Who will win the 2021 BSB title? Rating the chances of the 8 Showdown fighters

The three round, nine race 2021 BSB Title Showdown is here - can anyone hope to take the renewed fight to star of the season Jason O'Halloran?

Tarran Mackenzie, Jason O'Halloran - McAMS Yamaha - credit: Ian Hopgood

The 2021 British Superbike Championship (BSB) may be eight rounds old but in reality the season is only just getting started as the playing field is levelled - almost - and eight riders go head-to-head for the biggest SBK prize outside of the World Championship.

We should all know the drill by now. A selection of contenders - usually six, but increased to eight this season - shoot it out for title glory, with three rounds and nine races standing between them and success.

However, for arguably the first time in the Showdown’s 11-year history, there is reputation at stake for BSB as it collapses what was a mammoth lead for Jason O’Halloran to give others more of a fighting chance.

Momentum is still with the Aussie, but as the pressure rises, could any one of his seven rivals snatch it from him? We rate the pretenders to the throne.

* Points reflect a nominal 1000 equalising figures plus podium credits accrued over previous eight rounds

1 - Jason O’Halloran - McAMS Yamaha (1071 points)

Title Chances - 9/10 - If he doesn’t win there will be some difficult questions…

Well, this is awkward. 

The validity and popularity of the Title Showdown is arguably on the line as it threatens to rob O’Halloran of a title that few - probably no one - could argue against him richly deserving.

One of BSB’s more experienced hands, O’Halloran came into 2021 with a modest three wins to his name (two of which came in 2020) but has been a class act on the McAMS Yamaha this year, romping to a stunning 11 wins, including double trebles at Oulton Park and Thruxton.

O’Halloran has always been a superb performer but iffy bikes and bad luck with injuries has often stymied his progress. This time, however, the stars have aligned and O’Halloran’s metronomic ability to win from any position, in all conditions has been a joy to watch. 

In short, the boy has come good and if he was retaining his 106 point margin over the competition, he  would be on course for a comfortable title win. As it happens, he has to do it all over again, but this time do so with the title favourite tag - deserved but no doubt heavy - wrapped around him

Rules are of course rules, but MSV has been lucky that the prospect of someone getting the nod over a more deserving season-long performer hasn’t previously materialised.

The fact O’Halloran has spent a decade getting here and has done everything so very right to set himself up, would just make any defeat all the more bitter. On the plus side though, he does start with a decent 30 point advantage, while there is no suggestion O’Halloran’s momentum is waning. 

If he can harness that confidence, while elbowing the pressure out of the way, he will be hard to beat.

2 - Tarran Mackenzie - McAMS Yamaha (1041 points)

Title Chances - 8/10 - Has the speed to be champion but needs the consistency

McAMS Yamaha can afford to feel a little smug this year. Between O’Halloran and team-mate Tarran Mackenzie, it has shown PBM levels of dominance by winning 16 of the 26 races so far.

If anything, Mackenzie’s five wins have been harder fought and demonstrate a level of calm and determination that could well be enough to unsettle O’Halloran, especially given the added dynamic of inter-team feuds. 

After all, the pair have come together before and while Silverstone’s dramatic clash was a racing incident, it shows exactly what is at stake for the entire team. 

Consistency hasn’t always been Mackenzie’s strong suit, with some yo-yoing grid positions, albeit sometimes giving way to some stunning race day performances.

He wouldn’t be as deserving as O’Halloran necessarily, but he is certainly the rider you’d pick to usurp the odds… though one can imagine the Australian’s disappointment would be doubled up if he loses the title to his team-mate.

3 - Tommy Bridewell - Oxford Racing Ducati (1024 points)

Title Chances - 7/10 - Fan favourite has stepped up when it matters in the past

Tommy Bridewell deserves credit for having ended the first phase of the season as the highest-placed Ducati rider, penetrating the might of the factory Paul Bird Motorsport VisionTrack pair by placing his privateer Oxford Racing Panigale V4 R third on the classification.

He actually starts the Title Showdown a little behind Christian Iddon (by two points) but veteran hand Bridewell has shown flashes of his best this year, and while his metronomic consistency has been tested at times this year, his race win - at Donington - and 12 podiums rank as his best ever performances.

Can he take it all the way to the title? It’s a big ask but given the strength of the riders outside the Title Showdown getting in the way of the big fighters too, Bridewell’s steely nerves and ability to bring it home could well prove a major asset in the heat of battle.

4 - Christian Iddon - VisionTrack Ducati (1026 points)

Title Chances - 7/10 - Needs to get back to early season form - if so, he definitely has a chance.

Arguably the fly in McAMS Yamaha’s ointment, you get the impression Christian Iddon hasn’t quite shown his best this season.

Having broken his BSB duck in 2020, things were shaping up for a more confident Iddon to target the title in 2021, so it was fitting that he and O’Halloran - another seasoned rider belatedly raising it to a new level - burst out of the blocks fastest.

A strong start gave way to a middling middle but Iddon has looked stronger in recent races, if not having the answer to the McAMS Yamahas. On his side is VisionTrack PBM’s big match experience in these positions, while Iddon has clearly been riding with a view to the Showdown… 

Of the non-McAMS Yamaha riders in the Showdown, arguably it is Iddon that has the performance and machinery to loosen the grip, but will he have the mindset?

5 - Peter Hickman - FHO Racing BMW (1015 points)

Title Chances (4/10 - The pressure is unlikely to get to him, can focus on BMW honours)

From a fanbase perspective, even if he denied Jason O’Halloran, there would be plenty of people happy to see Peter Hickman win the BSB title.

It’s been a stellar bounce back to form for Hickman, who is arguably riding better than ever with the benefit of Faye Ho’s dedicated and well-funded backing for the FHO BMW M 1000 RR.

The TT lap record holder came remarkably close to a triple win at Cadwell Park, demonstrating what one of the BSB’s most experienced riders can do on his day. If the top four have been solid all year, Hickman stands quite solitary as best of the rest, throwing in some notable results with the odd mistake.

He has the experience and the backing to go all the way, but it’s hard to see him fighting for the necessary wins across all three rounds.

6 - Glenn Irwin - Honda Racing (1012 points)

Title Chances - 3/10 - Favourite at times in 2020, underdog tag may suit Irwin better in 2021

It has been a strange old season for Glenn Irwin and Honda Racing.

This time last year the Ulsterman was on a wave of fine form aboard the new Honda CBR1000RR-R, even if its stunning initial results had waned by the time the Title Showdown emerged. Then when it counted, frustrating moments neutered his attack.

This year, things have gone in the other direction, Irwin beginning the year badly but finding his feet when it mattered with a timely win at Silverstone reminding everyone of his quality as a rider… not least because Honda’s risk of employing two Japanese rookies has flopped very hard.

With two Hondas at the back and Irwin’s presence at the front intermittent, expectations are modest among outsiders, but the Honda Fireblade is clearly very capable in stock form, while Irwin - who has wrestled with his own confidence in the past - might find this underdog status suit him better.

Definitely the big unknown of the octet here.

7 - Danny Buchan - Synetiq BMW (1014 points)

Title Chances - 4/10 - Hard to beat on his day, but no-one knows when they’ll come…

If the Title Showdown comprised of nine races at Knockhill, we’d be tempted to give Danny Buchan the BSB trophy right now.

Indeed, the twice Superstock 1000 champion has developed a remarkable affinity with the Scottish circuit, winning two races early in the season to set him on course for the Title Showdown. Which was useful because injuries and issues have seen him steadily go backwards in the standings since then.

Fortunately for him - and TAS Racing, which has fallen just short of the Title Showdown on far too many occasions - the final shootout is now eight-wide, allowing him to sneak in at Silverstone.

An injury timeout and recovery makes it hard to judge where Buchan could be in the Showdown, but the BMW M 1000 RR is clearly a step above in BSB spec, while there is little doubting his fighting nous.

Probably better than his current seventh in the standings, but a title fight would be a stretch.

8 - Josh Brookes - VisionTrack Ducati (1002 points)

Title Chances - 6.5/10 - How can you discount a twice BSB winning veteran of Showdowns?

Josh Brookes’ 2021 BSB campaign has just been a series of questions he can’t seem to answer… and yet, through some luck, fluke or just sheer experience, he is STILL in the hunt for the title.

Indeed, the Australian has endured a torrid 2021 campaign - a title defence no less - barely scoring points during the initial rounds, but crucially always reaching the chequered flag.

While Brookes’ isn’t entirely sure why the Ducati isn’t performing underneath him, he’s adapted to its indeterminable demands and hauled it to increasingly better results, leading to his first podium of the year at Silverstone.

But… Brookes is an old hand at the Showdown format and the pressures it entails, while PBM Ducati certainly have it in them to regroup and revive its fortunes.

Trouble is, Brookes defending his BSB title from being 258 points down after the opening eight rounds (reduced to 69 points for the Title Showdown) would make a mockery of motorsport… and even the biggest Brookes fans won’t deny that.