Ryuichi Kiyonari and Tommy Hill are the joint leaders in the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship going into the tenth round at the Croft circuit in North Yorkshire, but they are only a single point ahead of Josh Brookes.
The action in the country’s premier series is now entering the ‘Showdown’ phase, with six riders all in close contention going into the final seven races and three rounds. The leading trio are joined by Michael Rutter, Michael Laverty and Alastair Seeley and with only 20 points separating the six of them, there is all to play for.
For Kiyonari it is a challenge that he relishes. The HM Plant Honda rider has a strong pedigree at the circuit, having won four times there, with significantly a double success en route to retaining his British crown in 2007, when he also set the lap record.
The Japanese rider, who took a fourth place there in a one-off appearance with the team last year, is fired up and ready to take on all-comers.
The immediate threat is posed by Hill, riding the Worx Crescent Suzuki, who crucially rode out of a lean spell in the previous round at Cadwell Park, first setting pole start and then taking a win and a second place, results that have boosted his confidence going into the final phase of the series.
For him, and Kiyonari, the pressure is on to take race victories, but, the rider they both have to watch is Brookes, aboard the second HM Plant Honda. The Aussie, who pulled in a test session at Assen after the previous round in Lincolnshire, is ready to take them on.
“Every point can make a difference, but my approach is simple, the same as ever,” he said. “I want to go out and win every race.”
Brookes took a pair of third places in the corresponding round last year and based on that reckons “the main challenge is going to be getting the bike set up for the bumps, but then that is the same for everyone.”
Rutter, twice previously the runner-up in the title stakes, and on a further two occasions the third place finished overall, is well placed to upset the plans of the leading trio.
“We’ve got as good a chance as any of them, and the circuits hosting the final three rounds are all good for my bike,” said Rutter.
The RidersMotorcycles.com Ducati rider is only 14 points down and currently enjoying some of the best form of his length career.
Laverty, riding Relentless Suzuki by TAS, is a single point down on Rutter, having ridden consistently throughout, taking a victory in the Oulton Park round, while his teammate Seeley, last year’s Metzeler National Superstock 1000 Champion, made the cut with his hard riding in the decisive Cadwell Park round.
“I’m in a position a lot of other riders would love to be in,” Seeley said. “Now we can take our bike to the final three circuits, have fun and hopefully mix it with the title favourites. No one will be expecting me to win the championship, but then no one expected me to be on the top step of the podium at Brands in August.”
Those six have all to play for in the title stakes, while for the rest, there is the Riders Cup to be won, and that is something that Flying Scot Stuart Easton, who took his maiden BSB win at Croft last year, is targeting, though his Swan Honda teammate James Ellison will be in the mix together with Buildbase Kawasaki’s John Laverty and MSS Colchester Kawasaki riding Simon Andrews.
Tommy Bridewell will be chasing honours aboard the Quay Garage Tyco Honda while talented young French rider, former World Superstock Champion, Loris Baz makes his BSB debut with the Motorpoint Yamaha team alongside local favourite Dan Linfoot in place of the team’s injured Andrew Pitt.
And, Liverpudlian Steve Brogan will be aiming to extend his advantage in the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class title chase with another winning double.