Scott Redding and Josh Brookes are enjoying a less than spectacular start to their respective seasons.
And the next couple of weekends, at Donington and Knockhill respectively, may well give an indication of their prospects in championships where they have been hotly-tipped to do the business.
A hat-trick of wins at Oulton Park by Jason O’Halloran made it all look like a rather dull Bennetts British Superbike season opener but not according to James Whitham who opined: “Well, while there weren’t seven riders killing themselves to get to the front, I thought it was reasonable racing with a lot of cat and mouse at the front.
“Any race that’s decided on the last lap between two or more can’t be considered a dull race - I’ve seen plenty including MotoGP where somebody’s cleared off and won by five seconds.
“Christian Iddon was disappointed not to get a win but when I spoke to Jason afterwards, he was obviously over the moon. You’ve got to remember with the British championship the circuits are so diverse, Thruxton and Knockhill, Snetterton with Brands Hatch.
“There is much less chance of any rider dominating the British championship from the start than anywhere else. So, I thought it was a cracking start. I love Oulton Park. There were a limited number of punters back and it was good to see them although there weren’t many although I understand the organisers tried very hard to be allowed more. So, I was encouraged by the start.
“But I tell you what, a lot of the teams had issues getting ready for the season even though we have had a long lay-off. A lot were struggling to get the right setup, a lot of new machines etc. But the depth of field was unreal. There are a lot of people capable of winning this year even though it didn’t look like that.”
So, what happened to champion Josh Brookes who confessed to being very disappointed although he pulled it together with a sixth place in the third race? He was your, and most other people’s, favourite for the title again. Are you changing your mind?
“No, I still think he’d be in anybody’s top three. It’s the Showdown format. So having a steady meeting or two for whatever reason doesn’t mean you’re losing as many points as what it looks like on paper. It was a little bit of a mystery, perhaps to him as well as everybody else, as to why he wasn’t so competitive.
“His teammate was running right at the front, same team, same bike, same settings, so you would have thought he would at least be somewhere nearby. A little bit of a mystery really. But I think he will be there as the season goes on and we’ll see what happens at Knockhill.”
And what about our other star in the making, Rory Skinner? Do you think he did as much as he could possibly do in his first outing in BSB?
“Yes, I think that was the perfect first outing for someone as young as he is and his first time in Superbikes. He looks good on the bike, has the Superbike style and did not look at all overawed. He didn’t try to run before he could walk, and he just looked the part. We’ve seen riders coming new into BSB before trying to go quicker, they sniff at a little bit of success start trying too hard and end up crashing their brains out. He didn’t look like he was going to do that.”
Now to Scott Redding and World Superbikes this weekend at Donington. If he is going to be a contender for the championship, he should be doing something at circuit which he knows and had his first great success in the 125cc world championship many years ago.
He should be winning more races and so far has been disappointing, nobody more than himself?
Yes, I agree although we are not too far into the championship. He will be heading for Donington thinking there is no reason why he shouldn’t be on the rostrum and for him the top step. And be disappointed with much less.
“If he’s going to be a serious championship contender, he needs to make something happen at Donington. And I don’t think I’m saying anything out of turn here. Any rider in his position and with his talent and his ambition would be thinking the same. He’ll be eyeing that top step.
“Donington is not exactly typical of European circuits that we see mostly now in WorldSBK, designed in the last 20 years, mostly constant radius, reasonably flat, good camber, whereas Donington has a bit of everything with two or three slow corners, heavy braking points etc. It’s somewhere between a typical British circuit and a continental GP circuit.
“Most people seem to like it. I hope we get a little bit of weather because I remember being in Misano and all the British dying to get back to Donington whereas the ‘foreigners’ were thinking, “Oh hell, it’ll be pouring down!’ Actually, I hope we get a bit of good weather if only to prove the foreign riders wrong.
“The two riders I think will shine at Donington are, of course, Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu. They are outstanding. Scott has a real point to prove and I think he’ll be out to, well, turn his season round. I shy away from saying that because it hasn’t been a bad season, but he really needs to get a bit of momentum going now. But I’m sure he knows that.
“Of the other people van der Mark has the talent but has he got the bike to do it just yet, we know BMW are still working on it. Same goes for Tom Sykes. Gerloff? I don’t think he has ridden at Donington before, but he seems to learn pretty quick as he proved at Assen where he just missed out on points in MotoGP.
“Donington is more unpredictable than most circuits with changing weather conditions etc. I’ve looked at the forecast and it’s not a bad forecast although we might have a bit of rain. To sum up I think that most riders believe that if things go their way they can shine and there are four or five real contenders including Alex Lowes and, by the way, Rinaldi who had a great weekend at Misano, but I believe is new to Donington. I’m looking forward to it. Tune in.”