Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Now that introductions are over, time to get down to business....

In the red corner, weighing in at 5 factory teams, 3 strong privateer teams, 3 former World Superbike riders and two former GP riders, British Superbike!

In the blue corner, with 5 factory teams, 6 strong privateer teams, 3 former WSB riders (1 of them a former WSB champion), and 1 former GP rider, the AMA Superbike series!

Thanks to the wonders of peer-to-peer file sharing British Superbike can now be seen by American audiences smart enough to configure a BitTorrent client, without having to wait for a season review DVD. So with the first race of both championships in the books, it's easier than ever to compare the 2.

Both claim to be the most competitive domestic championship in the world, although the Spanish Formula Extreme championship and the Australian Superbike championship might have a thing or two to say about that.

How can one possibly compare the two? Let's take a look at some of the riders to start with:

BSB can claim former WSB riders Gregorio Lavilla (winner of the '05 BSB championship), Leon Haslam and James Haydon, all on competitive bikes. Also in there is multiple TT-winner Michael Rutter, former Honda MotoGP star Ryuichi Kiyonari and Aprilia MotoGP refugee (and former BSB series winner) Shane "Shakey" Byrne.

AMA's biggest star from outside the series is undoubtedly Neil Hodgson, who has won the BSB series himself, as well as World Superbike, even though it was in the woefully uncompetitive 2003 season. Hodgson has also ridden a season in MotoGP with the awful D'Antin Ducati effort. Joining Hodgson from WSB is Ben Bostrom and his brother Eric, both of whom have had success there, as well in the AMA series.

AMA has a number of home-grown superstars who have not shone outside the series, such as Mat Mladin, Miguel Duhamel, Jake Zemke and Tommy Hayden. In BSB, it seems that you're either a star from elsewhere, or an also-ran fixture. Of course there's always the young guns and you can find them on both sides of the pond.

When it comes to factory support, the BSB series appears more diverse with well-funded outfits running Ducati, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki. In AMA, Yamaha has chosen to focus its efforts on the 3 non-superbike classes much to the chagrin of virtually everyone else. This has taken such terrific talent as Eric Bostrom, Jason DiSalvo and Jamie Hacking off the Superbike grid in order to beat up on the struggling privateers in Superstock.

Both series have a number of strong privateer outfits. AMA teams such as Jordan Suzuki are analogous to BSB teams like Stobart Honda: well-funded, professionally run and with strong riders. It's probably true to say, however, that the gap between factory teams and privateers is much greater in AMA, with many arguing that qualifying restrictions in AMA are too lax and allow riders into the race that are too slow. BSB represents a greater consistency in talent across the field.

Arguably, the most important issue is the quality and closeness of the racing. In BSB in 2005, Kiyonari's initial domination was gradually broken down by Lavilla to make for a nailbiting finish. In contrast, Mat Mladin dominated the AMA with only half-hearted efforts from his team-mate Ben Spies and new boy Hodgson. For '06 we've seen Lavilla and Kiyonari each dominate one of the first 2 races at Brands Hatch, whilst Mladin pulled off a perfect last corner move on Spies to win the first AMA race at Daytona.

For now, it seems both championships offer a lot, although BSB seems to have smaller, but better, grids. In terms of spectacle it allows spectators to much more easily follow the action with a limited number of easily-identifiable, well-funded, brightly-painted bikes all dicing. The AMA often seems like 2 races: 10 factory guys racing, followed by about 35 amateurs. A change in AMA rules to make Superbike riders ineligible for the Superstock class would surely convince some of the slower riders to stay in the "junior" category where they belong, and make for a closer, tighter race in Superbike.

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