The MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship was celebrating its twentieth anniversary when it got underway in 2016 and it was only fitting that one of Britain’s biggest motorsport series started its anniversary at the home of British Motorsport, on the 9th and 10th April, at Silverstone. Housing an incredible line up of some of the top International riders on the planet, at times on par with the World Series, eleven previous race winners and a further six podium finishes would contest the opening round on six different manufactures. Standing out as one of the favourite manufactures to take the crown after a strong 2015 had to be Yamaha, but rather than it being Milwaukee Yamaha, who had departed to World Superbikes, it was Tommy Hill’s brand new ePayMe team, with American John Hopkins leading his former rivals team, along with Scotland’s Stuart Easton, who had switched from Paul Bird Motorsport. In terms of Easton’s former team, 2015 runner up and four times BSB Champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne was back for another season with PBM and looking for the another title, whilst he would be partnered by Supersport sensation Glenn Irwin. Rather than being on the trusty Kawasaki that rewarded Shakey with his third and fourth BSB title, the squad had switched to Ducati machinery over the winter and were leading the British campaign for the Italian manufacture. With PBM ending ties with Kawasaki, the leading team on the Japanese manufacture’s Ninja were previous title challengers JG Speedfit, continuing with showdown specialist James Ellison, but this year the team would also be running a Kawasaki for Peter Hickman and the ‘Pocket Rocket’ himself Leon Haslam. For Haslam, 2016 could be a title winning year as the former BSB runner up made a much-anticipated return to the British Champion after years competing on the world stage with various teams, such as Honda and Aprilia. With plenty of title contenders looking to put their hands on the crown, the second most successful BSB Champion in the history, Ryuichi Kiyonari, had switched teams after a difficult 2015 with Buildbase BMW and now lined up on the Bennetts Suzuki, alongside Tommy Bridewell. For Bridewell, the former showdown contender in previous seasons had departed from Tyco BMW and replaced Christian Iddon, who went the other way and joined Tyco BMW alongside Michael Laverty. The second BMW team have a slightly unchanged line up from 2015, as their other two riders from that season Richard Cooper and Lee Jackson remain, whilst Honda are also back with an unchanged line up containing injury free Dan Linfoot and Jason O’Halloran, alongside the fastest women on the planet; Jenny Tinmouth. Following on from their rookie seasons in BSB, 2014 Superstock Champion Danny Buchan is back, but this time with Ducati and Luke Mossey has kept with Quattro Plant Kawasaki after impressing with top ten finishes after stepping up from Supersport. With so many riders on the grid for the 2016 season, the opening round was going to throw up plenty of thrills and spills and set the twentieth season off in style.
“Pocket Rocket” Rockets to Pole on BSB Return
Qualifying for the 2016 season was meant to switch to a final nine, one lap shootout for the final session of the Datatag Extreme Qualifying however with damp conditions around the Silverstone circuit on Saturday, qualifying reverted to the 2015 system with a final twelve minute session to decide pole. With riders having to adapt to conditions in order to set the fastest time, Tyco BMW’s Christian Iddon emerged the standout rider early on, as the former multiple Supermoto champion enjoyed sliding the rear end of the BMW. Whilst Iddon was demoted to second by Shane “Shakey” Byrne, the BMW rider fought back, before both were defeated by Jason O’Halloran. The Honda rider impressed to go top by the mid-way point and looked on for pole, but it was the “Pocket Rocket” who would grab the first pole of the 2016 BSB season, on his return to the BSB paddock. After settling on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki, Leon Haslam broke into the Two minute, five seconds bracket on more than one occasion, to drop O’Halloran to second and Christian Iddon to third, completing the front row with three different manufactures.
The front three rows of the grid for the opening BSB race of the season would look as follows from Superpole:
- Leon Haslam (No.91 – JG Speedfit Kawasaki) = 2:05.501s
- Jason O’Halloran (No.22 – Honda Racing) = +0.061s
- Christian Iddon (No.24 – Tyco BMW) = +0.226s
- Shane Byrne (No.67 – Be Wiser Ducati) = +0.326s
- Luke Mossey (No.12 – Quattro Plant Teccare Kawasaki) = +0.467s
- Michael Laverty (No.7 – Tyco BMW) = +0.601s
- John Hopkins (No.21 – ePayMe Yamaha) = +0.629s
- James Rispoli (No.71 – Anvil Hire Tag Racing Yamaha) = +1.429s
- Dan Linfoot (No.4 – Honda Racing) = NO TIME
Laverty and Tyco BMW Open 2016 with Victory
The opening race of the 2016 BSB season was certainly going to be unpredictable and with three different manufactures on the front row, the run into the first corner was going to be tense. With Haslam on pole, the “Pocket Rocket” got a great start, but it was Aussie Jason O’Halloran that broke the tow and lead around Stowe. As Haslam pulled ahead through Maggotts and Becketts, the challenge from Haslam for race victory was shorted lived, as he pulled over on lap three with a mechanical failure whilst Michael Laverty held the lead for Tyco BMW.
As Laverty led the two Hondas of Linfoot and O’Halloran, Shane Byrne was making inroads on the brand new Ducati Panigale after starting fourth. With O’Halloran in his sights, the Be Wiser Ducati was into third before you knew it, taking third and looking to challenge Linfoot for second. With Christian Iddon pushing hard for another Tyco BMW to be within the top five and under pressure from a train of riders, pressure was luckily out moments later, as the race ended up losing its second and third retirees. First to go was BSB newcomer James Rispoli, crashing out at Brooklands on the Anvil Hire Tag Racing Yamaha after running well on his debut in the championship. The incident at first looked pretty small; however it would rule him out of race two with a broken finger needing surgery. The second to retire within minutes of Rispoli was another JG Speedfit Kawasaki, as Peter Hickman came to mechanical woes after running fifth and looking the quickest on track.
As the race reached its closing stages, the race was on for the win and podium positions, as Michael Laverty came under pressure from the Ducati of Shane Byrne for first and Linfoot had to defend off Luke Mossey and Christian Iddon. With Byrne pilling on the pressure, Laverty resisted and recorded his first win of the season and backed up performances from testing for the Tyco BMW team. With Byrne recording PBM Ducati’s first podium since switching from Kawasaki, the battle for the final podium spot was intense. As Luke Mossey held third going into the final lap, the two Hondas lost ground and battled one another, whilst Iddon increased the pressure. Mossey looked to had done enough early on, however Iddon made a move at Copse and defended to record his first podium in BSB and his first for the Tyco BMW team since switching from Suzuki over the winter.
With Mossey recording fourth for Quattro Plant Teccare Kawasaki ahead of Dan Linfoot and Jason O’Halloran, Danny Buchan came home in seventh for the Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati team, ahead of Lee Jackson (Buildbase BMW), John Hopkins on the new ePayMe Yamaha and lastly Tommy Bridewell on the Bennetts Suzuki, who rounded out the top ten.
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship (BSB) – Race One Top Five Classification:
- Michael Laverty (No.7 – Tyco BMW) = 14 Laps
- Shane Byrne (No.67 – Be Wiser Ducati) = +0.550s
- Christian Iddon (No.24 – Tyco BMW) = +1.394s
- Luke Mossey (No.12 – Quattro Plant Teccare Kawasaki) = +1.560s
- Dan Linfoot (No.4 – Honda Racing) = +4.155s
Hickman Holds of Byrne for Victory
For the second and final race of the opening weekend, the fastest time from race one gave Dan Linfoot pole position, with Shane Byrne alongside and Peter Hickman in third to complete row one. Linfoot was hoping for a strong start, but as the Honda wheelied away from the line, Peter Hickman pulled into an early lead, joined at the front by race one winner Michael Laverty. Driving on from row two on the grid, Laverty pushed Linfoot into the clutches of team mate O’Halloran, whilst Byrne got swallowed up and ran alongside Danny Buchan, in a race of the Ducatis.
As Laverty hit the front on the Tyco BMW and was pushing on a for a double at Silverstone, an issue seem to effect Laverty’s riding and Peter Hickman returned to the front on the sixth lap. The issue seemed to continue to effect the Tyco BMW rider and when Laverty pulled his helmet visor tear off whilst going around Club corner; he lost momentum and a ton of positions, dropping out of the fight for victory. Laverty dropping away handed Shane Byrne second and he was on a quest to challenge Hickman.
With Byrne shadowing Hickman in the second half of the race, the multiple champion had to cautious of the riders behind, as the second Tyco BMW of Christian Iddon was closing in. With Jason O’Halloran doing battle with Leon Haslam over third place and constantly switching places, Iddon closed in on the two and dispatched them with ease. As the two continued to fight for fourth, with O’Halloran getting the better of Haslam at the flag, Iddon pulled nearer and nearer to the Ducati of Byrne, but wasn’t able to mount a challenge as the laps ticked down and settled for yet another podium on his Tyco BMW debut, whilst Laverty would come home sixth, with Lee Jackson securing another top ten in seventh and a recovering James Ellison eighth, with the former MotoGP rider having a weekend to forgot on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki, with the weekend ruined after a crash in qualifying session one.
Back at the front, the final two laps saw a superb tussle between Peter Hickman and Shane Byrne, as the two were covered by a tenth of a second for most of the duration. With Shakey losing opportunities on the final lap to move ahead, Hickman was lined up down the Wellington Straight and Shakey went to pass. With Hickman running wide and creating an opportunity, Byrne made his move stick but the fightback was on the cards. As Shakey led through Luffield, the Ducati nearly got away from him and a dramatic 130mph slide allowed Hickman to slip back inside on the run to the line around Woodcote corner. As the flag waved, Hickman had taken the victory for the JG Speedfit Kawasaki squad by 0.099s, setting off the celebrations in the team’s garage.
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship (BSB) – Race Two Top Five Classification:
- Peter Hickman (No.60 – JG Speedfit Kawasaki) = 14 Laps
- Shane Byrne (No.67 – Be Wiser Ducati) = +0.099s
- Christian Iddon (No.24 – Tyco BMW) = +1.005s
- Jason O’Halloran (No.22 – Honda Racing) = +1.395s
- Leon Haslam (No.91 – JG Speedfit Kawasaki) = +3.142s
The second round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship will see the championship move north over the May day Bank Holiday, as Cheshire’s Oulton Park will host the next two races on the 30th April to the 2nd May, with four times BSB champion Shane “Shakey” Byrne leading the way for the Be Wiser Ducati team on forty points. Even though Shakey never recorded a win on the opening round of the championship, the multiple champion showed how consistent he can be even when pushing for victories. Getting his title campaign off to the best possible start was always Shakey’s plan, however race one winner Michael Laverty will be hot on his heels at Oulton Park and sat only five points adrift, after backing up his race win with sixth in race two. Tyco BMW currently have two title challengers after the first round, with Christian Iddon third in the standings on thirty-two points and has proved he will be a race winner in 2016 with the speed he is carrying on the BMW.
With the BSB getting off to a thrilling start at Silverstone, the twentieth anniversary of the championship will certainly be one not to forget.
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship (BSB) –Top Five Classification:
- Shane Byrne (No.67 – Be Wiser Ducati) = 40 Pts.
- Michael Laverty (No.7 – Tyco BMW) = 35 Pts.
- Christian Iddon (No.24 – Tyco BMW) = 32 Pts.
- Peter Hickman (No.60 – JG Speedfit Kawasaki) = 25 Pts.
- Jason O’Halloran (No.22 – Honda Racing) = 23 Pts.
To keep up to date with the 2016 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship and how the championship progresses, please check out http://www.britishsuperbike.com/
To see plenty more photos of ours from the action at Silverstone, please click here.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs for Collierhousehold Motorsport.