SUPPORT CLASS RACING IS SOME OF THE MOST FIERCELY CONTESTED RACING OF A BSB WEEKEND AND THIS SEASON IT WAS NO DIFFERENT!
Support class racing at BSB is arguably at its highest level in several years. With the British GP2 title, Ducati Performance TriOptions Cup already decided in the shape of Charlie Nesbitt and Josh Day, the Honda British Talent Cup wrapping up their season at Donington Park, and nobody besting the Birchalls in Sidecar racing meant the spotlight fell on the British Supersport, British Junior Supersport, National Superstock, and Junior Superstock title battles. A proving ground for young (and old!) riders alike, the support paddock is awash with some outstanding talent who are looking to make their way in the sport. Not all will, that’s a given, but there are some who in years to come will be BSB riders or beyond. How far beyond is another story for another time, though.
I’ll leave what I thought was the best battle until last.
British Junior Supersport is affordable racing with machines that are incredibly closely matched. Often the racing is watched through fingers or behind the cushions as race craft and bravery in equal measure (well, occasionally it balances out and bravery can be described many different ways…) makes for some incredible action amongst the teens and not-so-teens of the class. Despite a tricky last four races, his early-season domination saw Cameron Dawson take the crown by just ten points from Ash Barnes who in turn held on to the second spot despite Aidon Davy doing all he could to close the gap.
The Honda British Talent Cup is chock-full of the youngest talent in British Racing. Again, as I said above, how young is too young is yet another story for another day. Before the season started it looked like it would be a battle between the RS Racing City Lifting trio of Evan Belford, Carter Brown, Jonny Garness, and the Cresswell Microlise starlet, Casey O’Gorman. Throw Northern Irishman, Jamie Lyons into the mix and you have a heady cocktail of young racers eager to make their mark on the sport.
The season began on the Road to MotoGP but sadly for the competitors, that was to change by the time the second Donington Park round came along at the final BTC round of the season, when Dorna announced that there wouldn't be a Junior Talent Team slot available as there had been in previous seasons for Max Cook, Scott Ogden and Eddie O’Shea (Franco Bourne won the BTC but was overlooked for O’Shea after the season ended). Casey O’Gorman took the title by six points from Carter Brown after a strong season, despite being beset by injury after a huge crash at Knockhill left him hospitalised and missing from five races! No JTC ride for O'Gorman but he has been accepted into the Red Bull Rookies MotoGP Cup for 2022.
Josh Day unsurprisingly ran away with the Ducati Performance TriOptions Cup, the reigning champion again showing his domination in the class. Honourable mentions go to the old boys, Chris Walker and John McGuinness, who put on some sterling battles over the season – none more so than at Brands Hatch in the summer when the pair went head-to-head for the race win, Stalker taking the spoils that day. David Shoubridge, Elliot Pinson, and Craig Neve were others doing their best to keep Day as honest as possible, the tall Lincolnshire man balanced both the Ducati Cup and the Pirelli National Superstock Championship across most weekends in his quest for track time before the Roads season returns in 2022.
The Pirelli National Superstock Championship was once again one of the stand-out race series of the season. The battle between Alex Olsen, Billy McConnell, and eventual champion, Tom Neave. It was a see-saw fight through the early season as McConnell’s consistency stood him on top of the standings before Neave’s consistency of six podiums in seven races, including a hattrick of wins, cemented his place at the top and was never headed after the teams left Cadwell Park. It was great to see Alex Olsen take a win at home at Brands Hatch after all he’s been through after his huge crash at Silverstone in 2019.
The championship went down to the wire, but only just… A 22-point lead going into the final race of the season meant Tom Neave could approach the weekend calmly and confidently while McConnell and Olsen HAD to win to stand any chance of winning the championship; what ‘could’ happen behind them was out of their control and maximum points were all they could ride for. It was McConnell who took his first win of the season in the final race of a fabulous season for the litre superstock bikes, a big weight off the Aussie's shoulder who was desperate not to go a season without a win – something he’d never done outside of the Superbike class – to repay his team for all their efforts and his pride in a job well done. Second in the title hunt for McConnell and Olsen a deserved third brought the curtain down on a great season for the National Superstock grid.
British Supersport racing has had somewhat of a renaissance this season as both Yamaha and Kawasaki battled for top honours and the GP2 machines made more than a nuisance of themselves into the bargain. The battle for the Supersport crown came down to four riders, multiple champion Jack Kennedy, Brad Perie, Ben Currie, and a resurgent Lee Johnston. Perie had the early season form on the Appleyard macadam machine before Kennedy got into his stride on his DB Racing Bournemouth Kawasaki. Three DNFs in the last six races scuppered any hope Perie had of lifting the title, however his talent, like the rest of the top four, is not in doubt.
Ben Currie was the model of consistency, just one DNF all seasons, crucially in race one at the final Donington Park round that gave Kennedy the advantage he needed. It turned into what was a pivotal round for the Supersport championship as both Johnston and Perie crashed out of race two as Kennedy kept his head while all around were losing theirs. Defending a 34-point lead going into the final two races of the season, Kennedy wrapped up the title in emphatic style, winning Saturday’s sprint race to wear the middleweight crown once again. Ben Currie finally ended his season-long wait to stand on the top step as he took the flag in race two, a hair's breadth from a charging Kennedy.
The GP2 class in 2021 was dominated by Charlie Nesbitt. The former Motostar Champion was in scintillating form all year and, despite injuring his hand and finger at Oulton Park in September in what was his only DNF, lifted the crown to cap off an incredible season. Fourteen wins and seven second places from twenty-two races is an outstanding return aboard the RS Racing Kovara Projects machine with the highlight of the season coming at Thruxton when Nesbitt won a Supersport race outright for the first time in his career. Honourable mentions must go to Mason Law, Cameron Horseman and Dan Jones who all contributed to podium finishes across the season but had no answer to Nesbitt’s dominance.
And so to the final summary, and Junior Superstock. Before the season it was clear that four names stood out in the class for 2021 in the shape of Jack Nixon, Joe Talbot, Zac Corderoy and George Stanley. Nixon made the early running as two faultless rides at the opening round sent early shots across the bows of his near rivals. Six podiums in the first six races, including three wins, gave the Kent rider a points advantage going into Thruxton. A rare mistake from the Santander Salt Yamaha rider gave the chasing pack a lifeline as Corderoy took the win ahead of Stanley and Delves.
Making his own way and keeping out of trouble was Joe Talbot. The JR Performance rider was a model of consistency in 2020 and continued that theme throughout 2021, finishing every race in the points and no lower than fourth all year while others made mistakes and dropped points. Taking his maiden win at Brands Hatch then backing that up at Cadwell Park, Talbot was a bone-fide championship contender. The title battle between Nixon and Talbot was coming to the boil and boil over it eventually did at Oulton Park in September as the pair clashed in the opening race in Cheshire. Nixon clashed with Talbot into Shell on the final lap before Talbot retaliated, with less contact, through Knickerbrook. All eyes were on Lodge for the final time as the pair outbraked one another as deep as they dare, Nixon coming out on top as Talbot had a huge slide as he asked for the power too soon. A breathless finish.
In a strange quirk of fate, a mechanical DNF for Nixon in the penultimate race at Brands Hatch led the pair to be level on points going to the final race, a poetic end to an incredible season. In one of the races of the season the pair not only had to contend with each other but both McManus and Durham, too! Corderoy checked out at the front leaving the three Kawasakis and the Yamaha to squabble amongst themselves. A pulsating final lap saw Nixon win the dash to the line from Durham by just 0.043 from Talbot just 0.146, just two agonising tenths of a second from his maiden championship. Nixon it was that took the title after a stunning season by all. Max Cook took the Rookie of the Year title just ahead of former BTC champ, Franco Bourne and former Junior Supersport champion, Owen Jenner.
What a season for the support classes. It really is the breeding ground for future talent and with names like Neave, Perie, Currie, Nesbitt, Jones, Nixon, and Talbot etc all proving their worth, they inspire the next lot of champions in the shape of Rhys Irwin, Caolan Irwin, Eunan McGlinchey, Max Cook, Franco Bourne and Owen Jenner to name but a few.
The future of British racing is bright.