As the green flag waves on the first official test of the 2022 British Superbike season, I thought I ought to have a stab at who I think’s going to end the year on top; if only so, come October, I can look back at my predictions and see how wrong I was. I think most people will agree, BSB is a fairly hard one to call in 2022, with three British Champions (Tarran Mackenzie, Josh Brookes and Leon Haslam) and a World Champion (Tom Sykes) fighting for the spoils, as well as about a dozen other BSB race winners. So, who’s it going to be?
Well first of all, let me give you my short-list, or the eight riders I think will make it into the ‘BSB Showdown’. In no particular order (actually in order of their 2022 race numbers), my Showdown contender predictions are as follows: Tarran Mackenzie (McAMS Yamaha), Jason O’Halloran (McAMS Yamaha), Josh Brookes (MCE Ducati), Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Products Racing Ducati), Peter Hickman (FHO Racing BMW), Tom Sykes (MCE Ducati), Danny Buchan (SYNETIC BMW Motorrad) and Leon Haslam (VisionTrack Racing Kawasaki).
Sykes and Haslam are both fresh from WSBK, so ought to be able to bring something special to the table. And besides, if Sykes can’t do something on that Paul Bird Motorsport MCE Ducati, there’s something wrong.
Danny Buchan was on fire in the first half of last year, so if he can do that again, he’ll definitely be able to book himself a place in the showdown.
Hickman, over the last few years, has never been far away, and Mackenzie, O’Hallaran, Brooks and Bridewell are surely going to be title contenders again.
I’ll apologise to all the Christian Iddon fans out there (as well as Christian, himself), for not having him in my top eight. I’d genuinely love for him to be in the title fight (I’m quite a big fan of the guy, myself), but I can’t help thinking he’s going to find it a lot more difficult on his new Buildbase Suzuki, than he did on his PBM Ducati last year. Let’s hope he proves me wrong.
So that’s my top eight sorted out, but which one of them do I think is going to be crowned 2022 BSB Champion? Well I’d be more than happy for Mackenzie to win it again, or O’Hallaran to take his first British Championship on either one of their Yamahas, but in my heart of hearts, I don’t think it’s going to happen.
I think the title this year is going to be taken by a Ducati rider. Those Yamahas aren’t getting any newer, and there’s only so much a Superbike team can do to develop what is, essentially, a seven-year-old bike. I know the R1 has been updated quite a few times since 2015, but that’s all they have been – updates.
The new Ducati Panigale V4 is a weapon of a bike, that gets better every year, and Ducati are having three very big bites of the BSB cherry, with Bridewell, Brookes and Sykes.
Brookes was a bit up and down last year, and there’s every chance he’ll continue that form into 2022, so although I think he’ll win races, I’m not going to pick him as a championship winner this year.
Brookes’ teammate and riding the other MCE Ducati is Tom Sykes, who’s a former World Superbike Champion (2013), which you could say ought to put him as firm favourite, at least on paper. But we all know it doesn’t work like that. And it’s been 14 years since he’s done a season on the British circuits, which are completely different to the European and International circuits. It might take him a season or two to remember how to ride them and, crucially, how to set his Ducati up for them. Oh, he’s also never raced a Ducati before.
Pick of the pops
So that just leaves one Ducati rider. Oxford Products Racing’s Tommy Bridewell. I’m way too tight-fisted for gambling, but if I absolutely had to put some money on anyone winning the 2022 BSB Championship, I’d put it on Bridewell. His team know how to build a really good Ducati, he knows how to ride it really fast and he knows the circuits as well as, if not better than, anyone else on the grid.
That said, he’s been trying for as many years as I can remember, and he’s never managed to make it happen, so I really don’t know.
What I do know is that BSB is shaping up to be another belter of a season, and I’m looking forward to it kicking off next month (15 – 17 April).