BSB 2012; Mystic Mac investigatesTue, 03 Jan 2012
In my opinion, the smartest move in the BSB off season has to be Michael Laverty moving from Swan Yamaha to HM Plant Honda. With a ban on electronics for 2012, and in particular traction control, WFR's Graham Gowland has already proved to Laverty how competitive an EVO spec Fireblade can be - so I’m tipping both these riders to be bang on the money at the Brands Hatch season opener in April.
Unlike BMW, Kawasaki and Yamaha, Honda have deliberately developed their road-going Superbike without electronics to give a user friendly feel with good mechanical traction, so it’ll be interesting to see how the opposition copes with their high-tech trickery stripped off.
If it comes to finance and resources then surely Paul Bird’s Kawasaki team (PBM) has the best chance of giving the ZX10RR its first ever BSB title. I know Shane Byrne is desperate to add a Mackenzie equalling third championship trophy to his collection and, as I know his fitness, determination and talent aren't in question, I’m looking forward to seeing the big Kwacker pushed to the limit.
As Laverty and Gowland will be solidly backed up by respective team mates John Kirkham, James Westmoreland and Alex Lowes, I hope it won’t be too long before we also see Shakey’s partner, Stuart Easton back up on the box.
Another high profile team in green is PR Kawasaki with the experienced and hard charging duo of Gary Mason and Simon Andrews at the controls. Gary had a brief flurry with a 2012 Evo spec ZX-10RR late in 2011 but unfortunately without any great success. Simon has also proved in the past that he is as good as any rider on his day, however, after being involved in one of the most spectacular crashes in BSB history last year at Snetterton, I’d say he won’t start the season fully fit.
Ironically, one of the last riders to sign up for the new season is the incredible Tommy Hill. After his amazing 2011 season no one can argue that Tommy’s talent deserves to be in the World Superbike Championship. Bad timing or bad luck means that we luck out and can enjoy the exciting prospect of seeing Tommy defend his title on a bike (I’m told by my sources at Yamaha) that will be every bit as competitive in Evo spec.
His new team mate, TT legend Ian Hutchinson is no stranger to going fast on a superbike on short circuits but I can’t help thinking his season will mostly be about recovery and delivering a solid IOM TT.
It may have taken the best part of the year but Josh Brookes was arguably the strongest rider at the closing rounds of the 2011 BSB season. From the outside it seemed to take a while for Josh to gel with both the Relentless by TAS Suzuki team and the GSXR 1000 but better late than never.
We know this season’s newly branded Tyco Suzuki will make big power but the all important delivery to the tarmac will determine whether Brookes can challenge for more race wins. I’m really pleased his team mate and 2011 BSS champ Alastair Seeley is hopping back up to the superbike class, as he was truly awesome when he rode both the R1 and GSXR in the back to basics Superstock 1000 class.
BMW have a new S1000RR for 2012 and might just be the dark horse as they have refined an already brilliant machine with a claimed 'smoother power delivery'. Buildbase BMW will field 2011 3rd place Evo Championship finisher Barry Burrell and a man that seemed to ride for everyone in 2011, the rapid all rounder Dan Linfoot. BMW UK is behind this team so hopefully some feedback might be forthcoming from the multimillion dollar Haslam/Melandri WSB effort.
MSS Kawasaki, Splitlath Redmond Aprilia, Pr1mo Kawasaki, GB Moto and a number of other Elite teams are still in the process of finalising their plans so I look forward to the grid filling up in the coming months and updating everyone's progress when testing begins.
By Niall Mackenzie
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