Superbikes: What a time for BSB to come to region

There's just one week to go until the biggest motorsport event of the year roars into the region - and it couldn't have arrived at a better time.

There's just one week to go until the biggest motorsport event of the year roars into the region - and it couldn't have arrived at a better time.

The Bennetts British Superbike Championship makes its annual visit to Croft Circuit near Darlington next Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and for the first time this season the championship is now wide open.

During the earlier part of the year it looked like reigning champ Gregorio Lavilla had it all sewn up. The Airwaves Ducati rider was in dominant form from the start, and it was looking like a forgone conclusion.

But a recent run of bad luck, which has even seen the consistent Spaniard crash out a few times, has given Japanese hotshot Ryuichi Kiyonari the chance to leapfrog his way to the top of the points standings.

Kyo, currently on 274 points, rides the HM Plant Honda machine which comes with a local interest - HM Plant is owned by superbike mad millionaire, geordie John Jones, the man famed for buying James Toseland the grand piano to celebrate his maiden WSBk win back in 2003.

And if Lavilla has hopes of reclaiming his championship lead next Sunday, he's going to find the job even harder because he has to get past his own team-mate, Leon Haslam, first.

Haslam, known affectionately as The Pocket Rocket - his successful racer father was famously known as Rocket Ron - has been strong all year and with consistent top-three finishes has slowly crept up the table.

He currently sits second in the championship on 269 points, just five behind Kyo, with Lavilla third on 260.

In the manufacturers championship, Ducati currently have the edge over HM Plant Honda with 343 points to HM Plant's 327.

Further local interest in the main class comes in the form of York-based Scott Smart who rides the distinctive number 88 cream and claret Vivaldi Suzuki.

Scotty has already notched up one win this season, and always runs well at Croft, so could be one to watch next week.

ASIDE from the superbike class, the BSB weekend offers several other fraught and highly competitive races.

The Supersport race is one where you can pretty much guarantee the frontrunners will be Cal Crutchlow, Leon Camier and Eugene Laverty, but you can be sure these three will fight it out to the bitter end, making for some of the closest racing of the day.

Meanwhile, the Superstock class just gets better and better. This is one race where the winner could be one of several lads, and the action getting to the finish line is usually breathtaking.

The Suzukis have dominated this season, but Croft will be the first outing for reigning champ Lee Jackson since he quit his team and went back to the Yamaha of Krystal Racing Space Air - the team which took him to victory last year - so back on the R1, Jacko could be one to watch.

And for sheer madness, the 125 race just can't be matched - 40 riders, some as young as 14, charging around on those tiny `wasps' is a recipe for a fantastic race.

And don't be fooled if you think you're seeing double on the podium - it's just those super-talented teenage identical twins Alex and Sam Lowes who have been on top form of late.

We've got several local riders in the support classes including Dennis Hobbs (Supersport), Michael Hill (125s) and Paul Veazey (Superstock), and we'll have interviews with them all in next week's Burning Rubber.

Admission is £5 on Friday, £12 on Saturday and £25 on Sunday, with a weekend combined ticket £32. Accompanied under-15s free. Further details and information from Croft Circuit on (01325) 721815.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer