So the dye is cast, the 2023 WorldSBK and British Superbike titles will come down to a finale of grandiose proportions.
While the respective penultimate outings of 2023 for WorldSBK at Portimao and BSB at Donington Park didn't quite etch names onto the title winners' plaque, they will certainly live on in the memory banks far into the future... albeit for very different reasons.
Indeed, we're sure to be lauding Toprak Razgatlioglu and Alvaro Bautista's bristling battle for victory in the Algarve for years to come. Same BSB's second visit of the year to Donington Park, though less Gladiatorial grappling and more gung-ho gravel-trapping for some.
Either way, it means there is still all to play for ahead of the final events of 2023 in both series... but what to make of it all? We turn to James Whitham for words. Around 1500 of them...
An eventful weekend for many, everybody seemed to have problems, but especially the PBM riders. Pressure showing within PBM team or just one of those weekends?
They were subject to the conditions just like everybody else. I am not here to apportion any kind of blame or say they didn’t know what they were doing. They are a brilliant team which is why both riders were leading the championship. They had a disastrous meeting as a team, getting just a single points' scoring finish. Race one they chose the wrong tyres which was very easy to do because it wasn’t obvious as to exactly what should have gone on.
And the rest of the weekend ? Well, riders as they would, seem to concentrate their thoughts on their championship rival which, in this case, happens to be team-mates. And, of course, they are desperate to get one over each other and they tripped up. It means the championship race has opened up again, though I still think that it is going to between Glenn and Tommy at Brands Hatch.
As far as their personal rancours are concerned I don’t think they were ever going to remain great friends even without the safety car incident and the penalty that Tommy was given at Oulton which was justified. I have seen everything and I don’t think he complains too much about being given a penalty.
It was a bit unfortunate as it made a huge difference in places and he was given a three second penalty which, if the pace car had been out towards the beginning of the race, three seconds would have meant one place drop, As it was it was only two laps before the end of the race it made a five place drop which was a little bit unfortunate for Tommy.
But I think without the safety care and the little incident at Donington there was no way they were going to stay friends towards the end of the season, They are both strong characters and them falling out was I think inevitable .
What happened in Race 2 where Tommy came through the field and had one of the best races of his life but then made a definite mistake, and it was his mistake. He bit off more than he could chew going into Melbourne hairpin, couldn’t back out of an ambitous move as I saw it, and clipped his team-mate. He was given a grid position penalty.
Glenn was given a points on his licence penalty for running over and remonstrating with, at the time, a possibly injured Tommy. It didn’t end up he was injured but Glenn didn’t know that at the time. He didn’t strike him in any way, he just went over and started shouting and waving his arms about. So for aggressive behaviour he was given two points on his licence and Tommy was given a four place penalty which I think, in the end, was fair enough. But certainly they’re not friends now.
The battle between team-mates can become quite sacred when you're both in the hunt for the title... how did you get on with yours?
Exactly that. The first target in racing is to beat your team-mate because he’s on the same bike, same access to material and equipment. They aren't the first team-mates to fall out. Fortunately, I’ve had some really good team-mates that I’ve been good friends with. I’ve had some oddball team-mates that I haven’t necessarily been friends with but I’ve tried to keep the rivalry on the track where I could. I think the PBM boys are trying to keep it like that but how successful they are going to be I’m not sure.
We’re assuming you were never an oddball team-mate were you? You’d I am sure be a lovely person, understanding...
I am quite sure that several of my team-mates over the years would say I was an oddball but I don’t think I was difficult to get on with in the team. I wasn’t very demanding and I tried hard, not to be. Me and Niall Mackenzie were mates before the ‘96 season, we went into the last round tied on points, he beat me by a couple of points. I won 10 races that year, he only won five but he pulled a better championship together by finishing every single race and we didn’t have an argument, we’re still really good friends and I don’t see why you should have to fall out but there again he never ran into the back of me or me into the back of him.
What do you think now of the points system - do you think it will have a big effect in the title fight?
The large points is a good thing if you win and your championship rivals don’t score. But actually the points between first, second, third and fourth are, for this weekend, just as tight as they ever were so it’s 35 for a win, 30 for second and 27 for third which essentially is more or less identical to the 25, 20 and 16. The fact that the winner gets more points is immaterial if your championship rivals are finishing some way behind you because the points difference is still the same.
However, if your championship rival has a bad day as both championship men did at Donington your rivals after going to get more points on you because there are more on the table. I think it favours some one with a lead but riding conservatively, whereas if you’d had a championship points system where in the last round the winner had 35 and second had 15 it would have encouraged massive risks.
The two riders you forecast to do well at Donington, Kyle Ryde and Jason O’Halloran, proved you do know what you are talking about...
Kyle I knew would have a good meeting at Donington although he had a really bad race in the wet. At Brands you never know but capable of going well there, I wouldn’t rule out anyone.
But it’s still PBMs to lose isn’t it?”
Yes, that’s right but they can’t afford another Donington...
Moving onto WorldSBK, it looks like Bautista's to lose but what a fantastic race in Portimao...
We watched it from Donington and Toprak’s efforts were fantastic, to keep coming back at Alvaro each lap. Most riders would struggle to fight as hard as Toprak. And who knows, maybe miracles can happen...