It will be a straight fight for the MCE BSB crown between Shane Byrne and Leon Haslam over the final three races at Brands Hatch – Byrne goes into the action with a 17 points lead over his JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider.
But that might be cold comfort for the Be Wiser Ducati’s Byrne as the Showdown finale over its six years has thrown up the unexpected, with in three of those seasons, the rider starting with the points advantage has ended up missing out on the crown.
The Showdown is great for the punters and the promoters, but it piles the pressure onto the riders as they fight for the country’s premier crown, and that has sprung surprises none more so than in its first term, back in 2010. Then Tommy Hill had left the penultimate round leading Josh Brookes 589-578 points with Ryuichi Kiyonari third, a further four points back.
Oulton Park hosted the dramatic final. Kiyonari struck first, winning on Saturday afternoon ahead of Hill who was all out to take the victory in the first of the two Sunday races. But it was not to be for the Crescent Suzuki rider as he crashed at Lodge in a duel with James Ellison. Hill rejoined, only to crash again. Kiyonari went through the carnage to win.
Hill’s team got him back on track for the final race, but it was all about Kiyonari, completing a remarkable hat-trick, taking his winning tally to seven for the season, and with it the title for the third time. Kiyonari ended 649-625 over Brookes with Hill third on 620 points. But there was some talk of team orders in the Honda camp.
And, there was drama and nail biting tension the following year at Brands Hatch. The title was on a knife edge after Silverstone penultimate round. Hopkins led Hill 609-601 points. So to Brands Hatch. Michael Laverty won the Saturday race, Hopkins was third, Hill fourth. Then there was rain next morning. Hopkins spluttered to a stop at Westfield on the opening lap but managed to re-start his Samsung Suzuki and in damage limitation style finished twelfth, Hill pegged back the points in fourth. For the record, Byrne won
Byrne duly completed the daily double, something almost missed by the massive crowd as they concentrated on an epic scrap for second place. Hill or Hopkins? Whoever took that step on the podium was champion. Five times on the final lap they traded places and Hill snatched second by 0.006secs in a phot-finish to take the crown.
Byrne had the edge by nine points over Josh Brookes going into the final round of the 2012 season and this time, there was no unpleasant surprise for the pre-event title favourite. Byrne won all three races to equal Kiyonari and Niall Mackenzie as a three times BSB Champion.
But, no plain sailing the following year. Byrne led Alex Lowes by a single point after two dramatic incident rounds at Assen and then Silverstone in which there had been controversy and tumbles. The drama continued in the rains of Brands Hatch. The title went to Lowes who scored two seconds, and a crash compared to the two thirds and tumble by Byrne. Brookes, by the way won all three races.
2014 and Byrne had the lead by a dozen points over Kiyonari going into Brands Hatch finale but the hyped “fight for four” was over in the early minutes of free practice on Saturday morning as the Japanese rider high-sided off his Buildbase BMW on a damp track, breaking his collarbone. Byrne tipped off in the Saturday race, but won the next two to secure his record fourth BSB title.
And last year, the title went the way of the form book. Brookes on the Milwaukee Yamaha had a 47 points lead over Byrne going into the first of the three races at Brands Hatch and he was not going to be denied, winning on Saturday afternoon to take the title he had worked so hard for in his seven years in the series. Brookes won next time out, then the unthinkable happened, with his only error and non-finish of the year as the tipped off at Graham Hill Bend. Michael Laverty took the victory.