.

So it has taken a while for the stars to align but now they are and they are aligning in a manner that harks back to Leon Camier’s romp to the 2009 BSB title. Fittingly, it was Camier’s devastating form that actually gave rise to the implementation of the Showdown the following year, to stop such steamrolling from happening and increase the chances of the title going down to the wire at least.

With this in mind the Showdown is doing its intended job and, really, organisers have been fortunate the crux of potentially denying the form man his reward hasn’t really been an issue until now.

After all, ‘rulez is rulez’ and just like O’Halloran could find himself missing out through either bad luck or because of a slump in form coming at the wrong time, the leather boot could just as easily be on the other foot.

It’s like the Olympics. You could win each 110m Hurdles heat coming into the final, but if you clatter that first hurdle and fall flat on your face when the medals are being handed out, well that is just the name of the game!

The argument to tweak the Title Showdown format…

...that said, the Olympics are decided over matter of days  for O’Halloran and McAMS Yamaha, this advantage is the result of months of momentum building.

After more than a decade of successful, arguably amplified racing thanks to the Showdown, changing it after one season probably  isn’t the way to go… but could it be tweaked?

Perhaps a better weighted Podium Credits format to really emphasise those that are winning races could be an option.

Or how about a ‘fire-breaker’ clause that suggests if a rider has XXX points more than another at the cut-off point then they either reflect it in the equalised tally (starting on 600 points rather than 500) or just pause it for that year. Maybe, maybe not. 

Either way, eight riders running for the ‘primary’ is probably too many given a rider like Lee Jackson could in theory win the BSB title despite having no podiums and being 209 points off the top right now. It’s unlikely but it ‘could’ happen.

Right now, if O’Halloran keeps doing what he’s doing then this feature will be a moot one because he’ll be champion and he’ll do it comfortably.

But it’s ironic that the rider with everything going for him has the most the lose, which doubles up as hauling greater pressure on his shoulders at a time when he could easily pop off on holiday for a couple of weeks without worrying too much about how his rivals are faring.

As we say, those are the rules for everyone… but if Jason O’Halloran doesn’t win the BSB title, it won’t leave the sweetest taste in anyone’s mouth - and that includes the rider that might end up beating him more by format than form.