You might not have noticed, but the British Superbike Championship is on the cusp of a quiet revolution ahead of the 2024 season.
Sure, a glance down the entry list reveals many familiar names, a fair chunk of whom can be found in familiar places too.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that change is afoot; a brand new venue on the calendar, manufacturers re-assigning support, key riders making key team swaps, nervous novices ready to take a stride into self-assured second seasons…
And we’re not just talking about the Superbike class either with all sorts of changes going on in the junior categories to reflect today’s evolving motorcycle market, not to mention the ongoing revival of the Supersport division.
In short, while you might not need a reason to get more than a little bit excited for the upcoming 2024 BSB season, we’ve given you eight very good ones anyway…
1. Tommy Bridewell justifies his #1 plate with Honda
It may be the race number every rider ultimately covets, but that doesn’t make carrying the hallowed #1 plate on your bike any less of a responsibility…
That’s how the legend is supposed to go anyway, not that anyone told Tommy Bridewell, who remarked to BSN recently - in his own inimitable way - that ‘it’s just a number, isn’t it…?’ (actually, he said something containing more ‘F’ words, but that was the jist of it!).
Either way, it is a plate that will be perched on the front of a very different machine to the one Bridewell clinched the 2023 BSB title on following his much discussed switch to Honda over the winter.
Certainly a bold move in a series that doesn’t shake the apple cart all that often, while the ongoing uncertainty surrounding his former Paul Bird Motorsport is certainly reason enough to explain Bridewell’s decision to exit, ditching Ducati after five successful seasons to join a Honda team without a title in more than a decade now, certainly raises some questions.
Indeed, having spent many years refining his recipe for success in BSB, swapping out many of those ingredients just as things get tasty represents something of a risk for Bridewell…
It’s a calculated one though because, at the end of the day, Bridewell is a BSB Champion competing with BSB’s biggest brand armed with BSB’s biggest resource. If anything, it makes a lot of sense, actually.
2. Paul Bird Motorsport to uphold the legacy of its late founder
It still isn’t clear what the immediate future holds for BSB’s most successful team following the untimely passing of founder, manager and irreplaceable linchpin, Paul Bird.
As of writing, the defending champions is yet to throw its hat into the ring for 2024 as it concentrates on completing a full restructure before considering how to approach any racing commitments.
Indeed, Paul Bird Motorsport finds itself in a tricky position. On the one hand, PBM’s continuation in BSB would represent a most fitting tribute to Bird’s memory. On the other, it’s an extraordinarily high quality legacy to maintain and do justice to.
For sure, many would understand if a sabbatical or something more permanent is the outcome, but suffice to say, if PBM are present and correct for Round 1 in Navarra, it would represent one of the proudest achievements in the team’s storied history…
3. Kyle Ryde and Ryan Vickers maintain their forward momentum
If you were asking BSN which riders showed the biggest improvement between 2022 and 2023, then the answer would be Kyle Ryde and Ryan Vickers… an accolade we’re sure OMG Racing would agree with.
Indeed, while it was always a big ask for two of BSB’s younger generation riders to go all the way to defending Brad Ray’s 2022 BSB title, Ryde and Vickers - in their own way - each enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 2023, one that puts them on the cusp of something potentially very special in 2024.
Better still, they’ll get the full focus of Yamaha’s attention now the firm is lending its official backing to OMG Racing for the first time in 2024. It just remains to be seen how much there is still to come from the ageing Yamaha R1 package…
4. Nesbitt, Cook to pave the way for BSB: The Next Generation
While BSB has faced criticism over the years for not doing enough to help young talent break through into Superbikes, there was evidence of a shift in mentality among some teams last season towards hiring more future-proof riders.
Leading to a handful of intriguing new names debuting last season, while the success rate among them would be something of a mixed bag by the end of the year, there were at least two names standing out for the right reasons; Charlie Nesbitt and Max Cook.
Both riders have been retained by their respective Hawk Honda and FS-3 Kawasaki teams for 2024, their fortunes likely to be observed closely by many teams across the paddock this year in their position as examples for what could be achieved if teams took a punt on a fresh talent instead…
5. Navarra to strike gold in Silverstone’s absence
Far be it from us to turn our noses up at the chance to dust off our passports for an inaugural visit to Spain this April, but we were a touch surprised to see Silverstone making way for Navarra as the 2024 season-opener.
Granted, the ‘Home of British Motor Sport’ hasn’t always enjoyed the most devoted support among racing’s two-wheel fraternity (MotoGP included…) and such is the scale of the place, it rarely looks well-attended even when it is. But it’s hard to argue against Silverstone delivering some proper grandstand action in recent years, particularly after it reverted to the more compact, yet still breathlessly high-speed National configuration.
We’ll reserve judgement on whether Navarra can live up to such a high standard once the lights go green, but while there will be those who will question why the British Superbikes is starting its season some 800 miles south of Dover, what’s the harm in a bit of ‘BSB on tour’ indulgence for once…?
6. Factory-fresh British Supersport returns to prominence
Superbikes may be the main event on the BSB programme, but it’s unlikely to be the only class worth following closely this year.
Indeed, after a few years of uncertainty spurred by a general decline in sales and availability within its associated middleweight sportsbike market, the British Supersport Championship - like the aforementioned roadgoing category - is bouncing back in 2024 with new manufacturers and new factory-backed entries stimulating the series.
Following an overhaul of regulations in 2022 to allow larger engined models to compete, last season saw Yamaha and Kawasaki relinquish their hold on the BritishSSP trophy to Ducati, a changing of the guard that has inspired Honda and Triumph to make a high-profile, factory supported return for 2024.
Four-time title winner Jack Kennedy leads Honda’s charge aboard its new CBR600RR, while Triumph will lend support to Macadam Racing and another former champion in Luke Stapleford.
Better still, Kawasaki will also have its new ZX-6R primed and ready to go this season, Ben Currie will defend his, Oxford Racing Products and Ducati’s 2023 BritishSSP title, stalwarts Yamaha will have strength in numbers and JJR Astro will again put its faith in more leftfield Suzuki GSX-R750 machinery.
7. Overhauled feeder divisions to nurturing Britain’s future stars
BSB’s reputation for putting bold ideas into bold action will be demonstrated once again in 2024 with the launch of the exciting new National Sportbike Championship and British Superteen Championship.
Replacing the Junior Supersport and Junior Superstock Championships, both series’ have been curated to provide a more defined rung on motorcycle racing’s ladder, as well as better reflect the trend of today’s commercial market.
As such, the National Sportbike Championship represents more of a standalone category than Junior Supersport, while the motorcycles will be bigger and more powerful too. As it stands, riders will be able to choose from a homologated selection that is set to include models like the Yamaha R7, Kawasaki Ninja 650, Aprilia RS 660 and the brand-new Triumph Daytona 660.
The British Superteen Championship, meanwhile, will be a new one-make series using the new Kawasaki ZX-4R that is designed to be a natural progression in size and performance for riders competing in series’ as the British Talent Cup.
8. Clearing the path towards international recognition
There is a lot to be said for the influence and weight that comes with enjoying success in the British Superbike Championship - you only have to look at the six British riders lining up in the WorldSBK Championship this season for evidence of that.
As renowned as BSB’s springboard to WorldSBK is, however, it’s not reflected by a similarly prolific route towards the Grand Prix World Championship ranks.
A symptom of BSB erring towards a production, rather than prototype, base for its competitions, only a handful have made the transition in recent years, be it directly (Jake Dixon) or indirectly (Cal Crutchlow).
While the most recent BSB-to-GP example in Rory Skinner is facing an uncertain future, the green shoots of promise are beginning to show on the whole as evidenced by an expansion of Michael Laverty’s ambitious project to discover Britain’s next big talent. The BSB race winner will oversee teams competing across the junior spectrum including the British Talent Cup, to the Spanish-based JuniorGP series and the Moto3 World Championship in 2024.
Success won’t come overnight, but it’s definitely progress to keep an eye on…