By Philip Wain
Well, the long wait is over. After the long winter months, the British Superbike Championship got underway at Silverstone at the weekend and its fair to say it didn’t disappoint. There’s always talk about it being ‘the closest ever year’ or the ‘strength in depth has never been greater’ but if the first round is anything to go by, then both statements will be proved.
Coming into the round, most pundits had outlined three main Championship favourites – Shane Byrne, Leon Haslam and John Hopkins – with the likes of Michael Laverty and James Ellison their likeliest challengers. It’s doubtful that many would have earmarked Peter Hickman to win one of the opening races of the season.
But whilst Haslam took pole position, it was his JG Speedfit Kawasaki team-mate that came away from round one with the plaudits. Hickman’s win in race two was exemplary and if it hadn’t been for a technical issue in the first outing, he could well have walked away with the double. With all the attention on Haslam and Ellison, Hickman has been able to sneak under the radar and it was without doubt his finest ever BSB performance. And with the 28-year old spearheading the team’s efforts on the roads, 2016 could be a very special year for Hickman.
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“I was really disappointed after the first race but these things happen and we made amends for it in race-two,” said Hickman. “I was just trying to keep calm but it’s difficult at the front to keep your head. I was quite tight in the hairpin deliberately so he [Byrne] didn’t sneak underneath but I also knew that he was really close so in to Brooklands. I ran a little bit wide and that made my entry into Luffield too tight and as soon as I went wide I knew he was going to cut back. I pulled as hard as I could and luckily enough we had enough grip there to fight back at the line.”
Byrne digs deep
For Byrne, he may not have won a race but it was an ideal start to the season and with two podiums, he’s taken an early lead in the Championship. The Ducati looked to be slightly down on top speed but with the next circuits set to favour the Italian machine, it could well be ominous for the rest of the field.
As a four-time champion, he’s the benchmark for the rest of the field but the Tyco BMW team looks like they have everything in place to push for the title. Laverty’s first race win was the perfect display of controlled, confident riding as he led from the word go and he never really looked like he would lose whilst team-mate Christian Iddon delivered what we all thought he was capable of – rostrum finishes.
Haslam, meanwhile, only registered a solitary fifth place whilst Ellison crashed in qualifying and could only salvage eighth and 13th from the two races. Being overshadowed and upstaged by Hickman wasn’t in the script but, as the saying goes, there’s a long way to go.
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Silverstone, race one result:
- Michael Laverty (Tyco BMW)
- Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +0.550s
- Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) +1.394s
- Luke Mossey (Quattro Plant Teccare Kawasaki) +1.560s
- Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +4.155s
- Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +4.281s
- Danny Buchan (Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati) +6.354s
- Lee Jackson (Buildbase BMW) +7.681s
- John Hopkins (ePayMe Yamaha) +8.598s
- Tommy Bridewell (Bennetts Suzuki) +8.739s
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Silverstone, race two result:
- Peter Hickman (JG Speedfit Kawasaki)
- Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +0.009s
- Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) +1.005s
- Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +1.395s
- Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +3.142s
- Michael Laverty (Tyco BMW) +3.369s
- Lee Jackson (Buildbase BMW) +5.685s
- James Ellison (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +7.554s
- Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +7.679s
- Luke Mossey (Quattro Plant Teccare Kawasaki) +8.045s
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship standings after Silverstone:
- Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) 40
- Michael Laverty (Tyco BMW) 35
- Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) 32
- Peter Hickman (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 25
- Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) 23
- Luke Mossey (Quattro Plant Teccare Kawasaki) 19