BSB: Brands Hatch Preview: 'It's now or never'
The 2018 Bennetts British Superbike Championship resumes with the series reaching its half way point at Brands Hatch this weekend.
It’s the second visit to the popular Kent circuit for 2018, but it’s the first time the Grand Prix layout has been used this year.
With the GP circuit twice the length of the 1.2-mile Indy track it’s rare that pace transfers between the two so not too much can be taken from the results of the second round at Brands back in May.
Leon Haslam leads the championship by 74 points and 20 podium credits, but the 2.4-mile Grand Prix circuit has been somewhat of a nemesis for the Kawasaki rider in recent years. While he’s taken victory on the Indy circuit twice in the last three years, the last time Haslam won on the Grand Prix layout was with Airwaves Ducati in 2006.
That’s not to say the series leader can’t take the top step this weekend – he’d never won at Snetterton before he stormed to the double just one month ago.
However, with Brands followed by Thruxton, another track where Haslam has been known to struggle, the next two weekends could be vital for anyone looking to take the fight to him. While the Showdown closes things up in the final few rounds, more victories for Haslam will see him build a comfortable buffer in podium points, so if anyone is to mount a challenge they need to eat into that lead over the next few rounds.
Jake Dixon has been on the podium in the last six races as his 2018 campaign builds momentum. A victory – that could have been two – at Knockhill shows he’s got what it takes to challenge Haslam, but the young gun is another to have struggled on the Brands GP layout and hasn’t even stood on the podium there before.
A lot of eyes will turn to Josh Brookes, who despite a tough weekend at Knockhill, enjoyed his best result of the year at Snetterton as he pushed Haslam for victory.
It’s important to remember that in Brookes’ 2015 title-winning year, he didn’t stand on the top step until the Brands Hatch GP round in July. From there he went on to win six successive races and storm to the crown. 12 months ago, Brookes crashed out of second while chasing down Shane Byrne for the lead with lap record pace.
Local man and Brands Hatch GP specialist Shane Byrne will be absent from proceedings this weekend, but the home crowd will still have someone to cheer for in the shape of curly-haired kid Brad Ray. The Buildbase Suzuki rider hasn’t stood on the podium since race one at Brands Indy, so will be keen to get back on track at his home circuit this weekend.
In the absence of Byrne, Glenn Irwin will lead Ducati’s charge. The Panigale is notoriously strong around the fast, flowing Brands GP layout and after exhausting everything for two fourths at Knockhill, he’ll be determined to return to the sharp end this weekend.
After two podiums in Scotland, Danny Buchan will be looking to maintain his top six championship position at Brands – a circuit he’s claimed suits him much better than the scratchy 1.3-mile Knockhill. Should the FS-3 Racing Kawasaki team continue to take giant strides forward, there’s no reason Buchan can’t be in the mix.
After a dismal few rounds for the Honda Racing and Tyco BMW squads, their respective duos of Dan Linfoot and Jason O’Halloran and Michael Laverty and Christian Iddon, who have all enjoyed podium success at Brands GP, will be keen to salvage something from their 2018 campaigns as the series reaches the half way point.