Reigning British Superbike Champion Tommy Bridewell says a fresh desire to ‘concrete’ his legacy by winning back-to-back titles on different machinery was the driving force behind the decision to join Honda for his 2024 BSB title defence.
The BSB veteran clinched a first domestic title last season after prevailing in a tense year-long tussle with Paul Bird Motorsport team-mate Glenn Irwin by just half-a-point.
It’s a success that has been a long time coming for the 35-year old, Bridewell - who made his BSB debut back in 2007 - taking a full 16 years and 389 race starts to finally make it to the top.
However, while the coveted #1 plate may now finally be in his possession, Bridewell won’t be resting on his laurels for 2024 following a bold decision to part ways with PBM and Ducati in favour of a switch to the factory-backed Honda Racing UK team.
It’s a move that has caught many by surprise, not least because it marks a shift away from the Ducati V4 machinery he’s successfully campaigned for the past five seasons to a team that - while well-resourced - hasn’t won a BSB title for more than a decade now.
However, with question marks lingering over PBM’s participation in BSB this year following the death of its founder Paul Bird, Bridewell believes Honda is the only other team with the budget, support and structure to give him the package he needs to defend his title.
“I was only with Paul for one year, I’d been with Ducati for five, but Paul Bird is no longer there, so there is obviously a question mark within that area,” Bridewell told BSN in an exclusive interview.
“Honda has always been one of two teams that I have wanted to ride for in BSB - one was Paul Bird, I achieved that and won the title for them, big tick, job done. The next one was always Honda.
“It is a factory team and I have always wanted to ride for a factory team, so when I sat down with Harv [Beltran], I said ‘look, is there a position there, I’d like to have a chat, if possible’.
“Then there were further conversations between me and Neil [Fletcher, Head of Honda Motorcycles UK], to clarify what the situation was with the new bike and so on. The more conversations and meetings I had, the more excited I became about the option to go to Honda.”
A ‘no-brainer’ deal sweetened by the opportunity to race the updated Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP revealed in November 2023, Bridewell rubbishes any suggestion that a financial incentive had any bearing on his decision to switch brand allegiance.
“It wasn’t a case of finding out there was a ride and saying ‘I’ll have that’, it took me a month to look at all the aspects of deal - as i have gotten older, everything has to be in place, the bike spec, testing, crews and so on, to make sure I will be happy where I am going.
“Unfortunately Honda couldn’t tell me a huge amount about the new bike, but I knew the bike would be a step in the right direction.
“In truth, the conversations I kept having, the deal became a no-brainer, an absolute no-brainer - everything thinks it is about financial incentive but I can absolutely categorically say that is not the reason at all. Because if I was chasing money, I’d have looked in other areas.
“So I came to the conclusion that I have the #1 plate, I have a massive target on my back… what package, what crew, what bike is going to allow me to - with 100% confidence - defend my BSB title. It was and will always be Honda.”
“Tommy Bridewell is the face of British Superbikes”
Perhaps most significantly, Bridewell’s decision to defend his BSB crown with a different manufacturer bucks the trends of other title-winning alumni, most of whom have either continued with the same team as incumbants or used their success as a springboard towards the international stage.
Indeed, only three riders have successfully secured back-to-back BSB titles, but each of those - Niall Mackenzie (1996-1998), Ryuichi Kiyonari (2006-2007) and Shane Byrne (2016-2017) - would be achieved with the same team and on the same bike.
It means Bridewell has the opportunity to carve out his own bit of a BSB history should he go on to defend his BSB title Honda this season, a potential underlining of his status that he admits will give him added motivation for 2024.
“Honda hasn’t won the title since 2013, so 10 years down the line, hopefully I can give them the British Championship again,” he continues.
“Why would I not want to be that person when people say he won with Ducati in 2023, now he’s won it with Honda in 2024?
“As bad as it is to say, who is BSB at the moment? Who is the face of British Superbikes? I am not being blunt or jumped up, but Tommy Bridewell is British Superbikes - he is British champion, people are talking about him because he’s joined Honda, so for that factor, I am in the spotlight shall we say.
“So what better way to completely concrete who I am, how confident I am and how good I know I am, than to put Honda back to where they should be?
“It looks like this ultimate achievement, in truth. I’m not saying I am supreme or untouchable because it took me a long time to achieve my first one, but by achieving that one I feel I can achieve multiple now…”
Should Bridewell go on to win the 2024 BSB Championship with Honda, he’d become only the fifth rider in the series’ history to take the title two two different manufacturers, a feat so far achieved by John Reynolds (Kawasaki, Ducati, Suzuki), James Whitham (Yamaha, Suzuki), Shane Byrne (Ducati, Kawasaki), Josh Brookes (Yamaha, Ducati).