The wait is over! This weekend, on the (short) National layout at Silverstone, British Superbike 2023 will finally get underway. UK’s top domestic motorcycle racing series will restart its engines for the first of the eleven scheduled rounds in a season based on some changes in the race format and the usual prerogatives: a guaranteed show with cutthroat action on the track, massive crowds, the presence of the main manufacturers and a full grid with 28 starters in the top Superbike class. A championship that, to all intents and purposes, continues to enjoy excellent health from year to year.
Having taken the title in an authoritative way in 2022, Bradley Ray earned his well-deserved chance in the Superbike World Championship with MotoXRacing Yamaha, thus opening the hunt for his successor. Uncertainty reigns supreme, especially in view of the pre-season tests in which little or no lapping was possible due to bad weather. For a BSB 2023 which, as mentioned, offers eleven rounds from April to October, all of three races each, one of the main topics of interest is however linked to the Showdown.
That's right. Established in 2010 to keep the championship battle wide-open until the last minute, creating quite a few divisive views between riders, insiders and public opinion, the Showdown as it has always been known will no longer exist. While before it was a playoff system based on promotion in the final three rounds to 500 points (1000 in recent times) plus the Podium Credits totalled in the first part of the season (5 points for each victory achieved, 3 for each second place and 1 point for every third place) of the best 6 riders (later 8) classified in the championship, starting from this year it will become a points system. Specifically, the first 8 rounds will adopt a brand-new scoring system for the top-15 (18-16-14-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1). From the ninth round, access to the Showdown will be with a different score for rounds nine and ten at Oulton Park and Donington Park: 25-22-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-6-5-4-3- 2-1. Final, as always, scheduled at Brands Hatch with a third different assignment of points: 35-30-27-24-22-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-6-4-2. No playoffs or additional points, whoever has scored the most points over the course of the season will take the title.
28 riders for 5 manufacturers
With the problem of memorizing the three different scoring systems put to one side, the British Superbike will maintain its identity with a full line-up, competitive and battle-hardened: 28 entries on a permanent basis representing 5 manufacturers, involved directly or through national importers. After dominating last year, Yamaha will have to defend itself against the assaults of Ducati, Kawasaki, Honda and BMW, all with ambitious intentions.
After saying goodbye to Bradley Ray, the reigning champion team OMG Racing has placed its trust in the "rough diamond" Ryan Vickers alongside the reconfirmed Kyle Ryde (on good form in the Spanish tests at Navarra). Once again with Yamaha, the McAMS benchmark team aims to regain possession of the title with Jason O'Halloran and Tim Neave, the latter replacing Tarran Mackenzie (who has moved to the Supersport World Championship). Called upon to make amends for a disappointing two-year period, 2023 has brought about a revolution for the highly successful PBM Ducati team: a new title sponsor (BeerMonster) and new riders, with the return of Glenn Irwin and the hiring of Tommy Bridewell, respectively runner-up and best Ducati man last season. Oxford Products Moto Rapido Ducati has decided to focus instead on Christian Iddon, who returns to the Panigale V4 R via Suzuki.
At the same time, one eye must also be kept on the top riders of the other manufacturers. Honda Racing UK fields returning horse Andrew Irwin and Tom Neave (who was injured in pre-season testing), while FS-3 Racing Kawasaki is pinning its hopes on Lee Jackson and 19-year-old Max Cook, 2022 British Superstock 600 Champion as well as successor to Skinner, now in the Moto2 World Championship. Three benchmark teams for BMW: SYNETIQ BMW Motorrad with Danny Buchan, FHO Racing with 2015-20 Champion Josh Brookes (from Ducati) and Peter Hickman plus 2018 Champion Leon Haslam under the ROKiT BMW Motorrad Team banner, a project that has materialized only in the last few weeks with additional technical support from Shaun Muir's worldwide team. Lastly, curiosity surrounds the returning Hector Barbera (TAG Honda), the 2015 Moto3 world champion Danny Kent with Kent Racing Honda (family run) and on Hawk Racing’s new course, switching to Honda after 7 years with Suzuki, with Charlie Nesbitt and Josh Owens.
The start at Silverstone
With this playing field, on paper, BSB will line up for the first round of the season this weekend. Two free practice sessions are scheduled today, official qualifying on Saturday morning (Q1+Q2 in relation to the combined classification on Friday) and Race 1 in the afternoon, followed by the remaining two races the following day.