Two Superbike championships, two completely different starts to the season. Greg takes a look at how the World and British Superbike campaigns have kicked off in 2019, his 11th season working in motor racing.
Greg Haines writes from Barcelona
I write this on a calm April night as my significant other spends time getting emotional about the latest Game of Thrones. Sadly (or not, in my opinion), I just can’t get excited about fire-breathing dragons, so I thought I’d write a blog post about motorbikes instead. Sorry for the delay since the last one but the off-season contained a house move and was my busiest ever! Time flies when you’re having fun!
A decade ago I started my motorsport journey as a profession as opposed to just a hobby. It was writing for a Netherlands-based F1 website. The start of that season proved to be one of the most dramatic ever in Formula 1, with the double diffuser debacle which proved to be the start of the Brawn GP fairytale which began with a Jenson Button-Rubens Barrichello one-two finish in Melbourne. The very next weekend in Malaysia saw the unravelling of a highly controversial situation in which then reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren team were found to have lied to the FIA stewards over an on-track incident in Australia. What drama!
Ten years on and I find myself covering two championships intensely – and what a contrast in storylines. World Superbikes has seen a total changing of the guard, with Alvaro Bautista coming in from MotoGP and utterly blowing away the competition by winning the first 11 races (it could easily have been 12, but we lost one at Assen due to snow!). Over in British Superbikes, we’ve had two new winners in Josh Elliot and Tarran Mackenzie, while the opening race couldn’t have been more Hollywood-like as Mackenzie collided with McAMS Yamaha team-mate Jason O’Halloran on the last lap at Silverstone’s Luffield corner. Although the workload is hectic, I’m not complaining; it’s given us such a variety of action and stories to cover through our TV commentaries on Eurosport and our reporting at Motorcycle News.
2019 is my third season with Eurosport but the first I’ve started knowing who I’ll be commentating with at all of the WorldSBK rounds, which is brilliant because it means James Whitham is feeling as right as rain. We often warm up for commentaries by singing 80s anthems in the commentary box (really), although the favourite topic with viewers seems to be the Jelly Babies situation…we had some ‘stolen’ from a commentary box and Whit has since received about four packets from fans at various circuits. The best part of all is that he’s not even a Jelly Babies fan, which means it’s an absolute win-win situation for me. Lovely stuff.
It’s also been intriguing to hear the insight of six-time BSB Champion Shane Byrne (pictured, top) as we are recording The Shakey Show podcast together with Eurosport. There’s a lot still to come, as I’m only five race weekends into my 24-round season!