Riders of 2014 MCE BSB...so far
As the 2014 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship draws ever closer I thought it was about time we had a look at the riders that have signed to teams so far. We've got 23 riders and 14 teams already so the grid is looking good, old faces, new faces, returning heroes, the season is shaping up to be a blinder. Here's my lowdown on this years stars...
Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki
Shane 'Shakey' Byrne #67
It was never in doubt really that the 3 times champion and winner of the most MCE BSB races ever would return for another year. He's a happy family man with a wealth of experience, serious pace and a bike underneath him that he knows like the back of his hand. He was the man to beat last year and dominated in the early rounds, Alex Lowes was really his only rival by the end. I can't see anything changing for this year, I expect he'll only get better; it will be down to the other riders to step up and challenge him otherwise that illusive 4th title could well be his.
Stuart Easton #5
The reigning Supersport champion moves up to the top flight once again this year to challenge for the title and prove critics wrong. The Scottish rider has raced in the MCE BSB before with his best season back in '09 finishing 3rd overall. Other years were not so good and he struggled to make a mark on the larger machines. After a year back in Supersport where he battled with Seeley for the title, Easton returns to the bigger bikes hoping to ruffle some features. With his pace, experience and the Rapid's machinery underneath him he should definitely be at the sharp end.
John Hopkins #21
One of the biggest names to be returning to the series is American GP racer John Hopkins. He'll be racing on his preferred Suzuki machinery gifted to him by Tyco. When GP ace Hopper first appeared on the MCE BSB scene back in 2011 he absolutely blew away the field winning races, podiums and very nearly the title if it wasn't for a certain Mr Tommy Hill. Now he's back and ready to take on the British circuits once again, he's knows them this time too which will be an advantage. If he still has the pace from 2011 then Hopper is definitely in the running for the title.
Josh Waters #12
After his rookie season last year the Australian two time domestic champ returns for more MCE BSB action. He was on a Milwaukee Yamaha last year which he never really clicked with plus he didn't know the tracks. Now he's back on a Suzuki (the bike that took him to the Australian titles) and he has knowledge of the tracks and how the series works. I think he could really challenge this year as long as he gets on with the bike. The battle between him and teammate Hopkins could be very interesting.
Josh Brookes #3
Josh has become one of the fans favourites over his 5 years in MCE BSB. Starting out with Honda in his first two years and then moving to Tyco Suzuki for the last 3, Josh has had mixed success. He hasn't finished out of the top five in the last five championships but has yet to win one. This year he's moved away from a team and bike he knows very well in the hope of finding more competitive machinery. The Yamaha is a completely different bike and Josh is hoping it will give him the winning edge he's been searching for. He's quick, aggressive and never one to be ruled out but once again the field is very competitive so he'll have to get that Yamaha working for him very early on.
Tommy Bridewell #46
Another familiar face around the paddock, Tommy's been involved in MCE BSB for over 5 years and has a wealth of experience for such a young rider. The last two seasons have been his best yet and despite riding for 3 teams last year by the end he really started to show his worth picking up his first podiums. Milwaukee the final team to take him on saw this raw talent and hope to craft him into a rider with winning potential. Tommy's aggression can get him into trouble but nearing the end of the 2013 season he seemed to calm somewhat focussing on getting the right results. If he keeps this level head then Tommy will certainly be fighting for podiums if not wins.
James Ellison #77
Another highly experienced rider from MCE BSB to MotoGP, James has done a bit of everything. He had a very mixed season last year with mechanical failures, crashes and strange circumstances (such as the visor incident) stunting his campaign juxtaposed with 3 wins and a handful of podiums. This year he's moved to GBmoto who have themselves switched manufacturer from Honda to Kawasaki. The Kawasaki is a proven race winner and one of the quickest machines out there so James aboard this new bike should be a force. If he doesn't have the hiccups of last season he'll be battling for the title come the showdown.
Chris 'the stalker' Walker #9
He's been knocking about the MCE BSB paddock for about 20 years now but don't discount this man. He's got a wealth of experience and Kawasaki knowledge like no other. Last season he was running his own bike under Quattro Plant which had its problems with a number of mechanical issues which cost him a showdown spot. Now he's moved to GBmoto with their new Kawasaki deal. Building the bikes from the ground up with the guidance of the Stalker the team should have a great package for him come the season opener. On a good bike on his day the Stalker can still pull out great results. This year his aim is to get to the showdown.
Quattro Plant Kawasaki
Howie Mainwairing #43
Howie's a talented rider who perhaps hasn't had his chance quite yet. He's been a face about the paddock for a number of years running in the Superstocks for 3 years before making the move to the top flight last season. Initially with the doomed MH Kawasaki team he made good progress and got some results considering the issues with the running of the bike. When the team folded he was lucky enough to be picked up by Tsingtao Racing who gave him another ride. Again the team was dogged by issues with the bike but this didn't stop Howie picking up some top ten finishes. Now he's with Quattro Plant and hopefully more reliable machinery which will give him the chance to show off his riding skills and aim for those podiums.
Dan Linfoot #4
Another familiar face Dan's been knocking about for a few years. Last year with GBmoto he spent a lot of time mid table not able to find the pace to keep the Honda at the front. He had a bump with Keith Farmer which turned into a crash in the first race of the season at Brands, this left him with a broken pelvis and unable to race for the next 2 rounds. He returned to Knockhill and went about playing catch up, a number of top ten finishes and solid mid table results were the spoils for the rest of the season. Now he's moved teams and moved bikes to the Kawasaki. As long as the bike is good and there's no injury incidents expect Dan to be fighting in the top ten for sure.
Ryuichi Kiyonari #23
3 times MCE BSB Champion and 'Honda' man Kiyonari is back after what can only be called an off season. Kiyo's return in 2013 got everyone excited, it was the war for four titles between him and Shakey and everyone was excited to see how it played out. But from the off-set it was clear something wasn't right with Kiyo. In the first three rounds he didn't reach the podium and his performances were like he didn't even want it. While his teammate on the other Honda went about winning the series, Kiyo just managed to make the showdown only to miss the lat two rounds through injury. Everyone was disappointed. So this year I was actually surprised to see Kiyo back, he's jumped ship from Honda, the manufacturer he's ridden for his whole career in favour of BMW. With the family run Buildbase team he's hoping to find that winning formula without the pressure of the Honda garage. Also he has been eyeing up the BMW for a while and believes it will suit his riding style, if it does then perhaps the war for four is back on?
James Westmoreland #27
Westy is fast, reliable and a top ten finisher. Last season on the Buildbase BMW he secured his first pole position with a stunning performance when he needed it most, the showdown decider at Donington. Him and teammate John Kirkham battled for the final spot with Westy eventually winning out. He is still let to secure his first podium but with the build from last season and by sticking with Buildbase he's given himself a great platform to do so.
Ian Hutchinson #8
Quite a late signing and formation of a new team here for Ian Hutchinson. The multiple TT and recent Macau winner has been recovering from a terrible injury for the last 3 years. Finally he's back fighting fit but unable to race the TT with his Milwaukee Yamaha team due to new regulations that make the Yamaha's uncompetitive. With no TT to race Hutchy was offered the chance to race in MCE BSB and he jumped at it. He's an incredibly capable rider and knows Yamahas well and also the tracks from his Supersport days. This is the first time he'll be racing short circuit on a Superbike though so it will be interesting to see how he fits into the mix.
Jakub Smrz #96
The Czech rider returns for more MCE BSB action this year but on his preferred Italian machinery. Last year he rode for Padgetts Honda finding his feet with many of the tracks and the intensity that MCE BSB brings. He had an alright season being a constant in the mid table and picking up a 6th at Assen. This year he's back but on a Ducati, a bike he knows from his World Superbike days plus he now knows the tracks. If he keeps it upright he'll certainly be battling for those top ten positions.
Ben Wilson #15
It was way back in 2006 when we last saw Ben Wilson on a superbike; he's been running in Supersport the last 5 years finishing in the top 5 every year. Now he's back in the top flight with a point to prove. Moving with Gearlink Kawasaki he has a tried and tested team behind him and should go well as long as the bike is up to scratch. He's a fast, fearless rider and very capable from his Supersport appearances. Expect him and Easton to clash as I'm sure there's some revenge to be inflicted.
Jon Kirkham #10
Big Jon returns for more MCE BSB action. Moving away from family owned Buildbase BMW he's signed up for a Kawasaki ride with Tsingtao. The Tsingtao team saved Howie Mainwaring last season when he needed a ride and they've decided to carry on their superbike campaign, picking up a top class rider like Jon is great for them. Jon's season last year was mixed with a number of crashes thwarting his campaign, he found himself in an epic battle for the final showdown spot at Donington with teammate James Westmoreland. Jon sadly missed out on the place but went on to win the 7th place trophy. As long as the bike is reliable Jon should be at the sharp end battling for a showdown spot.
Martin Jessopp #40
MCE BSB regular Jessopp returns for yet another year. He had a quiet season last year running solid mid table throughout. He remains with his Riders BMW team and will look to build on last year with the base the team have already created. He will also be taking part in his first Isle of Man TT this year.
TAG Racing Kawasaki
Richard Cooper #47
The 2011 National Superstock champion will be entering his first year in the top flight after two years in Supersport. Last season he was in the top ten every race and this improved as the season went on culminating in a podium and race win in the final round at Brands. His team TAG racing have decided to make the step up with Coops to see what he has got on a full superbike. He'll certainly be finding his feet on his new bike but has good experience and knowledge of the tracks which will be invaluable in this very talented grid.
PR Racing Kawasaki
Keith Farmer #303
Northern Irish mega talent returns to MCE BSB for his second year. Last year was supposed to be more of a fairytale than it turned out to be. Stock 600s then Stock 1000s champ in 2011 and 2012 respectively he was set to cause a real stir in the top flight in 2013. Paul Bird who had been nurturing him was set to take him to the big time, but it was not to be. Keith is very fast, fearless and a bit of a hot head. In the early rounds the bike spent more time in the gravel than on the track, when he did keep it upright though he was generally a top ten finisher. His DNFs slowly stacked up and his showdown potential got further and further away. Keith started to feel pushed out of the team as Bird was not getting the results he wanted and by Donington Keith was worn down by stress and caught a rare but dangerous illness. Deemed not fit to race by organisers he sat out Race 2 and was dropped from the team for the final 3 rounds in favour of Nori Haga. Keith is back though with a new team, PR racing, a small but friendly team with a long history in MCE BSB. This team will hopefully be a home for Keith where he can relax and be comfortable enough to ride at his best, because when he does, he's very very fast.
Jenny Tinmouth #20
Fastest woman around the TT and fans favourite Jenny Tinmouth returns for another year. With her self funded team Jenny is looking to build on the success of last year where she picked up her first (record breaking) point in MCE BSB. Without major funding of sponsorship Jenny's machinery is never quite up to pace for the sharp end but with a large grid this year she's definitely got potential for picking up more points. Her target is top ten.
Murello Services PBR Kawasaki
Peter Baker #55
Brand spanking new to MCE BSB Peter has always dreamed of taking part in motorcycle racing at this level. He's won countless club level championships and is ready with his team to take on this new challenge. This year is a sighting year to test the water and see how they go. Peter intends to build on this and establish the team over the coming years.
SBK City Racing Kawasaki
Rhalf Lo Turco #45
First time out in the top flight for Rhalf who won the Triumph Triple challenge back in 2009. He hopes to make his mark on MCE BSB by being the first Brazilian to score points.
Julian De Costa #86
After pulling out of the whole season of MCE BSB because of a lack of sponsorship and top flight riders, Honda have announced that their endurance rider Julian De Costa will race wildcard appearances to continue the development of the Fireblade. Julian has raced in MCE BSB before and knows that he has nothing to lose. Expect him to be like a cat among the pigeons, especially as he'll be racing the final 2 rounds of the season.
So that's the list of teams and riders lined up for the 2014 MCE BSB season so far. It's looking highly competitive already and I'm excited to see what some of the new riders have to offer as well as old ones on new machines. Needless to say as with everything in MCE BSB, anything could happen!
Stay tuned to my Facebook for more announcements on teams and riders.
More details can be found on the MCE BSB website.
27.01.14 - Big Ed