It's been a season of twists, turns, up, downs and dodgy weather, but the 2012 MCE British Superbike Championship thus far has merely been a prelude to the main event that looms over the next three rounds…
While they may struggle to replicate the breathtaking conclusion that saw Tommy Hill get the edge over John Hopkins in 2011, this year's 'Title Showdown' is still destined to be a particularly hard-fought one as Hill, Josh Brookes, Shane Byrne, Michael Laverty, Alex Lowes and Tommy Bridewell go up against each other for the biggest prize in British motorcycle racing.
Back in April, we at Crash.net
posed the question 'Who will win the 2012 MCE British Superbike Championship?' and, as ever, you responded in your thousands.
At the time you opted for Byrne as your most likely winner, the two-time champion looking to give Kawasaki its first title since 1992. Indeed, Byrne has looked every inch the potential winner with wins at Brands Hatch, Knockhill and Oulton Park, though it remains to be seen whether his recently acquired shoulder injury could hamper his chances when the Showdown gets underway.
Leading the way heading into three-round shootout is reigning champion Hill, who you only voted into third place in our original poll. Sticking with Swan Yamaha, while Hill potentially had something to lose by attempting to secure back-to-back titles, his seven wins so far suggest he is actually enjoying an even better season in 2012 than he did in 2011… After last year's grandstand finish, it'll hard to bet against Hill should it come down to a final race flourish.
A brace of wins at Donington Park give Josh Brookes the best possible entry into the Showdown, though the Tyco Suzuki rider has built his campaign more on consistency this year having finished all but two races inside the top four. Whether consistency will be the key to a challenge at the crucial moment remains to be seen, but Brookes can also count on his experience as a Showdown rider.
As can Samsung Honda's Laverty, who makes his third appearance on a third different bike (he previously made it with Relentless Suzuki and Swan Yamaha). The Ulsterman endured a tough start to the season, but has come on strong in recent rounds with wins at Snetterton and Knockhill, while the man himself has often waited until the Showdown to fully show his hand.
If the top four were fairly predictable entrants to the Title Showdown (they were your first, third, fourth and fifth selections in the pre-season poll), the remaining two spots certainly didn't align with expectations. In fact, you placed WSBK exile Noriyuki Haga as your top pick for the title after Byrne, but the Japanese rider couldn't quite live up to his billing as he eventually fell short in eighth.
Instead, it is Tommy Bridewell and Alex Lowes who will go through to contest the 2012 title, the former proving such a surprise that he wasn't even included in the pre-season poll having only secured his ride at the eleventh hour.
Though he hasn't made it onto the podium, exceptional consistency has kept him and newcomers Supersonic BMW static in the top five for almost the entire season, the youngster in turn ensuring that five manufacturers will be represented in the Showdown.
Lowes, meanwhile, can thank a strong late burst of form for his Showdown spot, the WFR Honda rider shrugging off a tricky start to the season – as well as the demons that hampered him towards the end of his breakthrough 2011 year – to come of age just in time. After a podium finish at Cadwell Park, Lowes could be a genuine outsider for the win.
With just three rounds and seven races to determine who will secure the 2012 BSB crown, we want to know who you will prevail come Sunday evening at Brands Hatch on 14th October…
Who will win 2012 BSB Showdown?
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