Silverstone will play host to a crucial round of the 2018 Bennetts British Superbike Championship this weekend as the all-important ‘Showdown Six’ are decided ahead of the three-round title fight.
Series leader Leon Haslam and rival Jake Dixon have already secured their spots in the ‘Showdown’, which kicks off next week at Oulton Park, but the remaining four places are up for grabs over this weekend’s triple header.
Be Wiser Ducati’s Glenn Irwin currently holds third in the title chase and, barring disaster, should be safe for a Showdown spot with a good buffer to sixth place. The Ulsterman bagged his debut BSB win at Silverstone last year in mixed conditions, but is yet to win a race in 2018, much to the dismay of team boss Paul Bird. Having taken positive steps in recovering from the shoulder injury that plagued him at Cadwell Park, Irwin is confident of returning to the sharp end this weekend and will no doubt be keen to hand bird the team’s first win since Shane Byrne stood on the top step at Brands Hatch back in April.
Aside from series leader Leon Haslam, there is only one rider on the grid who has won more than one race this year and that second rider currently sits fourth in the championship.
Having done the double at Brands Hatch in July before going on to win again at Thruxton, Josh Brookes looked set to launch a mid-season title attack just like he had in 2015. However, a miserable round at Cadwell Park saw the Aussie drop behind Irwin in the championship standings.
Silverstone has long been one of Brookes’ most successful circuits, but the switch from the 3.6 mile Grand Prix circuit to the 1.6-mile national circuit, could thwart the Aussie this weekend. Nevertheless, his Showdown chances look fairly strong with a 48-point buffer to Hickman in sixth place.
After a disappointing mid-season, Buildbase Suzuki’s Bradley Ray had begun to look in doubt for the Showdown, but a return to the rostrum in both races at Cadwell Park salvaged the young gun’s title tilt. Now 33 points clear of Hickman, a solid point-scoring weekend should be enough for the 21-year-old.
Currently occupying the crucial final Showdown spot is Peter Hickman, who by his standards has had a somewhat tough year. Two podiums at Thruxton were a highlight for the Smiths BMW rider as he continues to struggle to get to grips with Pirelli’s new rear tyre. However, while his results have not been spectacular (with the exception of Thruxton after a night in hospital with a kidney infection), consistency has paid off, but with just seven points between the Lincolnshireman and FS-3 Racing’s Danny Buchan it is all to play for this weekend.
Buchan dropped out of the top six after making his first mistake of the year at Cadwell Park, but matters weren’t helped for the lanky double Superstock champion with two DNFs at Thruxton through no fault of his own or the team. Our guess is it’ll be a close battle between Buchan and Hickman for the final Showdown spot…
Tyco BMW’s Christian Iddon is another rider to have had a disappointing season so far this year. Despite having failed to stand on the rostrum over the first eight rounds, Iddon sits just 15 points outside the top six ahead of this weekend’s three races.
32-points off a Showdown spot, Honda’s Jason O’Halloran could be a long shot for the top six. Having spent most of the year recovering from injury, O’Halloran has yet to show a return to the front-running form we saw earlier this year but seems to be improving weekend by weekend…
Anything can happen over three races at Silverstone, especially with rain currently forecast for Saturday’s opening encounter – but that’s not expected to cause the level of problems it caused at the British Grand Prix given the organisers’ decision to switch to the national circuit, which removes some the sections worst-affected by standing water at the Grand Prix.