THIS WEEKEND IT ALL COMES TO A CRESCENDO FOR 2021 AS LATE ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON THE BENNETTS BRITISH SUPERBIKE CHAMPION WILL BE CROWNED AT BRANDS HATCH. WHO WILL DO IT THEIR WAY? IT'S GOING TO BE AN EPIC WEEKEND TO FIND OUT
Here we go, then… Dust off Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ (that’ll be your earworm for the day!) and get ready for the epic finale to the 2021 Bennetts British Superbike Championship as four riders go head-to-head for the title. Tarran Mackenzie, Jason O’Halloran, Christian Iddon, and Tommy Bridewell fight it out this weekend for the right to be crowned king, and with the points gap as tight as it is, each rider has a chance at the title (although some have a better chance than others… kinda… if they all stay on). And that, dear reader, will be commandment number one for the weekend ‘thou shalt not DNF’, with commandment number two being ‘thou shalt not take out your teammate or anyone else in the title fight’.
With those two commandments in place (like anyone is going to listen…) all will be well for a straight fight on track rather than pending a Race Direction review. Brands Hatch final round always throws up drama of some description and with just 21 points separating the four title protagonists, it's all to play for on Saturday, on what could prove to be a pivotal day. Should Taz win the opening race of the weekend and Jason finish lower than second, the nerves may well be settled for the Scottish Englishman, taking away any desperation for a win when two seconds would do. For the remaining contenders, it’s another story.
With O’Halloran ten points adrift of Mackenzie, Jason HAS to finish in front of Taz in race one to ramp up the pressure on the other side of the garage. As we’ve seen recently, Taz isn’t quite as calm when the pressure is on and conversely neither is Jason, but they manifest themselves in diverse ways as we saw in bright technicolour for both riders at Oulton Park. The man on form going into Brands Hatch is Christian Iddon. The Derbyshire Geordie picked up 52 points at his home round, 16 more than Mackenzie, double O’Halloran’s score, and 30 more than Bridewell to set the scene for the weekend.
In all honesty, Tommy Bridewell needs snookers as three wins and three seconds for Taz will not be enough to raise the trophy for the Oxford Products Moto Rapido man on Sunday evening. Again, like silly season in general, Taz Mackenzie is the lynchpin for everything else. Should he not win on Saturday and (in an ideal world for a championship battle) Iddon wins from O’Halloran, then Mackenzie will have all the pressure on his shoulders. Scoring a first, third and second back in the summer to claim the ‘King of Brands’ trophy, Mackenzie will be quietly confident that he has the armoury to get the job done – but back in the summer, the title wasn’t at stake…
What of the title fighter spoilers? Danny Buchan will be keen to put on a good show at his home round in front of his loyal following as will Bradley Ray as he makes his shortest journey of the season. Peter Hickman will be looking to get back on the podium aboard his FHO Racing BMW as will a resurgent Kyle Ryde, podium, and top six-man at Donington Park last time out. Gino Rea took two wins at Donington, and he will be desperate for more now he’s a proven BSB race winner, and he’ll want to do it in the dry more than ever, too.
Lee Jackson and Brad Ray are fighting it out to be 'best of the rest' for the Rider's Cup, awarded to the rider finishing top of the non-showdown riders (so 9th place, effectively) and the battle is see-sawing between the two! Ray left Oulton Park in the driving seat, but an exceptional Donington Park saw the FS-3 Kawasaki man overhaul the RICH Energy OMG Racing rider as the teams left Leicestershire for the final time this year as the Lincoln rider came away with his biggest haul of the season and his maiden podium of 2021. Ray trails Jackson by just three points as the circus heads to Ray's back yard and with the former king of Brands Hatch in his corner, Shakey could play a key role for Ray this weekend. Jackson out-pointed Ray in Kent back in the Summer but as Ray has since found his groove with the BMW it could well be a titanic battle between the pair to settle the destination of the Rider's Cup.
But the real spoiler will be the undisputed King of Brands (minus the trophy to show for it), Josh Brookes. The Aussie was caught out by the weather at the previous round, but a dry race podium proved he was back to the Brookesy we know best, and that will be a concern for all the title contenders as the out-going champion will enjoy nothing more than three wins to end a difficult season on a high. He readily admits there are no friends on the racetrack, only rivals, and there is little doubt that the Aussie would relish the prospect of any potential champion having to beat him around Brands in their quest to become the 2021 Bennetts British Superbike Champion.
We. Can’t. Wait!