It’s unquestionably the most exciting race week of the season so far and the tension is building as the 2021 Bennetts British Superbike Showdown hopefuls congregate at Silverstone for the final round of the regular season. It’s all to play for at least seven riders in Northamptonshire as the season reaches its first crescendo: Buchan, Irwin G., Jackson, Ray, Brookes, Vickers, and Skinner are all within shouting distance of making the final eight come close of play on Sunday. After being in heavy use across the season, the extremely popular SCX Pirelli tyre has been withdrawn from the weekend due to the nature of Silverstone National circuit and its heavy reliance on the righthand side of the tyre. The rear boot needs to be able to withstand the battering of 30 laps around the breath-taking Woodcote corner as well as the fearsome Copse corner next up.

Snetterton could have sealed the deal for FHO Racing's Peter Hickman but with the Roads maestro only needing one point more then there’s a decent chance that he’ll be confirmed after Saturday’s opening race, should all go to plan. The riders losing out at Snetterton were SYNETIQ BMW’s Danny Buchan and Honda Racing’s Glenn Irwin. 10th and 13th in Norfolk for Buchan on top of missing Cadwell due to the 7-Day rule for concussion has put the likeable Essex man on the back foot so he’ll be hoping his pre-Donington Park results and three solid finishes at the home of the British MotoGP will carry him over the line for the last eight.

Glenn Irwin is slightly on the back foot after aggravating his shoulder injury during his race one crash at Snetterton. His form over short stints is still exceptional with an outstanding lap for pole position at Snetterton being a prime example but with 24 race laps on Saturday and 60 on Sunday, will his shoulder be up to the test? There are three hard braking areas at Silverstone - into Copse, Becketts, and Brooklands, so should Irwin find himself battling with Jackson, Buchan, and Ray, with a Showdown slot at stake, he’ll be hoping that some rapid healing has taken place since Sunday to able to fight hard for that slot he's held for so long.

As for the chasing pack, FS-3 Racing’s Lee Jackson will be rueing the Buchan malfunction that ended his participation in race three at Snetterton. The Lincolnshire plumber is showing arguably his best form on a Superbike, banking solid points in every race he finishes, which is what makes the Snetterton disappointment all the more difficult to put behind him, but put it behind him he must. The battles with Josh Brookes in Norfolk were outstanding, both riders knowing what was and remains at stake as we head into this weekend’s tension-fest. Brookes now trails Jackson by just 13 points, with RICH Energy OMG Racing’s Bradley Ray sandwiched between them. The Kent man took points in all three races last time out but will be determined to improve those results to snatch that last Showdown place.

Josh Brookes is the man on the move for the Showdown. Even though he admits to not being on good terms with the Silverstone National circuit in terms of results, a high-speed crash in testing in April doing nothing to improve that relationship, it could be a difficult weekend for the reigning champion. Banking a pretty handy 64 points over the last six races has thrown the Visiontrack PBM Ducati man a lifeline in this year’s championship. It’s improbable he’ll win it again this year, but a Showdown appearance would do wonders to rescue arguably his most difficult BSB season yet.

Outside chances still remain for RAF Regular and Reserves rider Ryan Vickers and FS-3 Racing’s Rory Skinner to make the Showdown Eight, but that’s all they appear to be if you look at the form of those riders ahead. Rory Skinner, still a rookie in BSB let’s not forget, once again returned the lowest cumulative score in Norfolk which is likely to have seen all realistic hope of a top-eight finish fade as he sits 27 points shy of Jackson. We take nothing away from the young Scot, as to even be in that position at this point of the season is an achievement in itself when he’s riding in possibly the most competitive BSB season we’ve had in a number of seasons. Many rumours are floating around about Rory’s future and where it lies, the consensus being that it may be a berth away from BSB, which would come as no real surprise when you consider the lack of young British talent on the Grand Prix circuit currently.

Fellow Kawasaki man, Ryan Vickers is also arguably a little too out of reach for the top eight as the form of Brookes is outshining both the Norfolk man and Skinner, who sits just behind Vickers in the championship table. It’s been Vickers’ strongest BSB season yet in his short superbike career and some of those performances have likely pitched him up onto the radar of several teams in the paddock who would be keen to take the former Junior Superstock champions under their wing, but you can bet your last £1 that Lee Hardy will be doing all he can to keep him where he is!

As we look at the front of the field, McAMS pair Jason O’Halloran and Tarran Mackenzie, another rider rumoured to be heading to the world stage in ‘22, are confirmed in the Showdown as are Tommy Bridewell and Christian Iddon. Bridewell once again took a triple podium at Snetterton, his second on the spin making it seven podiums in a row for the Oxford Products Moto Rapido Ducati rider. Fellow Ducati man, Iddon has seen his season fall apart somewhat after a run of 33 consecutive finishes up to Race Two at Thruxton before he was barrel rolled out of the race by another rider. Since then, Iddon has failed to finish four times and is yet to return to the podium in any of the races he’s taken the chequered flag, a quite remarkable turnaround in misfortune and one that is a big blow to his title aspirations as the in-form Bridewell has since drawn level on 23 Podium Credits after Snetterton.

In Podium Credit terms, Bridewell and Iddon trail Tarran Mackenzie by 10 credits who in turn trails teammate O’Halloran by 30. And this is where the focus will be quite intense throughout the coming weekend at Silverstone. Points DO NOT make prizes this weekend, it’s all about the Podium Credits. Two wins and a second-place finish gave the English Scotsman a 12-credit haul at Snetterton while O’Halloran had to make do with 7, the same as Bridewell. The incredible finish to race one saw Bridewell out drag the Aussie title favourite to the line to snatch two valuable credits away, however, his imperious early season form has given the Wollongong Wizard a useful buffer and with it the peace of mind that he doesn’t have to win every race to make a difference, unlike Taz…

So then, let’s look at the big picture. We may assume that while both Danny Buchan and Glenn Irwin are in a prime position to secure their Showdown places as Buchan sits 25 points ahead of Brad Ray in 9th and Irwin 12 points ahead of the former Red Bull Rookie podium man. Ray needs to out-score Jackson by 6 points over the three races and finish ahead of Josh Brookes over the three nerve-wracking races to claim the last slot while Jackson needs to out-score both Ray and Brookes to cement his place. Brookes needs to out-score both Ray and Jackson by at least 14 points to secure the final spot while Jackson and Ray can realistically both overhaul Irwin if they out-score the Honda man by 8 and 13 points respectively. Simple, huh?!

Suzuki has a strong history at Silverstone in recent years with Josh Elliott and Kyle Ryde taking their maiden BSB wins at the circuit in 2019 and 2020. Buildbase Suzuki’s Gino Rea hit a rich vein of form at Snetterton and a quick turnaround to Suzuki’s favourite circuit could see the former Euro STK600 Champion become a fly in the ointment for some of the showdown hopefuls and to those chasing valuable podium credits. Also with some history at Silverstone are the McAMS pair, who fought tooth and nail in 2019 with a disappointing end for both riders in the opening race and then again last year but without the drama as Taz took a win and a 2nd and Jason with an unsurprisingly consistent hat-trick of 3rd place finishes.

There’s late drama in the BSB line-up for Silverstone as Joe Francis has parted company with the Lloyd Jones BMW team ahead of the weekend. The Cheshire lad has had a tumultuous season which all came to a head in Norfolk. Who rides the bike this weekend? Well, we’re not sure to be honest, as that leaves the team without a Superbike rider with the obvious continued absence of Brad Jones. Rumours have placed Keith Farmer with the team he last rode for in 2014, taking a podium at Brands Hatch into the bargain but beyond that, it could be a difficult end to 2021 for the PR BSB team. Whether any National Superstock rider with designs on a Superbike career is available to step up is also another point for discussion as there are young riders out there keen to make their mark in the big class. And what for Francis himself? Does he seek another Superbike ride to prove his talent, or does he step sideways to the forefront of National Superstock and hurl himself into the lion’s den of racing? One thing is for sure, he’s too good a talent to be off a racing motorcycle for too long…

It’s going to be intense; there’s going to be drama and there will be tears of both joy and disappointment somewhere along pit lane this weekend so make sure you follow all the action as it unfolds on British Eurosport 2, the BSB SUPERPICKS app, and at www.tsl-timing.co.uk

The final word goes to Brad Jones – we’re hearing more encouraging stories about the recovery of Brad; he’s been in contact with a few members of the paddock over facetime and had visits from his closest friends. We can’t tell you how happy we are to hear those stories.


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