Donington BSB Blog: A level playing field

By Phil Wain -

British Superbikes

 26 May 2009 12:15

Airwaves Yamaha and Worx Suzuki teams have been grabbing the BSB headlines but it’s highly refreshing to see several other teams fighting it out at the head of the field.

In recent seasons we’ve seen Airwaves Ducati and HM Plant Honda riders dominating proceedings with the biggest budgets and the best bikes and, save for the odd interloper like Tom Sykes on the Rizla Suzuki, everyone else has been left to fight over the minor leaderboard positions. Now, that’s all changed.

The second race at Donington saw the first eight places taken by riders from eight different teams - Airwaves, Hydrex, Rob Mac Racing, MSS Kawasaki, HM Plant, Relentless by TAS, Quay Garage and Buildbase – surely some kind of record and further proof of not only the strength in depth in the UK but also the closeness of the competition.

Airwaves are clearly benefiting from their links with the World Superbike Yamaha team and one can only think that they will get stronger as the season goes on but with Sylvain Guintoli now sadly out of the equation, there’s a great chance for some of the, previously, lesser teams to grab some of the limelight.

Take Kawasaki. You have to go a long way back through the history books to find the last time they actually won the British Superbike Championship – 1992 with John Reynolds – and whilst they’ve had smatterings of success since then with riders including Chris Walker, Scott Smart and Glen Richards, they’ve traditionally struggled.

MSS Colchester’s Nick Morgan is looking to address that situation.

His close knit and well-drilled team have been part of the British Championship paddock for many years, firstly in Supersport and Superstock but more latterly in Superbike, and with Simon Andrews running consistently in the top four at Donington Park this weekend, it looks like they’ve finally cracked the premier class.

Further proof came with Julien Da Costa putting in similar performances on the sister machine.

The championship will be out of their reach this year but Andrews and Da Costa are proving that the green meanies can run at the front with the former’s riding even more impressive given he’s doing it all without the electronic aids enjoyed by his rivals.

Contrary to what we were originally led to believe, Andrews has again turned all the devices off – no traction control, no anti-wheelie, nothing. What that is allowing him though is to fine-tune the set-up of the bike.

The chassis and geometry along with suspension linkages have all been altered as the season has progressed to give the 25-year old a finely tuned machine.

He may be struggling to get his head around all the electronic aids on offer but what he is doing is riding a highly tuned and refined motorbike. When he does finally flick the switch back on, he will have one extremely competitive motorbike and a win or two may not be impossible.

Andrews is just what Morgan has been looking for. Full of passion, commitment and determination the former racer has remained ever cheerful throughout and you’ll be harder pressed to find a more jovial man in the paddock.

More in line with the traditions of racing gone by, Morgan gets a kick out of what his team can do and what happens out on the racetrack. Whilst he certainly recognises the importance of all the PR and razzamatazz now associated with the BSB series, it’s more of a distraction than a benefit.

Talk to him about the bike and racing instead and you’re away.

It’s a similar story over at Hydrex Honda. Shaun Muir’s team have been competing for over a decade but it’s only now he has the complete package in place to mount a serious challenge.

Stuart Easton has always been one of the most stylish and smooth riders in the paddock, no matter what class he’s been in but now, with a competitive superbike beneath him for the first time in his career, he’s an instant front runner. It’s only a matter of time before he records his first BSB race win.

Conversely, HM Plant Honda's Glen Richards and Josh Brookes have only one podium between them, the former being a steady top six finisher as the transition back to the Superbike class is taking longer to master than anticipated.

Brookes, meanwhile, was on a high at the end of 2008 having finished third in the World Supersport Championship but now his world couldn’t be more different.

The visa problems at the beginning of the season were both embarrassing and damaging whilst events at Donington, where he collided with Guintoli, left him distraught with what had happened to the Frenchman.

Six points from the first three rounds was not what the team bosses would have expected to see and now he has a one race ban, suspended for three meetings, hanging over him.

Perhaps the ‘old guard’ will be back occupying the top spots in the table at season’s end but, for now, lets enjoy witnessing some of the long term servants of the sport stake their claim and reap the rewards for all their years of toil.