This year's Bennetts British Superbike rumour mill continues to turn, the latest being fed by the appearance of BSB stars Brad Ray and Tom Sykes in the World Superbike paddock at Portimao. They were enjoying the Portuguese sunshine but they had other things on their mind. As has PBM team owner Paul Bird.
Ray, an almost-certainty to be crowned BSB champion this weekend, was accompanied by his manager Shane Byrne and they seemed pleased with their trip. The fact that they spent a fair amount of time in Paul Denning’s Yamaha pitbox alongside WorldSBK champion Toprak Razgatlioglu may have been coincidence as conversations with one or two other teams did take place. But it increased the likelihood of Ray joining the WSB circus next season.
Sykes and his family were spotted having coffee in the Kawasaki hospitality unit but he was also welcomed by Ducati with whom he has a long and valued relationship.
Sykes is at Brands Hatch with PBM team but it is a farewell ride as he will probably not be figuring in BSB next year. But WorldSBK still has great appeal for this former world champion.
But while Bird is parting company with both his riders, Josh Brookes having gone to the FHO team alongside Peter Hickman, it is the Cumbria-based team which is springing the greatest surprises. The first was the not-yet-announced theft of Tommy Bridewell from Oxford Products Ducati and now it is rumoured, but not yet confirmed, he is taking Glenn Irwin from Honda.
It follows the worst season for a team which has won seven British Superbike Championships and begs a question for Messrs Bridewell and Irwin “Why are you doing it?” but perhaps confirms the old adage “You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down.”
It has to be assumed that PBM’s relationship with Ducati which has served them so well will continue into 2023. Although, based on performance this year, it seems that Oxford have a good relationship too. It also begs a question for Honda as to a replacement. Another Irwin, perhaps?