The countdown is almost over! Exactly 248 days have passed since the final in Brands Hatch, and this weekend British Superbike is finally gearing up for the start of the 2021 season on the ups and downs of Oulton Park, the first of eleven scheduled rounds according to the calendar. After a lengthy and unusual 'winter' phase, in which teams and riders had the opportunity to take part in the so-called "Test Tour", all the right ingredients are now in place for the next four and a bit months (from June to October ..) of entertainment: new features are the race format and 29 starters representing six different manufacturers, in pure BSB style. Despite the COVID-19 emergency, celebrations will also surround the 25th anniversary of the birth of the championship. Spectator participation at the circuits would have been the icing on the cake, however, we will still have to wait for this.
Showdown, qualifying and much more
While in 2020 it could not be held due to only six rounds, now, thanks to the almost return to normality with eleven rounds (one less than in the recent past, no trip to Assen), BSB welcomes back a partially revised Showdown: until 2019 reserved for the top six in the ranking, this year eight riders will be admitted to the playoffs of the final three rounds of the season and given 1000 points (instead of 500), to which podium credits obtained during the season will be added. As if that were not enough, the MSVR promoter has confirmed in full the three races for each single weekend and, at the same time, devised a qualifying structure in line with other international championships: called "BSB Superpicks Qualifying" where, the first 12 of the combined free practice on Friday will go directly to Q2, while the six fastest in Q1 will go on to fight for pole position with the rest in the next round.
The result of technical regulations that balance on-track performance between the various bikes through the use of the single MoTec control unit without electronic aids, in British Superbike it is the balance that dictates the law and, as a result, it’s difficult to make any predictions. Without a doubt, Josh Brookes will try to defend the title he won in 2020, chasing after the third in his career, with the number #1 on the fairing of his VisionTrack PBM Ducati Panigale V4-R. As reigning champion, the Australian is clearly the main favourite, without forgetting his team-mate Christian Iddon, and brand-mate, Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Racing MotoRapido), even if in the pre-season tests the 2020 runner-up Jason O'Halloran (McAMS Yamaha) impressed with pace and consistency. Something similar could be said for team-mate Tarran Mackenzie, who appeared very incisive especially on the time attack front.
Looking to make up for last year's disappointing ending will be Glenn Irwin on the updated Honda Racing UK CBR 1000 RR-R, which will also be in the hands of the Japanese pairing of Ryo Mizuno and Takumi Takahashi, demonstrating the attention that HRC dedicates to BSB. Alongside well-known faces and tried-and-tested programs, there are also some ambitious projects being launched such as BMW with the new M1000RR through the contribution of SYNETIQ TAS Racing (Danny Buchan and Andrew Irwin), Rich Energy OMG Racing (Bradley Ray and Kyle Ryde) and the new-born FHO Racing (Peter Hickman and Xavi Forés, fresh from a podium at the 24H of Le Mans in the FIM EWC), and Kawasaki with the latest generation Ninja ZX-10RR under the FS-3 Racing banner (Lee Jackson and youngster Rory Skinner) and RAF Regular & Reserve (Ryan Vickers). All eyes will also be on Buildbase Suzuki, with a revised GSX-R 1000 (engine, electronics and swingarm) in the hands of Gino Rea and 2015 Moto3 Champion Danny Kent.
The issue of spectators
Historically one of the strengths of the UJ’s domestic championship, at least initially, the decision to start the 2021 season late was taken in parallel with the easing of the restrictions envisaged by the British government in view of the current period. Nonetheless, given the sudden increase in the number of cases of the Delta variant, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to postpone the "phase 3". For this reason, this weekend (and probably for the next 3-4 rounds ...) just 4,000 spectators per day will be able to attend the Cheshire facility. No objections can be made against this measure, but the decision to increase the capacity of Wembley stadium to 60,000 (!!) spectators in view of the semi-finals of the European football championships has aroused some surprise. Of course, the economic revenues of the two sporting arenas are totally disproportionate, but on social media there has been no lack of controversy, from fans and professionals above all.
Spectator issues aside, BSB hostilities will take place in Oulton Park starting on Friday at 1:45 pm for the first free practice session and at 4:50 pm for the second. Saturday, following the short 20-minute FP3, from 2.15 pm to qualifying (Q1 + Q2) which will decide the grid for Race 1, scheduled for the afternoon at 5.15 pm. On Sunday, however, the two final races, respectively at 14:45 and 17:45. The times in question refer to Italy.
2021 BSB ENTRY LIST: