The success story of motor sport in Britain is without doubt Superbike racing. The thrills, speed and sheer excitement has not only attracted record crowds to the various circuits in recent years, but more importantly held them at high levels. Without a doubt, this championship is the dominant force of domestic action.
This mass appeal is generated not simply by showroom based high powered production machines, but also the personalities powering them around the circuits. The combination of these key factors has proved a winning formula with the sporting public. The riders are the best and they need to be as the British Superbike Championship is rated as the toughest domestic series in the world.
The importance placed on it is illustrated by it becoming a stepping stone towards World MotoGP which has its own blend of 990cc prototype racing bikes. In recent years, three British Superbike Champions: Troy Bayliss, Neil Hodgson and Shane Byrne have all graduated to ride among the sporting elite as has James Ellison, the winner of the Superbike Cup in 2004.
This progression underlines the standing of the championship which has grown remarkably in the last decade, following the decision of the circuit owners to take charge of the countrys premier series back in 1995. This has been enhanced by Dorna, the promoters and organisers of the MotoGP Championship taking over the commercial interests of the British Superbike Championship.
Television coverage is key. A factor not lost on five of the worlds top manufacturers who are again fielding factory backed teams. New for 2006 is live coverage from every round by ITV1 - terrestrial coverage across their network will further enhance the Superbike pedigree. Additional coverage by SKY Sports on satellite television adds to the armchair audience. Alongside this is increasing media appeal and coverage centring on riders who are fast becoming household names.
The magic formula of Superbike racing is that the machines look just like the ones that are offered for sale in the various dealerships. The radical revision of the championship regulations four years ago opened the way for four cylinder machines up to 1000cc to take to the track. Thus road-going favourites such as the Suzuki GSX-R1000, Yamaha R1, Kawasaki ZX10R and Honda Fireblade were eligible to compete alongside the Ducatis.
This created synergy with the public, with the manufacturers able to present and prove their products in a high speed selling environment, but while the bikes might look the same as the road going versions, behind the silhouette there are important differences with upgraded suspensions, blueprinted engines, more power, special trick-bits and full race tyres.
Because of this, Superbikes have that special sexy appeal. They ooze power, passion, thrills and glamour. Add to that high speed, closely fought racing and top personalities and you have the winning formula that is the British Superbike Championship.
For the technically minded, Superbikes have to comply with one of the following criteria; they use either four stroke, four cylinder 750-1000cc engines and have an overall minimum bike weight of 162kg, or they have four stroke, two cylinder 800-1000cc engines with a minimum bike weight of 165kg.
Official British Superbikes Website http://www.britishsuperbike.com/