With the 2017 MCE British Superbike Championship set to get undereway at Donington Park this weekend, MCN's BSB reporter Oli Rushby takes a look at the field's chances for the year ahead.
Be Wiser Ducati – Shane Byrne & Glenn Irwin
Byrne will without a doubt be a strong force this year, but whether it’ll all go his way remains to be clear. Getting to the top is hard, but staying there is harder and Byrne has a lot of riders chomping at his heels this season.
After two podiums in year one, it’s time to step up for Glenn Irwin in 2017, especially as he’s riding the bike that won nine races and the title with Shane Byrne last year.
JG Speedfit Kawasaki – Leon Haslam & Luke Mossey
For me, Haslam is the pre-season favourite for the title. He stays on the same bike, moves team and seems to have learned a lot from 2016, where he only narrowly missed out on the crown. He’s been really strong in pre-season testing, so I’m expecting him to be strong from the off and with Kawasaki UK now paying his wages, the pressure is on now more than ever before.
Mossey is without a doubt capable of winning races if he can find that elusive consistency, but whether he’s got a championship in him isn’t clear at this stage. It’s a big ask to go up against a team-mate like Haslam, but it’s his third year in the series and if he’s to make a mark it’s a good time to do it.
Bennetts Suzuki – Sylvain Guintoli & Taylor Mackenzie
For me, Guintoli is the biggest threat to Haslam and Shakey this year. His talent is unquestionable and while the bike is new, Yoshimura have been developing a race product in Japan since last summer.
The Bennetts team have access to all of that information and many of the parts have come direct from Yoshimura, so I’ve a feeling the GSX-R will surprise people by coming out of the blocks fighting.
The only thing that might let him down is with two Bennetts-backed bikes and a Buildbase Suzuki in BSB, as well as two bikes in Superstock and Michael Dunlop on the roads, have the Hawk team bitten off more than they can chew while developing a new bike?
Mackenzie shocked me with his dominance in superstock last year so I’d love to see him do the same in BSB. While it’s important for him to take this as a learning year, he needs to be breaking into the top ten on a regular basis.
McAMS Yamaha – James Ellison and Michael Laverty
There were really positive vibes surrounding the McAMS Yamaha team in testing. After last year, both Ellison and Laverty have a massive point to prove and they’re really up for it.
The team has direct factory support from Yamaha, so while the R1 wasn’t on the pace last year expect things to be different this time. However, both riders will need to iron out issues with inconsistency if they’re to fight for the title.
MotoRapido Ducati – John Hopkins
2016 wasn’t reflective of where Hopper’s at. The flashes of brilliance shown at a number of points during the year weren’t able to grow due to injury and inconsistencies with the bike.
The rekindling of the Hopper/MotoRapido relationship could do wonders for both, and while pushing for the title might be a big ask, a showdown position could be on the cards.
Anvil Hire Yamaha – Josh Brookes
Brookes is without a doubt a class act, so if the team can perform for him he’ll no doubt be throwing a spanner in the works. How great would it be to see a full, privateer team with no manufacturer support sticking it to the big dogs? We all love an underdog and a Brookesy success story would make for a great year.
Having already bettered his personal bests in testing, this year will be about improvement for Winfield and the points have to be the targets.
Tyco BMW – Davide Giugliano & Christian Iddon
The jury is out on Giugliano for now, his pace is undoubted but whether he’ll fully adapt to BSB remains to be seen. With the level of talent in our field this year, it’s certainly possible he’ll fall by the wayside. Iddon is a rider we really rate, but he needs to be more consistent this year.
Honda Racing – Jason O’Halloran & Dan Linfoot
It’s a big year for both Linfoot and O’Halloran. Both impressed in 2016, but now they’ve got to live up to the talk that they could do a better job on an updated bike. If Honda sort things out in time, O’Halloran could be the danger man and was super consistent last year. It’s more make or break for Linfoot, a number of unforced errors saw him give away valuable points last year.
Buildbase Suzuki – Bradley Ray
Bradley Ray is BSB’s next big thing. It’s totally possible that he’ll spring a few surprises this year, but I’d be keeping an eye out for him for the next few years if he doesn’t get snapped up to ride elsewhere.
His GSX-R won’t be the same spec as Guintoli and Mackenzies, but at this stage he doesn’t need a factory spec superbike, he just needs to learn!
Smiths BMW – Peter Hickman & Lee Jackson
Jackson enjoyed a strong year last year and showed flashes of pace in practice on numerous occasions. He’ll need to turn that into consistent, solid race results this year though.
Moving teams for the first time since joining the series, he’ll also wave goodbye to a lot of the family members who’d been working with him in the past and that can only be a good thing.
RAF Reserves Kawasaki – Jake Dixon
Dixon impressed as he made his BSB debut with the Briggs/RAF team half way through last season. A number of top tens were more than we expected, so it’s a shame he missed the end of the season through injury.
Fighting fit for 2017, he has a new bike to get used to with the ZX-10RR but he’ll be looking to pick up where he left off.
WD-40 Kawasaki – Tommy Bridewell
Bridewell enjoyed an up and down year with Bennetts Suzuki last year, but he’s a proven BSB race winner and Showdown contender so this year we’d expect nothing less. The WD40 team will need to up their game though,
Quattro Plant FS-3 Kawasaki – Billy McConnell
McConnell had some impressive rides in 2016 but he’ll need to be much more consistent this year as the FS3 team look to up their game.
Gearlink Kawasaki – James Westmoreland
Westmoreland struggled with the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team in 2015, but he had a number of good superbike rides for Buildbase BMW before that. He’s a quick rider, and could find himself at home in the smaller Gearlink squad but again, they’re a team yet to prove themselves in the superbike class.
Lloyd & Jones PR BMW – Jakub Smrz
Smrz has been unable to show what he’s capable of in recent years due to injury, but we’ve seen his promise before. Whether he can show that this year remains to be seen.
Riders Motorcycles BMW – Martin Jessopp
Having enjoyed a top ten finish last year, Jessopp has shown what he’s capable of but he was held back by injury a lot in 2016.
Platform Hire Yamaha – Aaron Zanotti
A best finish of 16th place in 2016, the points have to be the aim for Zanotti this year.