James Whitham: It could be a Showdown in more ways than one… - Bikesport News

James Whitham: It could be a Showdown in more ways than one…

Picture: Impact Images

Motorcycle racing is not a team sport and my two odds on favourites to win this year’s Bennetts British Superbike Championship, Scott Redding and Josh Brookes, will definitely not be on team orders in the final qualifying round for the Showdown at Oulton Park this weekend.

As championship leaders they have, of course, both qualified already but there are podium points at stake which they carry into the final three meetings with them. And as the first rule of racing is to beat your team mate then we can expect Oulton to be the start of something big.

Josh Brookes looked like a frustrated man up to his second race win at Thruxton. He’d been getting beaten up by his team-mate on the same bike and his head was down a little bit. He seems to have his eye back in now, though, and as far as rancour in the team goes we saw a really angry Aussie at Cadwell, fed up with Scott following him round all the time.

At first, both Jack Burnicle and myself thought this was a planned thing because this sometimes happens in qualifying. Apparently not. Josh didn’t want his teammate/championship rival tailing him and completely changed his routine from being the first man out in qualifying to waiting for Redding to go first. He was annoyed and went public with it saying he’d like to see someone other than his teammate behind him.

So a bit of frustration but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. And at this time of the championship these things do boil up. It’s coming to the pointy end of the season.

Scott Redding though has had his own frustrations, being docked points at Thruxton and then being knocked off by Andy Irwin at Cadwell. The third time there’s been paint swapped between the two this year. It was interesting to see what Redding did after that incident in going up to Irwin’s fallen Honda, looking at the camera on it and then turning round and making what seemed to be a rude gesture. In fact, it was three fingers indicating it was three times this had happened and in all three it was Irwin’s fault. He was annoyed to say the least.

However, I don’t think it was a passing attempt by Irwin. He was so far back that he couldn’t even have thought of passing. It was a mistake. I ride big bikes round there now and even on a street bike with only 195bhp you crest that rise with the bike wanting to wheelie, you’re fighting to keep it down and he missed his braking point. He knew something was going wrong so to get more yardage on the brakes he went straight for the apex but still lost the front and scooped up, Redding who was at that moment tipping in on a more ‘conventional’ line.

But whatever the reason, Redding was justifiably annoyed because he could have been injured and taken out of the championship, having just recovered from a big injury at the start of the season.

The trackside altercation, shown vividly on TV, carried on in the paddock with Irwin, a decent lad trying hard in his first season with Honda, apologised profusely but Redding was having none of it. It didn’t get to fisticuffs, quite, both calmed down and Irwin has a penalty which will damage his prospects at Oulton. I don’t mind a bit of that sort of confrontation. It shows passion and commitment.

Back to Oulton and the Showdown. If I were a betting man, and thank the Lord I’m not Sir, I would be placing Brookes and Redding at even money for the championship. Redding knows the rest of the circuits, Brookes has got his mojo back following Thruxton and Cadwell.

I would make Tommy Bridewell and Danny Buchan, both having qualified, each way bets at 7/1. The rest, without so many podium points, would be long shots at 20/1 but who knows. Who else is going to qualify to make up the final six?

Tarran Mackenzie is currently fifth and Andrew Irwin sixth. But these are the dangerous seats. Tarran is still knocked up with his wrist and Oulton Park is just as physical as Cadwell so although he’s had two or three weeks to recover he will need to be on top form to keep that Showdown place. But the man in most danger is Irwin because he will have to start from the back of the grid in the first of the three races as his punishment for the Redding accident.

Most likely candidates for those two places are Peter Hickman and Xavi Fores with maybe Christian Iddon although, as he’s currently ninth, it will take a big effort on his part. Of the three I think Hickman is most likely as he likes Oulton and my tip is that he, together with Mackenzie, will make the final six.

Whoever wins, Scott Redding’s move to WorldSBK was inevitable because of the season he has had so far. He was going to get offers and he was going to take them because you want to be in a world championship. It’s a cracking move for him because he’s going to be on a bike he knows.

The shocking thing is the departure from Ducati of Alvaro Bautista little more than halfway through the season. Maybe they got fed up with too many crashes which I said could become a habit. And it did. The rumour is he’s going to Honda, a big money deal but a good move for him having been given the flick from Ducati. And the other rumour is that they will employ a Japanese rider, Takumi Takahashi, alongside him.

But Honda need to turn their team effort round. Now it is being run directly by HRC they will not want corporate egg on their face. Can they do it? They’ve got a new bike out for 2020, they should know how to run a team by now and I hope they do. You don’t like to see a team like that struggling. I haven’t heard very much about Leon Camier. I hope he keeps his place.

If BSB are looking to replace Redding they should be looking at Camier. He would obviously like to stay in WorldSBK but you need a competitive bike. There should be no shortage of offers from BSB and they like to import riders from World Series.

I was surprised to read of Alex Lowes departure from Pata Yamaha, some good results and fastest in testing at Portimao. But pleased that he is going to the other Yamaha team, presumably in Melandri’s place. The move of Toprak from Kawasaki to replace Alex was a big surprise although there’s no doubt he’s a top class rider. Apparently he had a bit of a fall out with the Green Team by not getting to ride at the Suzuka Eight-Hours.

The move of Eugene Laverty to BMW is brilliant for him. He has to deliver at some point in the future. He needs a bike that can do him justice and can get him back to the form he’s capable of. BMW have been promising an uprated engine ever since the start of the season, maybe something will appear at Portimao. But for a brand new team they have done well and next year with riders like Tom Sykes and Laverty they should be real contenders.

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