The world superbikes are back in the UK this weekend, when Tom Sykes,
Eugene Laverty, Chaz Davies, Jonathan Rea, Leon Camier and Leon
Haslam (if fit) get the chance to strut their stuff in front of their home
fans at Donington Park.
And while the big boys will undoubtedly be stars of the show, make sure
you don’t miss the supporting world supersport class, which could well
serve up some of best racing you’ll see all year.
After a few years in the doldrums
The ‘axe-murdering 600s’ are back. Along with 125GPs, supersport has long been the place to find the closest and most extreme action. In 2000 we witnessed the most incredible end to a world championship season as Yamaha’s Jörg Teuchert won an amazing four-way title shootout that was only decided on the last corner and since then the class consistently delivered big thrills in a class that, until recently, has been very significant for the manufacturers.
In fact, it was really, really important. The 600cc class bikes were the big sellers and supersport was the last bastion of the ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ adage that (according to some) still exists. As a result, manufacturers invested in the class and for several years was their main focus. Supersport once sold a lot of motorbikes.
Throughout the 2000s
It was the Dutch Ten Kate team that dominated the class, winning back-to-back-to-back titles every year from 2002 to 2008, when Yamaha’s extreme investment in Supersport, combined with the brilliance of Cal Crutchlow, broke the CBR domination – for one year at least.
With the global financial crisis hitting the 600 Sportsbike class more badly than any other, the Japanese companies have largely pulled the plug on both the development of new models and race programmes to support them.
But while the 600cc class has floundered in the showrooms, it has started to flourish again on the racetrack. With factories reducing their involvement, world supersport has become a viable playground for professionally run private teams like Ten Kate, PTR, ParkinGO and MAHI Racing, and as an excellent springboard for young riders to showcase their talent.
Britain’s Sam Lowes leads the series going to Donington after a barnstorming Monza round and there is further British interest in the form of fast-rising Scot Kev Coghlan, who lead for a period in Assen, and local boy Christian Iddon on the brand new ParkinGO MV Agusta F3. Joining them for one race wild-cards on Sunday will be the webuyanybike.com sponsored Billy McConnell and his fellow Australian Glen Richards from the British championship winning Smiths Triumph squad.
They’ll will be locking horns with the likes of three times champion Kenan Sofuoglu and his MAHI Kawasaki team-mate Fabian Foret, as well as Dubliner Jack Kennedy, who knows the circuits well from his time in the British domestic championship.
CBR600s, GSX-R600, R6s and ZX-6Rs may not be as relevant as they once were in the showrooms. But world supersport is now the only international series where Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha go head-to-head in competition. Add in the occasional MV and Triumph, some mad-for-it racers and a packed grid of some 38 riders. You really don’t want to miss the 600s at Donington this weekend.