Whitham gives his verdict on the Oulton Park BSB melee| Robin Miller | British Superbikes
‘Action packed’ would be one way of describing the British Superbike Showdown opener at Oulton Park. Another description would be ‘crashfest’.
And while racing fans demand plenty of action for their money, accidents which wipe out several top riders and put and end to Tarran Mackenie’s title defence is pushing it a bit too far.
So what does ex-WorldSBK rider and commentator James Whitham make of it all? “I don’t think there was any single or direct cause for the four direct incidents in the three Superbike races but all unrelated.
“Starting with Peter Hickman going underneath Jason O’Halloran at Druids with Jason trying to square off the entrance, thereby being a little bit wide and a bit slower to get a good run at Tommy Bridewell out of the corner on the last lap.
“Hicky was going quite a bit quicker and it was his backside which caught Jason’s handlebar. In my opinion it was Peter to blame but it was not on purpose because he is a really safe rider, it was the last lap and it was one of those things.
“It is not for me to say what the penalty should have been but the problem is you have a load of people on Twitter who are Hickman fans or TT fans and there is more of them than O’Halloran fans and they can’t see that it was Hickman’s fault although Peter wouldn’t admit it.
“It was a slight mistake, he was coming from a long way back and Jason didn’t see him. We’ve all made mistakes, I certainly have and Peter held his hands up.
“Let’s talk about the incident with Tommy. It was more of a lunge for me, Jason didn’t see him and they ran right out. Jason didn’t fall off until his wheels were on the grass and they lost grip.”
BSN: But Tommy accused Jason of going too slowly…
“Exactly, I’m going to get to that. It was Tommy’s fault but I have to say he is a very safe rider and I have never known him making a bad move but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. But Tommy has a lot of fans, most of them have never raced but they’re backing their man and that’s ok. But even for a tiny minority to say it was Jason’s fault is unforgivable.
“I’m not condemning Tommy, I’ve probably done worse myself, but for him to stand up in an interview and say Jason, who has consistently beaten him all year, was too slow was a mistake. And when I see him at Donington I’ll be telling him. After thinking abut it he tried to back-pedal but the time to think is before you say things rather than after.
“The other two incidents can be genuinely termed as ‘racing incidents’and very unlucky for those concerned, especially for Taz Mackenzie who went down, slid across the track and was clipped by Peter Hickman who did everything to miss him. It was just the wrong place at the wrong time.
“The other crash at Brittens Chicane was a really odd one. There had been some spots of rain on their visors in that sector which made riders slightly tentative. Christian Iddon had made a move not to clip the back end of Kyle Ryde who was slowing down and Rory Skinner got caught up in it, sucked in and it was a mess. Both Christian and Rory suffered concussion and will miss Donington.“
BSN: The McAMS team had the unusual experience of their two riders having two crashes each which has pretty well written off their chances of winning the title.
“Well, that’s sometime how racing goes, rarely perfectly to plan. And there might just be a twist in the tail yet. Jason’s woes last year started at the very same circuit, not the same place although it was closer to Knickerbrook where he crashed last year and dropped to third in the championship. “
BSN: Could any of this be put down to the circuit itself? There are those who say it is particularly difficult and one or two of the chicanes dangerous.
“Oulton is like Cadwell, Brands Hatch full circuit, some of Thruxton, little bits of Knockhill. They are circuits which, by the very way they came into existence, are not designed with that much safety in mind. Maybe I’m putting it the wrong way.
“The lovely thing about them is that they grew up, they are typically British and brilliant to ride. They’re not designed on a drawing board with meters of gravel traps and run offs so nobody on the side can see what’s is going on. All have got a lot better as years have gone on.
“Chicanes have been put in to slow riders down and they do actively try to address the issues of safety. So they do change. What really changes are the bikes.
“For me Oulton Park is one of the best circuits in the country and most other riders would agree. They would however say that a Superbike with over 200bhp is a handful but I’ve not heard anybody say it should be reviewed or anything. To me this was a reasonably unlucky meeting and other circuits, say Donington or Assen, have had it from time to time. And neither do I believe the Showdown is causing any of this. You might get riders trying very hard in the last round but before that not really.”
BSN: So who is going to be battling for that championship in thlast round at Brands Hatch?
“I think the way that Brad Ray has gone into the Showdown with a lot of momentum and growing confidence. He didn’t have a brilliant meeting at Oulton Park but from now he doesn’t need to win races. He can’t take his hand off the throttle but he is in the driver’s seat.
“What has changed him over the last couple of years? He’s on a Yamaha and he’s clicked with it. Racing motor bikes is a confidence thing as much as anything else and maybe he went a bit too quick at the start at Oulton which wore his tyres out. But he’s the man to beat.
“Next to him Tommy. He had a really good run in the Showdown last year and with Donington and Brands coming up he’s in with a shout. Of the others somebody like Glen Irwin is possible. You just don’t know with Glen, he could go to Donington and win all three races.”