In-form Supersport talent on BSB return and refreshing 2023 campaign.
British Supersport leader Ben Currie is no stranger to the top step of the podium and is currently enjoying a mega run of results with four race wins out of the last four starts. He made the switch to the Oxford Products Racing Ducati team to return to the BSB paddock this year after an injury-plagued stint in the Supersport Championship (WorldSSP), and shares on that transition, plus his current hot form as CycleOnline caught up with him to ask Five Questions for this latest feature.
What was your main motivation to return to the BSB paddock for the 2023 season as opposed to trying to pursue another year in the world championship with a different team?
I think that last year was so challenging in its own right, I really needed to get myself back to the form that I am used to. Obviously, having a really bad back injury was really badly timed for making my world supersport debut, and the results weren’t coming that I would have expected. Winning world championship races wasn’t the number one target, it was just to have steady progress and build a platform to sort of springboard off for future years. But with my injury and my fitness level, it just wasn’t progressing and it was going south every time we went out and raced, hence the decision to terminate the contract early, get myself right, get myself fit in the off-season and then come back and return to winning races and getting my confidence back so I can continue my career in an upwards trajectory, rather than downwards.
How did the deal come about with the Oxford Racing Products Ducati team?
I think around August time [last year] I got a phone call from Steve Moore, the team owner, and he said ‘look, we are putting this project together, Ducati Corse are really keen to have a Ducati in the British Championship, they are doing really well in the world championship and they want to expand the project. They want to offer a level of support along with Ducati UK and obviously, we will be a Ducati dealership running a Superbike at the top level with Tommy Bridewell [in 2022]’. It seemed fit for them to do that, they phoned me to see what my availability was like, luckily enough for me I was struggling in the world championship and the deal was right, the timing was right and it all came together quite nicely to be honest, with this being my number one preference to definitely step back in British Supersport and to be on a Ducati, which is a fresh machine, a bike that is doing very well. With that information, I jumped at it straight away.
Obviously, the engine characteristics would be a lot different to say the Yamaha or Kawasaki Supersport machines you’ve ridden previously, but can you explain some of the challenges, strengths and what you enjoy about riding the Ducati?
The start of the year was a bit of a slower start compared to what the results are like now. We had a lot of development, and although we have support and stuff from Ducati, we’ve really had to work things out. It was the first time the Ducati V2 had been racing in Supersport in the UK, so we had no sort of base data or anything like that to go from. The gearing ratios, then also we had some new K-tech product that we had to develop to a certain extent, because it was sort of untested and not trialled at Supersport level. Some new forks, some new fork settings and stuff like that. I haven’t ridden on the K-tech for many, many years, always riding on Ohlins. Then you’ve got the engine characteristics, being a V2 it delivers its power completely differently, and the chassis is completely different to anything that I have ever ridden, coming from the ZX-6, the Yamaha, those sort of bikes where the chassis has always been so good. Not that the Ducati is not a good chassis, it’s just different and you have to ride it in a different way. Once I adjusted to riding it in the correct way to get the best out of the package, along with all of the development clicking into place, we’ve now found a really nice spot. We are coming towards the back end of the season, the setting is dialled in, everything is starting to get dialled in and I’m getting more and more used to the bike, we are hitting this absolute golden patch in results and we can just keep pushing on.
In terms of it all clicking, the results of late have been amazing but do you feel like you have reached or are getting close to the potential of that package now?
I think we are very much into the finer details now. The development, there’s still things that we want to achieve, but they are not big, big gains like we have seen. I think the biggest part will come from me really, I’m still very much on the road back to my full fitness and my very best. Obviously, I have got the limitations on my back where I can’t bend properly, and that sometimes affects my movement on the bike. That being said, I have been doing a really good job with my trainer and stuff to manage that, so it’s not affecting my results as such, but I know there is plenty more in the tank for me to get better, get fitter and stronger, move a lot more efficiently. Along with all of those little two to three-percenters on the bike, I reckon there is still very much room for development and moving forward. It is really exciting because moving forward with the project, we are at this spot now where we’ve won four on the trot, if we can get all of them little areas a little bit better, we could see another little jump in results and hopefully really, really push on.
If you can wrap up the British Supersport Championship this year, is a move back to the world championship on the cards or perhaps a return to the Superbike category in 2024?
The number one focus right now is to try and win this British Championship, there are still six races to go so the focus is very much on that. However, you can’t help but have one eye on what you are going to do next. For me, returning back to winning ways, challenging for a championship, is everything I wanted and more. To have them results off… Arguably have the best results of my career off the back of my worst-ever season racing a motorbike, most unenjoyable, you know rock-bottom essentially, is amazing. Whatever I do next season, I want to make sure it’s not a backwards step, in the sense of results. I need to be continuing this on and getting good results. I need to sort of stabilise and get some continuity there, and continue these results. Let’s see. I definitely want to continue with the team, and there are talks happening around that at the moment. Whatever it is, I need to continue with these results, so my best bet in that is another year in Supersport and then potentially some more wildcards next season in world supersport again, and be able to showcase my true potential at world championship [level].