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David Miller: Are modern Superbikes just too fast?

In the first 40 minutes of free practice at Knockhill, the MCE British Superbike series leader and two other Showdown contenders were put out of action for the rest of the weekend, and their participation in this weekend’s Snetterton was also placed in jeopardy.

Leon Haslam fractured two vertebrae and was knocked out, Glenn Irwin dislocated his elbow and shoulder, and Christian Iddon had surgery on an arm wound which required general anaesthetic and meant a 48-hour race ban. The Tyco BMW man is pretty much bob on to ride in Norfolk, Irwin might be OK and Haslam is going to try and ride after spending a lot of time in a hyperbaric chamber.

The margins at short tracks like Knockhill and Brands Hatch Indy are so small that it requires much effort and bravery to wring out the extra hundredths of a second that might make the difference. The fine line between rostrum and hospital becomes much finer when there is only a mile to do the job, instead of two and a half miles.


The line is finer still when there is the business end of 220bhp being fed unhindered to a rear tyre which sometimes has a contact patch a third the size of a credit card. So how fine does the line need to get before something has to change?

Altering tracks to suit increasingly-powerful and fast bikes is a hiding to nothing as there is only a finite amount of space at any one venue. Apart from Silverstone. Golf chiefs have the same problem with the best women now driving over 300 yards. So they issue some rules which dictate the balls have to be manufactured differently to not fly so far, par fours remain par fours and not threes, no-one knows the difference and the diggers can be returned from whence they came as courses can’t be made any longer.

Knockhill is a fantastic little circuit and the crowd treat BSB’s visit like their own GP. Making it longer would be expensive and probably remove its atmosphere. Brands Indy not so much. There is little point in visiting the short version of the Kent track when BSB goes to the GP track twice in a year as well. It would not be missed. It could be easily replaced by giving Donington a second round - as it had years ago - as the money now all goes in the same bank account.

Would it be the end of the world to pull back on horsepower for the 2018 season, making tracks like Knockhill, Cadwell and, probably, Oulton, less risky to the people twisting the throttle? No-one will notice unless they are hell-bent on studying sector times. The bikes will make the same noise and look just as fast, the racing will remain as close. In fact, it might give some of the middle-ground teams more of a chance if they only have to build reliable 190bhp engines…

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