THE GAME OF 'WHO'S GOING WHERE?' IS AN ANNUAL EVENT IN THE BRITISH SUPERBIKE PADDOCK AND EVERYONE HAS A THEORY, A RUMOUR, OR A WILD STAB IN THE DARK...
Silly season strikes again and this year it’s sillier than ever. But we say that every year, right? The only confirmed seat in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship for 2022 is the recent re-signing (not resigning, as that’s a whole different ball game) of Tommy Bridewell with Oxford Products Moto Rapido Ducati for their fourth full season together. After Bridewell’s heroics in the Showdown phase at Oulton Park, it comes as no surprise that he and the team seem to be the perfect fit; a one-rider team geared up around the former R6 Cup contender and within it, the ability to get the best out of the Wiltshire native is the perfect storm for 2022.
There are many rumours around the paddock and social media that Tom Sykes, Jake Dixon AND Leon Haslam will be making a return to the BSB paddock. To have all three return to the paddock will take deep pockets from the teams who take them on so it’s improbable but not impossible, as ever-stronger rumours are placing at least two of those riders back in the paddock. It’s more likely Dixon will stay in the Grand Prix paddock as with no Brit in MotoGP currently, Dixon is our great hope for the next couple of seasons to make it into the highest echelon of motorcycle racing.
The key piece in all of the silly season rumours could well be Tarran Mackenzie, as the Championship leader chases a ride in the World Superbike Championship with tv pundits placing him at the Go-Eleven team, should they switch manufacturer to Yamaha from Ducati for 2022. There are also rumours building that Toprak could move to MotoGP after all – which could also blead to an option for Mackenzie at GRT Yamaha WorldSBK team as Rookie of the Year, Andrea Locatelli, will likely be in pole position to take the factory ride if Toprak moves on, while Kohta Nozane was recently confirmed to remain with the team for 2022. The fourth seat as team mate to Andrea Dovizioso at Yamaha in MotoGP is still available and, while looking increasingly unlikely that it will be Jake Dixon, the smart money seems to be on the WorldSBK championship leader. What a coup for Yamaha to have (potentially, at this point) their British and World Superbike Champions move up a level at the end of the season.
Both Christian Iddon and Josh Brookes have had inconsistent seasons and the chance of Paul Bird losing out on the Championship this season could see the Cumbrian make sweeping changes to his line-up. The Showdown has saved Christian Iddon’s season after the Derbyshire Geordie fell behind regular season dominator, Jason O’Halloran, but now sitting just 15 points behind title leader Mackenzie and 5 behind the O’Show, there is still strong hope that the former Supermoto king can wrestle the title from the English Scotsman’s grasp. Josh Brookes has been resurgent since race three at Donington Park back in the summer and but for two unfortunate DNFs at Donington Park last weekend, could have been firmly in the title fight at Brands Hatch this weekend.
As for the other Silly Season rumours, it all seems a little quiet as the pieces need to fall into place at the top of the pile before the rest can adjust themselves accordingly. There are more questions than answers further down pit lane although it could well be that more line-ups remain the same than change, which would be a positive for the riders to retain some continuity over two seasons rather than hedging their bets on another rider or two and also where do they go to ‘better’ themselves, for want of a better word? SYNETIQ BMW have seen success with Danny Buchan while Andrew Irwin has only had fleeting glimpses of what he’s capable of this season so another year on the BMW wouldn’t go amiss and as the package improves, so will Irwin, while fellow BMW campaigners RICH Energy OMG Racing can do worse than to hold on to Kyle Ryde and Bradley Ray for 2022.
With a host of talent outside of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship chomping at the bit to get their maiden chance (or redemption, if you consider Luke Mossey or Jack Kennedy, for example) it also adds more intrigue to this most intriguing time of the year. With the likes of Brandon Paasch knocking on the door from Supersport along with Brad Perie, the aforementioned Kennedy and newly crowned British GP2 Champion, Charlie Nesbitt as well all eager to make their mark in the big class, we can also always look further afield to Junior Superstock to the championship leader, Jack Nixon, who already looks like he has the style to step up to a big bike, if he has the chance.
It's fair to presume that, should Tom Neave win the Pirelli National Superstock Championship, he will have deservedly earned the right to a superbike ride with Honda for 2022
What is abundantly clear is that it appears that more riders than ever are looking for a superbike ride, which is credit to them and their teams for their development within the sport. British Superbikes has had a fairly high average age for a number of seasons now, however the trend is heading downwards and long may that continue.
The one point we haven’t covered is manufacturer choice. Will there be a slew of manufacturer changes rather than rider changes for next season as teams look to chase down the factory teams? Once again, time will tell.