Posted: 27 Oct 2011
After 26 races at 12 rounds, the British Superbike title was decided on the last lap of the final race by 6,000ths of a second with just 20cm separating the title contenders. You like your racing close? The 2011 BSB season will go down in history as one of the greatest battles ever…
At the start of the year no one could predict the outcome. The title contenders were a mix of the old and new. Former double BSB champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne was returning to the UK from a lacklustre World Superbike campaign with a point to prove. Triple BSB champion RyuichiKiyonari was devastatingly fast on his day but could blow hot or cold.Tommy Hill’s crash on the last day of the season cost him the 2010 title and broke not only his, but many fan’s hearts. Hill’s Yamaha team mate Michael Laverty was looking strong in pre-season testing. The old gun Michael Rutter could spring a surprise on his Ducati.Josh Brookes was fast but loose and then there was the wild card – John Hopkins. Hopper had raced in MotoGP, but after some ‘dark days’ the likable American was looking at getting his career back on track by winning BSB. It promised to be a season like no other and more than lived up to the hype.
The season kicked off with Shakey and Tommy leading the way at their home round of Brands Hatch, taking a win apiece before the reality of Oulton Park hit. An accident in warm-up left Hill with a injured shoulder and ruled him out of both races, while Kiyo wrapped up race one and looked like he had found some form. Ominously Hopper was second and lookedlike he had come to terms with the tricky UK tracks. A few hours later Hopper created history, becoming the first American rider to win a BSB race.
The next round at Croft confirmed what everyone thought – the title was wide open. Hopper took a strong second, Tommy rode bravely while injured but Jon Kircham and Josh Brookes took the wins. Six races, six different BSB winners and after the first race at Thruxton it was seven in seven when Laverty took the silverware. What a season!
Knockhill saw Tommy return to form while Hopper crashed out of the second race. In the next round at Snetterton, it was Tommy who failed to finish while Hopper tasted the champagne. The return to Oulton was cut short due to the weather, but not before the seesaw had swung Tommy’s way with Hopper leaving point-less and bruised.
Back to Brands for a ‘triple header’ and a win, second and no-score saw Tommy looking strong for a place in the final six ‘Showdown’ stage after the next round at Cadwell Park. He was joined by team mate Michael Laverty, Josh Brookes (who controversially crashed into Michael Rutter, robbing the likable Rutter’s chances of making the top six), a down-trodden looking Kiyo, Shakey and John Hopkins. Battered and bruised from a crash while riding in MotoGP, Hopper was still a force to be reckoned with. Three rounds to go and the title was there to be had by any of the six ‘Showdown’ contenders…
Hopper took first blood with a double win at Donington, but Hill was next to him on the podium. Another win at Silverstone for the American, but again Tommy was sharing the limelight. While the rest of the field were in with a chance, the final round at Brands Hatch looked like a fight between the American and the Brit. Nothing could have prepared the crowds for what was to come…
For the first of the three races it looked like the pressure had got to Tommy. Hopper beat him into fourth, but then suffered a disaster in race two when a broken sensor made him cross the line in 11th.
One race left, two points separating the two title challengers with Hill needing to beat Hopper to win his first BSB title. It all boiled down to who wanted it more, and in a last lap where the two rivals swapped places, and paint, numerous times and Hill emerged victorious. The last lap of the 2011 British Superbike series will go down in history as one of the greatest, and gutsiest, rides ever. No one deserved to lose, but at the end of the day Tommy’s sheer determination and heart saw him through to take the title.
And as if that wasn’t enough excitement, the year-long battle in the British Supersport 600 class between Suzuki rider Alastair Seeley and Kawasaki’s Ben Wilson was just as close. Going into the final race of the season at Brands Hatch just four points separated the two riders. Seeley needed a win to take the title by a single point, something he achieved after Wilson just couldn’t match his pace. The level of determination and commttiment toriding that both of these riders demonstrated through the whole season was nothing short of staggering. They weren’t just on the limit for the whole season, they were riding beyond the laws of physics and their machinery on every lap of every race with nothing short of 100% dedication.