James Whitham: Now Bridewell’s won a race, he’s got to keep doing it - Bikesport News

James Whitham: Now Bridewell’s won a race, he’s got to keep doing it

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Tommy Bridewell would have come away from Oulton Park rightly feeling pleased with himself. He’s had a very consistent season but it’s the first time this year the popular West Countryman has managed to climb to the top step of the podium.

But if he’s going to win the title, which is the only thing that matters to that top six now, he’ll know better than anybody that he’s up against it. He’s still 21 points behind Redding and 24 behind Brookes now the scores have been reset and the podium points added in. If he’s going to be the champ he’s going to have to keep beating them.

Still, it was great to see. The Oxford Racing team run by Steve Wilf Moore is a compact but competent outfit who work well together, trust each other and crack on. Tommy knows he has a good team behind him, and the team know they have a good pilot in Thomas George Bridewell II. It seems a good fit.

Josh Brookes will not have been so pleased after uncharacteristically throwing it away in the last race when leading, a position he’s usually happy to occupy. What happened there?
It looked to me that Josh knew that Tommy was on his way through on lap-record pace and was keen to make some distance while Tommy dealt with a resurgent Bradley Ray. He was pushing on but Bridewell was catching him. He fell off at what is quite a difficult place to crash actually.

Shell Oils hairpin is taken at 55 to 60mph, it is very cambered (banked almost) which means it’s unusual to lose the front once you get as far into the turn as he was. I know, from bitter experience, that you can fall off a motorbike pretty much anywhere but that was unusual.

There didn’t seem to be much damage to the bike and none to Brookes but I just hope his confidence is unblemished because he’s recovered nicely from what was a poor start, by his standards, to the season to lead the championship.

He’s an experienced, professional rider and he’ll take away from Oulton the fact that he had the pace to win if things had gone his way. It was a slip up that he doesn’t make very often so I think he’ll go into the Showdown quite happy.

Scott Redding will, of course, believe that things might just favour him now because the last three rounds – Assen, Donington and Brands – are circuits he knows well or, in the case of Brands Hatch, has got to know. He’ll be thinking the pendulum is swinging back towards him.

And the fact is that he doesn’t seem to make many mistakes either. He can take risks but manages them well. I would now put him as just about favourite but I think it’s going to be a great finale.

Two riders who will not be battling for the BSB crown are Andrew Irwin and Bradley Ray. But they are worth mentioning because they are amazing examples of the changing fortunes in racing - from hero to zero or zero to hero.

Irwin comes into the first category. His amazing performances at Thruxton were followed by the disastrous tangle with Redding at Cadwell, for which he was penalised by the authorities and verbally assaulted by Redding, then further penalised at Oulton for riding his leaking Honda back to the pits after being brought down by the fallen Yamaha of David Allingham.

In BSB, unlike some championships, the rules don’t allow a rider to remount after a crash. Some folks don’t agree but I think it is very sensible because I have seen occasions when riders remount a bike which is totally unfit to ride causing a danger to themselves and others.

Throughout most of my racing career it was allowed, indeed encouraged, and looked upon as showing great courage and passion for the sport, almost gladiatorial. I actually once finished third in a British Production bike race after picking my bike up, kicking it straight and getting back on it.

But for every time you pick the bike up and salvage a result there’s a time you leap back on your bike, get to the next corner and realise there’s no brake lever, or realise you’ve spread oil/coolant from a cracked casing on the track for others to crash on. So it is a very sensible rule that you can’t get back on a crashed bike.

Bradley Ray is very interesting. The problem that Bradley has had is that his progress to stardom was really rapid and he never knew anything else other than the Suzuki and therefore had no reference point as to what a Superbike should be doing, what’s going wrong and what can we do to fix it. So it’s been a funny position for him.

But he’s a very talented young man in my opinion, lost his mojo half way through last season after a cracking start to his BSB career. The results didn’t show it because he had some mechanical issues but he was bang back on the pace at Cadwell last month. For me he is a very talented lad and I’m really pleased to see him get his confidence back.

The Buildbase team have kept the faith with him through what has been a frustrating time for them. Any thoughts of the championship evaporated ages ago for Brad, but if he can put one or two more really good performances in before the end of the season, I think he’ll be at the top of one or two team shopping lists for next year.

Supersport racing is under threat because manufacturers, except Yamaha, aren’t making 600s anymore. I was impressed with the race at Oulton with lots of action and it also showed that, at certain circuits, the GP2 bikes are now capable of running and beating Supersport machines.

Mason Law and Kyle Ryde were rubbing fairings with the top SS boys all weekend and that’s good because we need a middleweight class. You can’t have young riders jumping straight from 50bhp Junior Supersport bikes on to Superbikes with 200bhp or more, it’d be carnage…

If the Supersport class is going to disappear, and it seems that way, then GP2 would be a cracking substitute. You would need a formula governing power, frame design, weight, etc. but it would give great opportunity to engineering companies or even clever people in sheds making things. And there are lots of very savvy, lateral thinking artisans in the UK.

I was commentating at Oulton Park at the weekend which meant I had to watch WorldSBK from Portimao on TV but I find the Bautista situation quite strange. He’s found some form having just been dropped by Ducati and while I can’t see him overturning Jonathan’s championship lead I can see him having a good run to the end of the season on circuits which suit him and the bike.

We were a bit distant from the musical chairs going on at Portimao and it was difficult while sat at Oulton to work out which was fact or fiction. But if Alex Lowes is going to Kawasaki, and it seems likely although not confirmed, I think it will be good for him. It is a change of scenery which might rejuvenate his career again and there’s certainly nothing wrong with his speed.

He will have Jonathan as a team-mate and as I’ve said before there’s no such thing as teams in racing, your number one objective is to beat the man in the other side of the garage. But it should be remembered that the success that Kawasaki have had is not just because of the team, it is because they’ve had an unbelievably good rider. And you’ve got to accept that.

I don’t think on another bike it would give Alex more chance of beating him anyway but if you’re on the same bike at least youknow where you are. And I don’t think the team are going to leave the other rider out just because of Jonathan.

Leon Camier’s possible return to BSB would, in my opinion, be very good for the series next year. They will see they need not so much a replacement for Redding but a rider with international flavour and flair.
Camier would fit that bill and he will be seeing that in WorldSBK he is not going to get a bike that would do him justice having publicly said he was fed up with riding a uncompetitive bike. And here he might get on the most competitive bike. He’s won the BSB title before. Why not ?

Finally, a word on the Portimao circuit which Dorna are looking at for MotoGP. I’ve never raced there but ridden there a lot with racing schools etc. It is a fantastic circuit in a lovely area with mega facilities. Bring it on.

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