AFTER LOSING OUT LAST YEAR, THE BENNETTS BRITISH SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP MAKES A WELCOME RETURN NORTH OF HADRIAN'S WALL TO THE HOME OF SCOTTISH MOTORSPORT
To paraphrase Lt. Col. Gilgore, d’ya smell that…? D’ya smell that, son? It smells like freedom and I love the smell of freedom in the morning! Yes, finally our earnest PM has set the date to lift the restrictions we’ve been bound by before we get to Brands Hatch. It’ll be so damn good to see ALL the fans back trackside and not just the handful of fortunate ones we’ve had so far.
So for the final weekend of racing under restrictions (touch wood...), the Bennetts British Superbike Championship rolls north of the Border to the iconic Knockhill circuit. Land of coos, mountains and midges, where the men are bold and the maidens fair. A staple of the BSB calendar for as long as we can remember; it’s a tricky little circuit and one that often throws a surprise result or two as well as some less surprising weather!
It’s the shortest track on the calendar for 2021 and one that is a favourite of a few riders as its quirkiness suits certain styles and with only a couple of overtaking points on the Superbikes, it means the action is concentrated mainly into Turns 1 and 3 at the start of the lap, let's see just how good that front end set-up is... and, of course, the final hairpin with wide-eyed late lunges abound into there. It’s also a shorter race weekend due to the current restrictions in Scotland, a Saturday and Sunday meeting with just the Superbikes, Supersport/GP2, National Superstock, and British Talent Cup showcasing the weekend. The two days are packed with action as the organisers shoehorn three days into two as best they can at the home of Scottish motorsport.
Who’s going to win? Well, that’s a story in itself as title leader and hattrick man from Oulton Park, Jason O’Halloran, hasn’t the best history in the land of Irn-Bru (made in Scotland, from girders apparently), DNF’ing in both races in 2019, so he’ll be keen to overturn that page of history after a successful test there in early June. Team-mate, Tarran Mackenzie, will be eager to invoke the spirit of William Wallace in his country of birth, as Scottish heritage runs through his veins. A strong opening round has set the tone for his season, despite his teammate’s domination of the three races in Cheshire.
What of reigning champions, VisionTrack Ducati? A hattrick of runner-up spots wasn’t the most fulfilling weekend for Christian Iddon, however, in terms of the championship, it was the next best start to hope for. A raft of points and plenty of bike time sees the adopted Geordie in fine shape for the championship challenge, even at this early stage. On the other side of the garage, Josh Brookes had a less auspicious start to the year but expect him to come on strong sooner rather than later as the Aussie gets into his championship stride, but with his recent record in Scotland that looks more likely to happen at Brands Hatch in a couple of weeks time.
Best of the rest? Tommy Bridewell always goes well at Oulton Park so his podium there was no surprise to anyone and well-deserved after clawing his way back to the podium positions. The Ducati works well at Knockhill as both Scott Redding and Bridewell have tasted podium success there on the previous visit as has Brookes, albeit not since his title-winning year, becoming a bogey track for the 2015 champ since his return to the BSB championship.
Kawasaki have a rich history in the Kingdom of Fife in recent years as Leon Haslam, Jake Dixon, James Ellison, and Danny Buchan have all tasted the bubbly on the podium there. Can the FS-3 duo of Jackson and Skinner keep that tradition up? We’ll find out over the weekend but it’s fair to say Skinner knows that place like his own back garden and has been wearing a groove in it on a stock Kawasaki as often as possible.
There’s confidence in the BMW camps after FHO Racing secured their maiden BSB podium and the RICH Energy OMG Racing pair of Ryde and Ray gave an exceptional performance in race two last time out, the pair battling back through the field to register front row pace. Again, a successful test in June leaves the BMW battle wide open for top honours as Buchan looks to join the fray at the circuit that has seen the bulk of his BSB success after a strong 4th place in race 2 in Cheshire.
As is to be expected, because it’s Scotland and more likely ‘British Summer Time’, the weather looks changeable for the weekend with sunshine and showers forecast. As the age-old saying goes, ‘if you can’t see the hill, it’s raining – if you can see the hill it’s about to rain…’
You can catch the action across the weekend on Eurosport2 and the Eurosport app, free-to-air on Quest TV, and the BSB Superpicks app along with Live Timing and circuit commentary on TSL Timing as always.