The MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship has announced a superb entry of 31 riders representing eight nationalities for the opening round of the season at Brands Hatch this Easter weekend (18/19/20/21 April).
The definitive line-up, which includes 30 season-long entries and 21 individual teams representing six different manufacturers, was confirmed ahead of today’s (Tuesday) official test at Donington Park. The final place on the grid at Brands Hatch will be taken by wildcard and Isle of Man TT winner Michael Dunlop.
Bathams BMW became the final team to announce their rider pairing yesterday (Monday), as they confirmed former title runner-up Michael Rutter and Swiss rider Patric Muff. They’ll be taking part in today’s group test at Donington, before all the teams head to Snetterton’s 300 circuit for a further two day official test next week (8/9 April), which is free of charge for spectators.
Fresh new look for MCE BSB in 2014
The 2014 season has seen the biggest shake-up of teams and rider combinations in years, yet the strength in depth is as impressive as ever – the Brands Hatch grid will feature nine MCE BSB race winners and two triple champions: Shane Byrne and Ryuichi Kiyonari. Byrne remains with Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki and the most successful rider in the championship history is desperate to claim an unprecedented fourth crown after narrowly missing out to Alex Lowes at the final round last year. The team have strengthened their line up with reigning Motorpoint British Supersport champion Stuart Easton, who has made a remarkable comeback from devastating injuries sustained at the North West 200 in 2011.
Ready to challenge Byrne is returning Californian mega star John Hopkins. The former MotoGP frontrunner was part of the closest MCE BSB title race in history in 2011 and lost out to Tommy Hill by just 0.006 seconds in the final race. He has unfinished business in the championship and is targetting the title with Tyco Suzuki. Former champions Milwaukee Yamaha meanwhile have secured the services of two-time MCE BSB runner-up Josh Brookes and upcoming Brit Tommy Bridewell, and both riders looked supremely quick during their pre-season test programme in Spain.
New and fresh line ups for 2014 include Lloyds British GBmoto Racing Kawasaki, who have signed 2009 runner-up James Ellison and fans’ favourite Chris ‘Stalker’ Walker for their campaign, whilst triple champion Ryuichi Kiyonari made a surprise move to the Buildbase BMW team during the winter, alongside Showdown contender James Westmoreland. Record-breaking TT race winner Ian Hutchinson is ready to prove his mettle on the short circuits with the new FFX Yamaha team, whilst Harry Hartley becomes the youngest ever MCE BSB contender at the age of just 17.
Championship partnerships and TV coverage extended
MCE Insurance continue their five-year title sponsorship into the 2014 season, making it the longest continuous partnership of its kind in motorcycle racing history, whilst the championship continues long term associations with prestigious brands such as Pirelli, Nissan, Monster Energy, Motorpoint, Stena Line and STIHL.
The championship’s television coverage will also be enhanced this season with the Eurosport Group extending their deal to the end of the 2020 season. The new agreement increases live coverage of the premier and support classes in the UK, which extends to Saturday's qualifying sessions, which will see the MCE BSB Datatag Extreme qualifying and the Motorpoint British Supersport sprint race broadcast live and in HD. The championship will also continue to feature prominently free to air on ITV4, with an hour long highlights show every Wednesday evening post event.
Series Director Stuart Higgs said: “This season has the hallmarks of being one of the biggest and best in the championship’s history, featuring a permanent entry of 30 riders bolstered with wild card entries at certain events with TT race winner Michael Dunlop and also with World Endurance champion Julien Da Costa. The rider and team movement over the winter has really given a new vibe to the series with eleven new riders moving into the Superbike class and a further eleven riders changing teams ahead of the new season. The 2014 grid also features seven new teams which without doubt shows the continued growth of the championship which provides such compelling entertainment for trackside fans and a global television audience."
This year’s MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship will again comprise of 26 races across 12 rounds, with the season commencing at Brands Hatch on Easter weekend (18-21 April) and concluding on the majestic Grand Prix circuit at the same venue on 17-19 October.
Advance weekend tickets for the season opener at Brands Hatch, valid for all four days, cost £33 online at www.brandshatch.co.uk. Children under 13 go free.