By Dan Moakes
April 26 2006
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British Superbike Championship
The British Superbike Championship, for production-based racers much like you can see on the road, is one of the most competitive domestic series in the world. Over recent years, riders of the calibre of Niall Mackenzie, Terry Rymer, Steve Hislop, Troy Bayliss, John Reynolds, James Whitham, Chris Walker, Sean Emmett, Neil Hodgson, Michael Rutter, Shane Byrne and Yukio Kagayama have competed in BSB, making it a truly exciting and popular spectacle.
The basic Superbike formula is virtually the same here as in the World Championship. Before the 2002 season, the engine formula pitted bikes with 1000cc V-twins against those with 750cc four-cylinder units. As elsewhere, the Ducati twins became the bikes to beat, and yet it hasn’t always been as clear cut as the situation regularly seen in WSB competition, and the Japanese makes have certainly made their mark.
Three titles in a row went to Mackenzie and Yamaha, between 1996 and 1998, whilst Walker came second overall as his team-mate, as well as twice for Kawasaki and once with Suzuki. The ’96 season was a classic, with Mackenzie beating team-mate Whitham by just four points. James may have won ten times, and scored six other podiums, but Niall was in the top three 19 times in 20 races, even if he was only top man five times.
In 2000 we were treated to another close one. This time Neil Hodgson (Ducati) took the title by eight points from Chris Walker (Suzuki). The ‘Stalker’ suffered the heartbreak of a massive engine blow-up in the final race. He had been right on course to take his first crown, but this meant he was runner-up for the fourth year running.
The 2002 rules were amended to allow the manufacturers of four-cylinder bikes to expand their engines to 1000cc, a year before this happened in WSB, and without engine restrictors. Whilst these machines took a couple of years to develop, with Suzuki and Yamaha the first to go in this direction, there is no doubt that they proved equal to the challenge. Although Ducati riders have taken three of the last four titles, all four Japanese bikes have now won races; with Reynolds and Suzuki taking the 2004 title, and HRC providing an impressive level of works backing for the 23-race winning new 1000 FireBlade.
See also SportNetwork’s BSB Paddock website