Above: Glen Irwin is a man fast on the roads and on the short circuits. He won the feature race at last year’s North West 200 and backed that up with a win in Macau. As I write this, he’s just won a race at the North West 200 on his Ducati.
If MotoGP contracts were handed out based solely on the character of a race track, then Oulton Park in England would be at the top of the list.
The city is set in the idyllic Cheshire countryside, only 30 miles from the Beatles hometown of Liverpool, and 13 miles from the historic city of Chester. The track is fast, techinical, with natural elevation changes and spectacular scenery.
There are few finer places to watch motorcycle racing when the sun is shining than at Oulton Park. The natural banking around the track offers great unobstructed views.
If you’re a keen photographer the circuit offers fantastic opportunities with very few fences getting in the way.
The series doesn’t make many appearances here on A&R, other than the odd reference to a MotoGP or WSBK rider heading to or having come from BSB.
This season I’ve had two opportunities to visit BSB races in person and I’ve been so impressed I thought I’d offer the readers of A&R a trackside view of the series via the most recent round from Cadwell Park.
With Ben Spies already retired, Colin Edwards about to retire at the end of the 2014 season, Nicky Hayden struggling with a wrist injury, and Josh Herrin having a very tough rookie year in Moto2, there is growing concern among US fans about the future of American racing.
What is to become of the nation that once dominated world championship racing, with existing stars in decline and no fresh blood ready to replace them?
Perhaps the brightest point in the firmament for American racing is PJ Jacobsen, currently racing in the World Supersport championship for the Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpress team.
The native of Montgomery, New York has been quietly building a reputation as a fast and promising young racer, stringing together a series of top ten results in the competitive WSS series in his debut year, and coming very close to scoring his first podium.
Jacobsen’s World Supersport debut comes after an impressive first year racing in the British BSB championship with Tyco Suzuki, which earned him a move to the world stage.
We caught up with Jacobsen a few weeks ago at Assen, ahead of the third round of the World Supersport championship. There, we spoke to him about the state of American racing, the difficulties faced by American riders trying to break into a world championship, and the path he took to the world stage.
Jacobsen covers BSB, living in Northern Ireland, and how his background in dirt track helped in road racing. PJ tells us about how BSB is a viable route into a world championship, and just what it takes to make the move. It was a fascinating perspective from an extremely talented young racer.
The rumors about Noriyuki Haga’s future have been swelling for the past few weeks, as the Japanese rider was tipped to land in the British Superbike Championship for the 2012 season. Officially confirmed today by Yamaha Racing, Nitro Nori will once again take to a Yamaha YZF-R1, as he competes with Swan Yamaha in BSB, and permanently replaces the injured Ian Hutchinson. While BSB fans were surely dismayed by the news that Hutchy would be out for at least part of the BSB season, the Isle of Man TT star’s absence will at least be made up for by the addition of Haga to the BSB rostrum.
A boon for the British Superbike series, Haga’s status as a former-WSBK contender should add another name to the list of riders that British fans will have to follow in 2012. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride, Haga finished runner-up in the 2000, 2007, & 2009 WSBK seasons, and finished third in the 2004, 2005, 2006, & 2008 seasons. Nitro Nori will be hoping to change that luck in the UK though, and with the support of the factory-backed Swan Yamaha squad, we expect to see the Japanese rider on the top step on more than a few occasions.
John McGuinness may be recognized as the King of the Mountain, as the Englishman has 17 Isle of Man TT victories to his name (second only in overall TT victories to the legendary Joey Dunlop). But, the young Ian Hutchinson has accomplished something neither McGuinness nor Dunlop can lay claim to: winning five solo-race victories in the TT fortnight. Hutchinson did the impossible in 2010, winning five of the solo-class races in dominate fashion (Hutchy could have swept all six solo races if he rode an electric).
Tipped as the favorite for the 2011 Isle of Man TT, Hutchy suffered a shattered leg while short-circuit racing in the British Superbike Championship. Missing last year’s TT, IOMTT fans have been waiting for Hutchinson’s return to the famous island event this year. However with only four months until the 2012 Isle of Man TT, Hutchinson has again broken his leg while rehearsing for the Carole Nash MCN Motorcycle show on an off-road bike.
With just one more round left in the 2011 British Superbike Championship, John Hopkins has undergone more surgery, again having his hand operated on for injuries he sustained after crashing at the Czech GP back in August. The surgery comes as a surprise as the BSB season is so close to completion, along with the fact that Hopkins’ dominate wins at Donington Park shoved him to the front of the points leader board in the Championship standings.
“There was a lot of pain in my fingers at Donington Park and I knew it wasn’t right and in fact I was very worried I’d aggravated the injury. So I rushed back to see my surgeon on the Monday,” explained Hopper. “The X-Rays showed that my middle finger wasn’t locating properly in the second knuckle. Fortunately the bone area that had previously been crushed was now nicely healed and so my surgeon was able to put in screws and plates so as to stabilize the finger.”