As our current crop of British riders get older we need to look at who will replace them.
Alex and Sam Lowes are still in their twenties so they have more years left, but Sam is having a tough time in Moto2 at the moment and as a rider who rode for us for two years, I would love to see him find his true form and get back to the front in Moto2. I am sure he will, but this still begs the question; who will step up when the likes of Cal Crutchlow, Jonathan Rea, Chaz Davies, Tom Sykes, Leon Haslam, Eugene Laverty and Leon Camier retire from racing? Indeed, Eugene is not in a top team now and Leon Camier is struggling as Honda re-structure their World Superbike team. I am confident both would be at the front if they can get their current bikes on the pace.
I might get criticised for this, but I think it was a big step for Jake Dixon to go straight from BSB to Moto2. His current team appear to have a bike that is not fully sorted at this time but even so, a big step in one go. I would have liked to see him in WSS where he would have had a better chance to be a title contender and give himself opportunities in either World Superbike or Moto2 in a more established team, as a possible springboard to hopefully MotoGP as the ultimate goal. Indeed, WSS was just that for Crutchlow, Laverty, Lowes, Rea and Davies.
Looking at the BSB paddock I see two riders who are young and could make a real impact in WSS. They are for sure Tarran Mackenzie, currently a title contender in BSB and a rider I would like to see step up and be a true asset to WSS as we only have Kyle Smith doing just the European rounds. Kyle is a good rider and a great lad who also rode for us but currently not in a top team and hence not getting the results I know he is capable of and, indeed has shown riding for us and before with Ten Kate. The other is Ryan Vickers. He crashed at Donington at the weekend and injured himself ruling himself out of the event but in the rounds before he was showing well and impressed with such little experience on a superbike. He’s not as far on in his career as Tarran but a real prospect for the future. I think Tarran would shine from the word go whereas Ryan would really need a two-year plan to show his true potential. No offence to any other young riders currently in the BSB paddock. I am always looking as I am patriotic and want to see Brits winning at the highest level possible.
The other rider now in BSB and leading the Championship after three rounds is Scott Redding. He is still only 26 and it looks like a route straight back to MotoGP would be difficult but what an asset he would be in World Superbike on a top factory bike. I would like to see him win BSB this year and get that ride next year. He is a real character, controversial in some ways but he would really shake it up and would have all the fans cheering, not just British ones. Let’s see how that pans out.
I know one of the reasons making this switch harder for riders from BSB is the fact that they are in good teams there and as such, most likely earning more than they would in the World paddock. That said I hope they believe in themselves and look further to the future where success at World level would put them in a position to earn even more than in BSB. They can always go back to BSB in later years as for instance, Shane Byrne and Leon Haslam did. Leon as we know is now back in World Superbike. I did advise Andrew Irwin this but he chose to take the BSB opportunity when Shane Byrne got injured and it will be hard for him to come back to the World Superbike paddock now. A real shame as he rode for us and was already in the top ten after five rounds despite getting injured at round one, missing that and then not being fully fit until round four. A great guy and a character I, for one, would welcome back into the World Superbike paddock. In Xavi Forres, he has a really good benchmark as a teammate in BSB this year.
Looking at our team after five rounds and heading to the halfway point next week In Jerez, we have two young riders – although not British – who are finding out just how hard it is in WSS. Different routes in their career to date with Jules Danilo coming over from the MotoGP paddock after riding in Moto3 and Moto2 and Peter Sebestyen having not ridden in a top team until he came to us mid-point last year. Both came from indifferent seasons in their previous teams but are growing in confidence and I believe will show more in the second part of the season. Both are top ten riders now but need more to make the next step to challenge consistently for the top six and then see if they can make a title challenge from there. The point where we are missing at the moment is to qualify well. Jules and Peter both need to be strong from the very start in FP1 and carry that through every session and the race to go from strength to strength. As it is we normally start quite well but then either in FP2 or FP3, both seem to hit a wall and then leave themselves too much to do in Qualifying. We have discussed this at length and we are looking to start putting that right in Jerez and every round until the end of the season so they can show what they are really capable of. I have great faith in our CBR600RR, even though it is an older bike and also in my team to work with them and do just that. As I say to Jules and Peter, they need to concentrate at every corner of every lap in every session and also down the straights as well to extract the best from themselves and our bike.