Since the exciting showdown points system was introduced in 2010, a ‘normal’ Bennetts British Superbike season has typically consisted of 19 races, with another seven during the showdown decider, over the final three weekends. The season would start in April and end in October visiting ten circuits including Assen in Holland and Knockhill in Scotland. Now, due to the COVID pandemic, we’re back to the ‘old-school’ system: 18 races, no showdown, every round counts, and every point matters.
Scott Redding won the 2019 championship with a final tally of 697 points last year. However, this year there are only 450 points in total up for grabs and the championship is visiting fewer tracks too with the final race at Brands Hatch taking place just 10 weeks after the season opener at Donington Park.
It’s a tight schedule with three races – a triple-header – over each race weekend, one of the Saturday and two on the Sunday. Every race weekend is going to be crucial with no-one able to afford a bad weekend and potentially lose 75 points. All of which could make 2020 one of the most exciting seasons yet, but the pressure is on, not just for the riders but the teams too. Just one engine problem or wrong tyre choice could be damaging for their championship aspirations.
A shorter season also tantalizingly dangles a carrot in front of the smaller teams. Get off to a good start, perhaps gamble on set up and take some risks, and they could bag some surprise results, especially so given that the bigger teams may have to be more cautious while their riders know they can’t afford to get injured during this shortened season.
With so many unknowns, 2020 is certainly going to be a dramatic but how will a shortened race season affect the mentality and preparation of teams and riders. We called a few friends to find out.
The short season will make it an exciting one, with all the racing happening over two and a half months you can’t afford to make a mistake. If you crash and break a collarbone in race one for example, then that’s that race done, and the next two, because there are three races per weekend. To be fair, you won't have time to recover for the next round, so you could potentially miss six races and that’s your season done with.
In the showdown, you could afford to have a crap day or a track you’re not comfortable with. Scott Reading did an excellent job last year; when he wasn’t happy with the track or conditions, he rode to a limit and grabbed a podium, knowing that when he was happy back at a track he loved he’d be going for a win.
Personally, I could never settle for sixth if a podium or a win was on the cards. If there was a 25% chance of throwing it into the trees and going for the win, I’d go for it. But that is why I probably didn’t win as many as I should have, who knows. But I could never leave a race track saying ‘I’m happy with a comfortable fifth’. Again it’s going to be interesting, I think you’ll see less risk taking on set up, and in changeable conditions everyone will be on the same rubber because they won’t want to gamble on tyres or set up as they can’t afford to have a crap race.
You could also see some of the mid-pack riders, who probably know they’re not in the championship but can get a good result at a certain track, take some risks. This could be one of the best seasons.
In the shorter season you can’t afford to make any mistakes and have a DNF. With the showdown, you can have a bad race and make up for it, but not this season. In the past I may have pushed too hard and gone for the win, now I’ll be thinking about the championship more. At Cadwell last year I took the win, then I was in third in race two and thought, you know what, a win and a third… I’ll take that rather than pushing really hard for another spot. It will be interesting to see how everyone settles this year and how it pans out.
The pressure is on for the whole team, we can’t afford to make any mistakes. We have to push every lap but we also have to stay out of trouble, which is hard work when you think about it pushing in every lap in every session.
I’m out there to win, and it doesn’t really matter to me if it’s a short season or a showdown championship – we turn up and want to be first. Every race I enter I want to win. Pushing every lap can depend on the situation, depends on the gap in front and the gap behind, and where you are in the championship. You must be clever. But I’m not approaching this season any different to any other season, I want to win.
When I raced in the Spanish championship, that was only over six rounds, so if messed up a race that was it really. But this season is 18-rounds, which is still a long season, about the same as a normal BSB summer up to the showdown. Nobody was going any slower in the season on the run-up to the showdown, everyone is fighting for positions and race wins. I think it will be flat out as usual, nobody will be holding back, not at first.
Chris Anderson, McAMS Yamaha Technical Director
I’d say there is more pressure on for the short season – for the riders, teams, mechanics, everyone. From my perspective, we have to make sure we are on it with parts and supply chain. There are so many races with a lot crammed into a weekend. For example, we have eight sets of bodywork already in plus six fuel tanks. Saturday is going to mad busy every race weekend with warm-up, qualifying and a race. If you have a big crash in timed practice on Saturday morning, you might miss qualifying, which gives you a bad race. There is less than three hours between qualifying and the race on Saturday, throw the bike into the trees and you haven’t got much time to rebuild it. Then, in between races, we have to get the bikes back, rebuild, re-stock, pack the truck… It’s a tight schedule but Stuart (Higgs, the BSB Series Director) has done a top job to get us all back to racing. It’s going to be an exciting season.
The riders are going to have to use their brains too, and I think you’ll see riders riding more for the championship. 18 races is still a lot and while everyone will be flat out at the first few rounds, it will be interesting to see what happens later, whether riders settle for second or third rather than pushing for a win in tricky conditions.
My mental approach isn’t any different to a normal season: flat out from day one and go for it. I’ll be going for race wins, first race, first time out. But yeah, for sure as the season gets closer the end, you have to be smart. If you’re racing with someone for the race win, and they are not in the championship and none of your rivals are close, then why take big risks for a win, when a comfortable second will give you a big advantage over the competition? It all depends on the race, the conditions, how you feel with the bike, who you are racing with and the championship. I’ll be giving it my all every lap of every race, then we will just have to see how the championship pans out.
Check out where and when you can catch the Bennetts BSB action unravel this year here - 2020 BSB calendar.