Opinion: BSB 2017 - Year of the young gun?
Following the announcement of Sylvain Guintoli’s return to the MCE British Superbike Championship in November, someone tweeted me to ask why rides in the British series weren’t being offered up to young British talent.
They claimed BSB had become a series for the old guard, while young British talent looking to follow the Superbike route were forced to stay in the Supersport and Superstock classes.
Of course, that was before the announcements that Taylor Mackenzie and Bradley Ray would step up to BSB for 2017, moving two of the most prominent youngsters from the 2016 Supersport and Superstock 1000 classes into the top class.
The inclusion of Mackenzie and Ray makes the youth contingent of the 2017 MCE BSB grid one of the strongest we’ve had in years and while nobody expects the rookies to be winning races in their debut year you only have to look at how Luke Mossey has progressed since joining the series in 2015.
At 24-years-old, Mossey heads into 2017 as part of a new look factory-supported Kawasaki squad, has Leon Haslam as his team-mate and is without a doubt a showdown contender. A proven podium man, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he snuck a win or two in the season ahead.
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Be Wiser Ducati’s Glenn Irwin is in a similar situation. Turning 27 this year, you can argue among yourselves about whether he fits into the ‘young’ category but with 2016 marking his rookie season in BSB, you can certainly say he’s fresh to the series. Riding what is clearly one of the strongest bikes on the grid in the hands of team-mate Shane Byrne, Irwin will also be looking to make his first visit to the top step over this year’s 12 events.
Bradley Ray would have been a strong contender for the 2017 British Supersport title had he stayed in the 600cc series as planned, but as quite a big lad his step up to BSB makes complete sense. The Hawk team have good pedigree and on paper, the new GSX-R looks set to be a weapon.
When we spoke with Brad last week, he said that for a young rider like him to be given the chance to race against the likes of Byrne, Guintoli and Haslam is what makes this opportunity for him.
At 19-years-old, he’ll be the youngest rider on the grid and there’s plenty of time for him to shine. It will no doubt take him a few rounds to familiarise himself to riding a Superbike and he’s given himself a modest target of breaking the top ten by the end of the year, but if things add up I think he’s capable of more.
It’ll be an interesting year for Taylor Mackenzie too. Many had written him off before his sideways step to the National Superstock 1000 series, which he won in dominant fashion last year. His first foray in Superbikes with Team WD40 in 2015 didn’t go to plan, so he’ll have a point to prove this year but as we’ve seen with other riders in the past, being quick on a stock bike doesn’t necessarily transfer to the Superbike class.
Lee Jackson enters his third season in BSB this year and moves team for the first time, from the Hawk outfit to Smiths BMW. The 21-year-old Lincolnshire lad had flashes of pace in 2016 and enjoyed a best result of fifth, which he’ll be looking to improve upon this year.
We’ll also see Jake Dixon in his first full BSB season with Lee Hardy Racing, who will switch to Kawasaki for the 2017 season. Dixon didn’t embarrass himself when making his debut with the RAF-backed team last year. In fact, within just a round he’d done enough to earn a contract for 2017 but he was later sidelined for the rest of the year after a nasty crash at Oulton Park.