Bennetts British Superbike title contender Christian Iddon believes that specific engine management work that his Oxford Products Racing Ducati team have completed during the winter could reap the rewards in 2023, as the 38-year-old guns for his first BSB title.
Iddon returns to the Italian manufacturer for the up-and-coming campaign after two impressive years of results with the V4 R. The former Supermoto star took three victories and 11 podiums over two seasons with the PBM Ducati squad back in 2020 and 2021, but he was left in the lurch for 2022 as Tom Sykes returned from the World Superbike paddock, effectively leaving him without a ride.
He would join the Buildbase Suzuki squad at the last minute, but results took a turn for the worse throughout the year, with the former Huddersfield university student admitting in an exclusive interview with BikeSocial that ‘it was hard yards’, and he began to ‘override the bike’ following a mistake he made at Knockhill, where a coming together with Josh Owens on the sighting lap saw him break the top of his arm.
Even though he missed out on the Showdown, Iddon had already secured himself a ride with the Oxford Products Racing squad for 2023, but he admitted even though he’ll swing his leg over a V4 R once again, it might not feel like an old pair of comfy slippers.
“When I first rode the Ducati it took me ages to understand how to get the most out of it, literally I was super slow, relatively, until the first race then as the lights went out I don’t know what happened but I just understood it, something clicked, it was very weird.
“So, I’m hoping it’s not going to be a long process to get that click moment. How it’s going to feel in terms of a pair of old slippers, well it’s not really different but it is quite different, the team have been working on some really sophisticated things in terms of engine management during the winter.
“In BSB we don’t have electronic aids, so that means the mapping of the bike is important, probably more so in BSB than in any other Championship. So, the team have been working really, really hard over the winter in getting something pretty special dialled in. It might take a little bit of time to see that come to fruition and see it work on track but I’m hoping it does. If it does then we’ll have a better understanding of our bike more than any other team of their machine, which will be pretty cool.”
New for 2023, Ducati have released an updated edition of the V4 R equipped with 237.4bhp as standard, which on paper makes the Ducati the most powerful superbike on the market. And after two rounds of the 2023 World Superbike Championship, once again it looks like the Bologna bullets are about to dominate once again.
However, with the way the rules in the Bennetts BSB Championship are laid out, electronic aids are not available, which means a stronger focus is placed on engine mapping. But ‘Iddo’ believes that the increase in power won’t make a ‘tangible difference’.
“In BSB now nobody tunes a bike, people move the power to where it needs to be. For almost every circuit on the calendar we don’t get given all the power, it would be far too much, it’s always being held back.
“So, it’s all about finding that fine line between not spinning, not wheeling but the front end must always be pawing the ground and creating as much grip as possible, because anything over than, or less than, will just slow you down.
“It’s that fine line that you as the rider and the team are trying to find with a good set-up, so the new Ducati doesn’t actually make a great deal of difference to BSB rules. Yes, there are some internal engine parts that might make it rev a little bit different, but the power side of it is something that won’t make a tangible difference at British Championship.”
It was no surprise to anyone that Iddon chose to return to the Ducati family, especially after his results in 2020 and 2021, which was arguably his best two years in the British paddock.
But he expressed that he’s more excited about a fresh start rather than jumping back on a V4 R, but he admits that the fact he’s back on a bike he knows well does make the process a little easier.
“You don’t know you’ll be competitive on it, but I have the knowledge that I was competitive on that bike. Nothing is ever a given but at least I know I performed on it, it’s more or less the same bike, all the bikes are more or less the same from two years ago so there have been no real massive leaps forwards that anyone has made.
“I’m not necessarily looking forward to getting back on a Ducati, I’m more looking forward to a fresh start. Last year was so hard in many ways, so I’m ready to go again. It could have been any bike really for that reset process, but it is probably easier given that it’s back on a manufacturer for one I wasn’t expecting to leave when I did leave, and two knowing that I’ve had really good results on before, it seems to suits my style and hopefully I can do the job that is required.”
For the first time in his career the now Newcastle resident will be the sole superbike rider in his team, meaning all the focus will go into him to perform to the best of his abilities. But does that add any pressure on to his shoulders, or will he relish the opportunity of the rare chance to be in a one-man team?
“It can work two ways, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the first time in my short circuit career that I’ve been in a one rider team, it’s quite rare as most teams run two.
“It will be interesting, I’m unsure how that dynamic will work as the first rule in racing is to beat your teammate as they’re the only person on exactly the same machinery, so that is kind of strange.
“I won’t have that second person to validate, or bounce ideas off, or even share a workload if you have a good relationship with them. But then you do have all the focus on you, you know that all the team are there for you, which can also add to a pressure cooker situation, but I don’t think that is the way that Moto Rapido work so I don’t think that is going to be the case.
“I think it will work well, obviously we have Ben Currie in the Supersport class so I think that is a nice semi-diversion of attention, and I think that will keep full attention on the superbike on one rider, but that then can take away some over-focus because I do think that can happen sometimes.”
Iddon begins his 2023 campaign on Saturday March 11 at the first official Bennetts British Superbike Championship in Spain at the Navarra Circuit, before returning to the UK for two tests at Donington Park and Silverstone.