With the season all done and dusted, the 2005 rumour mill spinning at full speed, and the riders nursing themselves back to health, 2onT hands out our first annual awards.
Most Improved Rider Award - Scott Smart. He was the no. 2 rider in the Hawk Kawasaki team throughout 2003. While time and again Glen Richards got under the front wheels of Rutter, Reynolds et al , Smart consistently failed to make the grade. When they finally got the extra 250cc they so obviously needed, Scott instantly clicked with the ZX10R, while Richards struggled, two big offs leaving him with broken bones. It wasn't long before Smartarse was not only on the rostrum, but winning races at Mondello and Croft. Now one of the hottest properties in British racing, he will surely be on either the Honda or MonsterMob Ducati in 2005, and will be a favourite for the title.
Season Sensation Award - James Ellison. By Round 6, Jentin Racing had got the R1 sorted, and Ellison began showing what an excellent rider he is. The Superbike Cup was all over as he walked off with it, but his focus was now on the podium of the race proper - reminding us of Shakey Byrne a few years ago. He didn't make it, but came mighty close, especially at Thruxton where he got up to 2nd and looked like he might win. What's more, he had a sparkling WSB meeting at Brands, finishing in the top 6 in both races. No wonder WCM came for him, but we hope he doesn't waste a season running round at the back of the MotoGP field, no matter how tempting it may be, and returns to BSB to fight for the title on the factory bike he so richly deserves.
Bloody (Good) Foreigners Award - Yukio Kagayama. BSB has been a proving ground for countless Australians over the last eight years. But the new trend of Japanese factories sending their young hotshots - Kiyonari - and not so young hotshots - Kagayama - has been a most welcome development. Yukio is pure class on two wheels, lets hope he returns to the UK in 2005, and Suzuki don't send him to MotoGP. Which is what they so kindly did when the BSB circus went to Thruxton, when we were treated to seeing Gregorio Lavilla on the GSXR1000, when he could have been riding the GSVR.
Disappointment of the Year Award - Sean Emmett. He's been on the fringes for so long, this year's ride seemed like the reward for all those years of being No.2 to JR . But the apparent match made in hell, between Emmett and MonsterMob boss Paul Bird, turned out to be just that, and it was a minor miracle they didn't part company, especially after the Thruxton debacle following a disastrous Oulton Park meeting. They perservered with each other until the season's end, but Emmett never got to grips with the 999, and didn't even improve his no 5 plate.
Man of the Future Award- Tommy Hill. The fact he has kept his factory ride at Yamaha, while Plater, Haydon and Mason have all been sacked speaks volumes about how well Tommy has performed in his rookie year in Superbikes. Rob Mclnea clearly believes Hill is one for the future, and although he didnt make a podium, he has had an impressive season on a below par bike.
Weird Signing of the Year Award - Kiel Bryce. Things arent going so well for your privateer effort, so what do you do? Sack your mega-experienced rider and bring in a complete novice? Err, yep, that's what PR Bransons Honda team did when they sacked Gordon Blackley and brought in Kiel Bryce from the R6 Cup. Unsurprisingly Bryce was totally out of his depth and failed to qualify on more than one occasion. And when he did, he got lapped embarrassingly early in the race. No disrespect to Kiel, it's a massive jump from a stock R6 to an all singing and dancing superbike, but perhaps he would have been wiser to learn his trade from the bottom up, and see if he could win the R6 Cup. I spoke to Chris Platt mid-season, and he told me he was going slower on a Superbike than he had on a 600, so difficult is it to learn how to ride a Superbike fast. Stuart Easton was another young rider who paid for trying to make the leap too soon.
Honourable mentions but no cigar to Jon Kirkham ( star of the future number 2), Sam Corke (Mr unlucky) , and James Haydon (come back of the year, no doubt about it).
This article was kindly provided by Pete Morrison at www.twowheelsontrack.com