BSB season Preview
Shane Byrne lifted his 6th BSB championship in 2016 it was a close fought battle between him and Leon Haslam that came down to the final race weekend, 2017 is shaping up to be as good if not better than 2016 with as deep a rider line up as has been seen in the UK. In this post I will be looking through the main title contenders and top teams in the championship.
Bewesier PBM Ducati:
The Paul Bird run team is the gold standard currently in the BSB paddock helping Shane Byrne to the title last year they are arguably one of the most successful teams to have ever competed in the British Championship, A return to Ducati machinery last year was seen as a risk by most after they had such a successful time with Kawasaki winning championships with the Japanese manufacturer, But the team adapted quickly and as the Ducati developed throughout the season they got stronger and stronger now with a year under their belts they are the sure favourites for glory again this season. The rider line up remains the same with the most successful BSB rider Shane Byrne returning to defend his title joining him after a very strong rookie season is Northern Irish man Glenn Irwin who will be looking to join Byrne in challenging for a title this year.
JG Speedfit Kawasaki:
After GB Moto racing decided at the end of last year to step away from racing the mantle for the official Kawasaki team in BSB was up for grabs, Bournemouth Kawasaki stepped up to fill that role as they already had a good relationship with Kawasaki. Running with up and coming superstar Luke Mossey in 2016 the team had a very strong season getting Mossey into the final six showdown with him finishing in 6th place overall. The team take over the JG Speedfit sponsorship that had a been with the GB Moto Racing team in 2016 as well as bringing Leon Haslam onboard to join Mossey in 2017 the team has a great mix of youth and experience that should make them a formidable team in this years championship.
Honda made their full time return to the championship in 2015 and have got stronger each year since, The team was using the old Honda Fireblade last year and somehow found performance to compete with the much newer machinery of the Ducatis, Kawasakis and BMWs. 2017 sees the team keep the same rider line up they have had since 2015 with Jason O’Halloran and Dan Linfoot both remaining with the team both rider had career years in 2016 and will look to build on that, They also get the brand new Fireblade that they hope will give them the edge over the other teams for the championship.
The Tyco BMW team did not have a great year on the short circuits by their high standards, They started the year off well with Christian Iddon scoring podiums consistently and even leading the championship early on, Michael Laverty scored a win at the opening round of the championship but things went south for the team after the NW200/Isle of Man TT break with Iddon struggling with injuries and Laverty with his form. Iddon finished the year strong with some good finishes at the final few rounds but Laverty never found his way back to the early season form he had. The rider line up for 2017 has been given a slight shake up Christian Iddon remains with the team his riding before and after recovering from his injury enough to prove he was worth a seat, Joining him in the team is former WSBK rider Davide Giugliano the Italian makes his debut in BSB in 2017 known for his fast and aggressive riding style the Italian could well be a fan favourite or a villain but with certainly bring entertainment when he is on the track.
Lee Hardy Racing:
Lee Hardy Racing had a less than Successful year in BSB, Starting the season out with a lone rider in NW200 legend Alistair Seeley the Northern Irish man seem to struggle to get to grip with the BMW and never found the sort of form everyone expected from him. The team added Jake Dixon part way through the season and he instantly made an impact showing real pace form the off a few big accidents scuppered his season but he had shown enough to warrant the team giving him a contract in 2017. This year the team have made the switch to Kawasaki machinery after a couple of successful years with BMW this is a big change for the team.
A brand new team set up in 2016 the FS3 squad bought the ex BSB championship winning bikes from Paul Bird they also picked up former BSS champion Billy McConnell after his split from Anvil Tag Yamaha before the season. The team hit some teething problems throughout the year struggling for pace but showed flashes of pace they will be hoping to carry this on with Billy in 2017.
Anvil Tag Hire:
The Anvil tag Hire team struggled in 2016 they had a team of James Risploi and Shaun Winfield both riders look a little out of their depth in BSB neither showing near the pace that was expected, Risploi had a couple of big accidents and never showed the pace that was promised from his time in BSS. 2017 will be a massive year for the team Winfield remains with the squad but the big addition is 2015 BSB champion Josh Brookes with the signing of Brookes the Anvil tag Hire squad instantly shot themselves in the title picture.
Moto Rapido Ducati:
Moto Rapido had high hopes heading into 2016, they had a year of development with the Ducati Panigale they had signed Danny Buchan a young fast rider but unfortunately for both parties the season did not turn out as they had hoped, Buchan struggled to adapt to the bike and in turn struggled for results he left the team during the season being replaced by Stuart Easton who also struggled jumping onto a brand new bike ¾ of the way through the season. 2017 sees the team stay with Ducati Machinery with a bit of factory support as well as that they are rejoined by John Hopkins who they had such a good time with in 2015.
The Keith Flint racing team has decided to make the step up to the big class after many successful years competing in the Supersport championship, They are the official Yamaha team in BSB replacing the now de-funked Tommy Hill team from last year. The team has signed two BSB veterans for their 2017 campaign James Ellison and Michael Laverty join the squad bringing so much experience and talent to the team.
Hawk racing run by Stuart Hicken will take up the mantle of the official Suzuki team replacing Halsall racing, In 2016 the team continued its long time partnership with BMW having a solid year in the BSB championship and taking Taylor MacKenzie to a Superstock title. Just like the bike they will be using the rider line up is all change for the team MacKenzie makes the step up to the Superbike and joining him is former WSBK champion Sylvain Guintoli the French man makes his return to the championship for the first time since 2009. Joining MacKenzie and Guintoli making his BSB debut will be Supersport star Bradley Ray the young English man was stand out in the Supersport class last season on many occasions winning races comfortably in front of eventual champion Taz MacKenzie.
The team suffered all sorts of misfortune in 2016 from rider injuries to bike issues, They were often seen at the back of the grid making up the numbers but on the rare occasions when they had fully fit riders they showed glimpses of the team they are known to be from their championship wins in BSS. The team has changed their rider line up completely bringing in Tommy Bridewell in hope thats he can bring some stability and the result they so desperately want in 2017.
Smith racing like many others struggled in 2016 not getting the results that they felt they deserved through rider error or bike malfunction 2016 was a year to forget for the team. They brought former WSBK rider Jakub Smrz into the team in hope he could bring them results but he struggled early on in the year and suffered a bad injury, The team then brought in former BSB champion Ryuichi Kiyonari who had been dropped by Halsall Racing but not even he could turn their season around. For 2017 the team has decided to run a two man set up bringing in Peter Hickman for BSB and also for the international roads season he is joined by Lee Jackson a former Superstock champion still learning his trade in the sport.
Those are the main teams in BSB in 2017 James Westmoreland, Jakub Smrz, Martin Jessop and Aaron Zanotti will also be involved in the championship this year Jessop and Zanotti remain with their teams from last season while Smrz joins the PR racing squad who will be running BMWs. Westmoreland re joins the Superbike championship joining with the Gear Link Kawasaki squad.
A few shots from the pre season test held at a wet and cold Donington Park very kindly given to me by @SamScott2271 give him a follow for more through the season as well as British Touring cars.