BSB Knockhill 2015
Last weekend Fate delivered me to the British Superbikes round at Knockhill Circuit in Scotland. Well, said my friends from Riders for Health when I stopped to say hello, this isn’t really in Scotland. Though we’d crossed the border from England a fair few miles back, Scotland proper was still a bit farther north, or so they said with knowing smiles of experience.
The Scottish accents were out in full force among the track workers, however. Hearing them speak, my perceptions ranged from, “What a charming accent,” to “What the hell did he just say? Something about some meat?” The word ‘mate,’ sounds like ‘meat,’ I soon figured out, but that was one of the easier translations.
Beyond the language barrier, it was my first BSB experience other than watching the occasional race on television, and I have come away very impressed. For a national motorcycle racing series, BSB is really good. Very competitive in several classes, with plenty of recognizable names from MotoGP, WSBK and Irish road racing to keep one interested in who is doing well on track. The smaller classes have some fast youngsters coming up as well.
In the Supersport class there is even an American, James Rispoli, whom I remember from his flat track and road racing days in the US. He held his own, finishing 5th in Race 1 and 6th in Race 2, on a circuit I’d call ‘exhilarating’ to watch and which must be pretty hairy as a rider.
It’s a small circuit, 1.3 miles, and the Superbikes do 48-second laps. This is great for spectators because the leaders come around over and over again. There’s no waiting two minutes to see them pass by again like at Silverstone.
But going hand in hand with the short length of the track is its compact footprint. By that I mean it’s contained in a area that includes only the most modest of runoff space. There’s not much of a straight but there are too many sections where fallen riders hit the tire barriers with plenty of energy, and these impacts were from fairly ordinary crashes. A brake failure or other fluke accident could easily lead to a rider hitting the tires with enough speed to do serious injury. It was often nerve-wracking to watch.
While I sometimes gripe at MotoGP tracks about a surplus amount of run off at a given corner making photography more of a challenge than it should be, I much prefer having to deal with that extra distance to the opposite situation of not nearly enough run off. Both days at Knockhill I was nervous as I watched the riders, especially the faster groups.
But given that it’s short, narrow and nervously tight on the outside of the fast turns, it’s got loads of interesting elevation change and off camber corners. These are the novice riders on KTM390s at the start of the KTM British Junior Cup. Thomas Studwick qualified on pole in spite of wearing an orange tabard indicating that he was new to the series. The crest at the starting line becomes a small jump when the Superbikes go through this section.
A quick winding decent follows the front straight. Josh Brookes leads a group through Turn 3, and the track continues to dive down to its lowest point a short distance on.
After dipping down, the track rises suddenly, as we see Ryuichi Kiyonari at the top of the steep, short climb. He has just short cut a left hander before turning sharply right over the double rumble strip.
Cutting that left hander sometimes means the Superbikes get some air. This is roads speedster Peter Hickman enjoying some short circuit racing.
More from Knockhill on the next page: