Everyone loves an underdog, but for Tommy Bridewell, his arrival in the British Superbike Championship prompted more than just support for the 'little guy'. Competing against the adversity of a low budget and riding a dated bike, Bridewell's 2009 story is also tinged with more than a hint of poignancy.
Having tasted some success at Italian Superbike level leading up to the 2009 season, Bridewell actually began the year competing on the international stage in the FIM Superstock 1000 series. A series of disappointing results prompted a split after just a handful of rounds though, leaving Bridewell without a ride.
Scraping some funds together, Bridewell reappeared on the BSB stage for the fifth round at Snetterton, riding the same Suzuki previously piloted by his late brother Ollie, who was tragically killed in competition two years ago.
At three-years old, the Suzuki GSX-R1000 was hardly in its first flush of youth, but just like fellow Superbike Cup rider Gary Mason, Bridewell could ride around the ageing underpinnings to put in some remarkable giant-killing performances.
Class victory on his debut was followed by an outstanding double top ten finish overall at Knockhill, Bridewell stunning the establishment by out pacing the factory-supported Crescent and Relentless Suzuki teams in the process.
For the most part, Bridewell was Mason's closest competitor in terms of outright speed over the remainder of the season and he demonstrated that with a total of seven wins. No other full-time rider would win a race in the Cup category in 2009…
Furthermore, Bridewell was a regular point scorer overall, finishing inside the top fifteen in 13 of the 18 races he started. It meant his final tally of 56 points was good enough to lift him to 18th in the overall standings, ahead several more experienced riders and even up on Relentless Suzuki rider Atsushi Watanabe.
A fitting and poignant tribute to his brother, Bridewell was a revelation in 2009, and while he has still been looked over by the factory teams this winter, a move to Quay Garage Honda will give him a long-awaited first full season in the top flight.
By voting Bridewell as your sixth top British Superbike rider of 2009 here, you seem to agree it is well worth it…
Team NB Suzuki
9th (Knockhill, Oulton Park)
Top 10 BSB Rider of the Year 2008:
Top 10 BSB Rider of the Year 2009
– Tommy Hill
– Sylvain Guintoli
– Ian Lowry
– John Laverty