In a sport as competitive and unpredictable as motorcycle racing, everyone knows to expect the unexpected and the British Superbike Championship [BSB] is, (un)predictably, no exception.
We all have our favourites to cheer on but whether you heart Tommy Bridewell, you’re Leon Haslam (or Ron) till you die or you have James Whitham’s face tattooed on your chest - much to his confusion - nearly all of us will still have a soft spot for those dogged underdogs who now and again get their moment in the sun.
From long-established favourites coming back strong to new talent getting their first taste of the winners’ champagne, to those upsetting the established order and being very happy about it, who doesn't love a feel-good story for a plucky contender
Whether it was a one-off or one of many successes to come , either way you’d let’s just say you’d have gotten some keen odds if you'd fluttered on these…
Peter Hickman’s long awaited first BSB win in memory of Simon Andrews
2014, Cadwell Park - RAF Regular & Reserves Honda
A veritable veteran of BSB, it’s easy to forget that Peter Hickman has maintained a presence on the grid for more than 15 years now, in part because - much like a fine wine - he’s had time to mature into the world renowned star of track and road he is today.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing though, Hickman almost disappearing from the grid entirely in 2015 when he lost his seat during the year.
It would turn out to be a blessing in disguise though, Hickman finding time to grasp the opportunity to try his hand at road racing instead. The rest is, as they say, history but that head-turning debut did more than simply set him on the, well, road to superstardom, it convinced the RAF Regular & Reserves Honda team to give him another shot at BSB.
Alas, while this was a chance borne from tragedy following the death of Simon Andrews on the North West 200, Hickman paid tribute to his fallen predecessor in the most poignant of ways by scoring both his and the team’s first win at Cadwell Park.
Proof that good things do come to those who wait, Hickman really hasn’t looked back since.
Kyle Ryde does the golden double at Silverstone
2020, Silverstone - Buildbase Suzuki
Considered one of the UK’s most exciting young talents when he was rising the junior ranks, Kyle Ryde’s career path took him all the way to BSB in 2020 with a debut on the Buildbase Suzuki.
After making a name for himself at Supersport level, it would transpire Ryde was better suited to bigger, more powerful Superbike machinery and he quickly made an impression in the ‘super sprint’ that was the 2020 season.
Even so, few would have put money on Ryde upstaging the established order during one particularly dazzling weekend at his happy hunting ground of Silverstone, only his third BSB event on the Buildbase Suzuki GSX-R1000R.
Demonstrating impeccable form on a fast, open-plan configuration that rewards those with a go-getting attitude, after scoring a new personal best run to second in race one, he went one better in race two with a surprise maiden victory in race two, before throwing out the flashing pan just hours later by doing it again in race three.
With the first chapter written, Ryde’s BSB story is still being written…
Howie Mainwaring-Smart upstages title showdown rivals
2014, Brands Hatch GP - Quattro Plant Kawasaki
As far as unpredictable results in BSB go, you’d probably have to be some kind of wizard to have called Howie Mainwaring-Smart’s out of the blue run to victory during the 2014 BSB finale at Brands Hatch beforehand.
That’s no discredit to Mainwaring-Smart himself, who’d established himself as a competitive addition to the BSB grid since his debut with Quattro Plant Kawasaki in 2013. But a smattering of top ten results in that time wouldn’t prepare us for his grandstand performance against the background of Shane Byrne and Josh Brookes’ title battle.
Nevertheless, Mainwaring-Smart would take full advantage of his nervier surroundings to swing freely and get stuck into the fight for victory, showing no sign of nerves as he won the race out of Clearways for the final time to clinch his one-and-only BSB victory.
Christian Iddon pops back to BSB, pops Bimota on pole
2014, Assen - Bimota Alstare
While Christian Iddon’s brief, oft-forgotten stint in WorldSBK with Bimota has been scrubbed from the annuls of history - literally - his 2014 campaign wasn’t a complete waste.
Indeed, the FIM’s decision to throw Bimota (and consequently Iddon) out of WorldSBK mid-way through the season for failing to meet homologation criteria - which also had the effect of wiping its results from the records entirely too - was somewhat extreme, while it disguised the fact Iddon and Bimota had, against all expectations and logic, been surprisingly competitive.
So, with its schedule having since opened up, Bimota turned its attention to BSB with Iddon making a wild-card appearance for the series’ annual jaunt across the North Sea to Assen.
While we’ll gloss over some of the more pedantic details over whether the Bimota BB3 - with its BMW-sourced engine - was within the regulations, Iddon quickly announced his return around the Dutch venue by powering to a surprise pole position.
Going on to secure a top five finish in race one, it’s a shame this would turn out to be Iddon’s one and only BSB outing with Bimota, the manufacturer quietly disappearing from the racing scene at the end of the year.
Rory Skinner blossoms on home soil
2021, Knockhill - FS-3 Racing Kawasaki
Few young riders make their BSB debut riding a wave of anticipation as large as Rory Skinner’s as he prepared to make his Superbikes bow in 2021.
Having blown the competition away in the British Supersport Championship the previous year, 19-year old Skinner’s graduation to BSB with FS-3 Racing Kawasaki was keenly-observed.
Fortunately, his cherished home venue of Knockhill would come early in his initiation during Round 2 of the season, Skinner using his intimate knowledge of the Scottish venue to steal the show with a pair of celebrated podium results.
Getting the home crowd on their feet as he tussled for victory, while an ill-timed red flag moments after being overtaken for the lead would scupper hopes of a famous win, a pair of second place results certainly proved a timely confidence boost for the youngster.
Loris Baz crosses the Channel, quickly finds path to success
2010, Croft - Motorpoint Yamaha
While skill and talent will always be the primary ingredients in the proverbial casserole of success in motorcycle racing, it doesn’t hurt to have good timing, luck, faith and being in the line of an influential eye.
For a young Loris Baz, it was esteemed rider-turned-manager Rob McElnea looking his way when seeking a rider to jump on the Motorpoint Yamaha to see out the final rounds of the 2010 BSB season.
He was still a surprise choice though, Frenchman being plucked fresh out of the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup, where he was competitive but had only a single podium result to his name by then.
And yet, despite being only 17-years old and having no experience of the UK’s more rudimentary circuits, Baz found himself right at home across the Channel with a string of impressive top ten results, including a remarkable seventh place finish on his debut at the particularly daunting Croft circuit.
Josh Elliott gets OMG Racing off the mark
2019, Silverstone - OMG Racing Suzuki
It’s easy to forget just how far 2022 BSB title-winners OMG Racing have come since making its debut in the series in 2018.
Not that it took long for the ambitious outfit to make a name for itself at the highest level, OMG Racing bursting out of the blocks at the start of its second campaign with a shock victory for Josh Elliott at the Silverstone opener.
Granted, this success came somewhat fortuitously for the team after first-on-the-road Tarran Mackenzie was penalised for biffing McAMS Yamaha team-mates Jason O’Halloran out of the race at the final corner, which promoted Elliott into first place.
While it was an early taste of things to come for OMG Racing in the ensuing years, alas it was as good as it would get for Elliott, who struggled for form thereafter before quietly leaving the team mid-way through the year.
Alex Lowes makes a small but historic point
2010, Oulton Park - Redline KTM
While it’s unusual to highlight a 15th place finish as being a result of particular note, there is definitely something pleasurably quirky about Alex Lowes’s run to just inside the points during the Oulton Park round of the 2010 season.
Only the second event of what would go on to become a decorated career in BSB and Superbikes, while Lowes’ 15th place finish in race two didn’t register much attention at the time, some 13 years later, his single point still stands as the only point ever achieved on KTM machinery in BSB.
Indeed, while the shortlived KTM RC8 certainly wasn’t a common sight on roads or circuits around the world, it was the machine of choice for the Redline team during its one and only BSB campaign in 2020.
It was also the team to give Lowes - who’d go on to win the 2013 BSB title outright - his debut in BSB, with that run to 15th on one of the less competitive options on the grid providing the understated first glimmers of bright talent for a rider with an exciting future ahead of him.