The 2020 Bennetts British Superbike championship should be getting underway in just over two weeks’ time, but with the globe going into lockdown in response to the ever-evolving coronavirus pandemic – the start of the season is on hold for now.
Series organiser Motorsport Vision Racing have announced that there’ll be no BSB action until at least the end of May as the UK looks to get the spread of the virus under control.
Two weeks ago, the McAMS Yamaha team were returning from a seven-day test programme in Spain which saw riders Tarran Mackenzie and Jason O’Halloran ride the new-for-2020 YZF-R1 for the first time.
Three positive tests, coupled with the performance of the new R1 in the opening round of the World Superbike Championship, left Mackenzie and O’Halloran feeling confident ahead of the season’s start, but they are now in limbo as to when that will be.
We caught up with Mackenzie to get his thoughts on the current situation.
What are your thoughts on what is currently going on in the world?
When we were testing, maybe 2-3 weeks ago, the virus was serious in two countries and within a week of coming back to the UK, it obviously got a bit more serious here and everywhere else!
After a good seven days of track action, we were ready to come back and continue with preparation for round one. Unfortunately, it has been pushed back a little bit, which leaves us in a bizarre situation of not knowing when we’ll get started.
It’s a strange time for the bike racing world, but with everything happening in the world the bike racing scene doesn’t really matter – there are bigger things to worry about right now.
It’s a little bit frustrating as all the teams and riders have put a lot of effort in over the winter getting ready for round one, so it is disappointing not to be lining up on the grid in April but things are out of our hands. All we can do is sit tight and keep checking Twitter for more news!
How are you keeping focused on the upcoming season?
I had a really good three months over winter and I’m at a good base level of fitness so it’s going to be about maintaining that for whenever the season kicks off. If they came out and said we could race next week, I feel ready to go right now so I need to make sure that remains the case for whenever they do say we can go racing again.
How are you training?
We are lucky where I live. My Mum and Dad have got a flat track out the back of the house which we can ride on. The weather has been picking up so we did a bit of that, but we need to bear in mind the government advice too!
I have a gym at home which also helps. I’ve got a training plan and train a lot with my brother, Taylor, which is nice. The government say we’re allowed out once a day to exercise so it’ll be making the most of that each day when the weather is good and focusing more on working in the gym at home when it’s not so good!
What was your focus on during testing?
I think as a rider you can always improve whether that’s training or riding on or off-road, but I felt like last year I had a good base of riding and training and I feel like I’ve upped that over winter.
I’ve been doing a few things a little differently which seems to have helped so it’s just a case of adjusting to that and getting used to the new bike which has gone well in World Superbikes with the PATA guys.
In testing, we had to make sure it worked in BSB spec and I felt like there was quite a bit of donkey work at times between Jason and I, but we got through a lot and it put us in a really good position.
That’s what is most frustrating as you get the ball rolling and get a bit of momentum going and all you are thinking about is the net test, but now it’s on hold!
Looking back at the test, what did you think of the new YZF-R1?
The new bike is good, a clear step forward from last year while not being a completely new bike meaning you have to start from scratch.
We went to the test to do a job, we didn’t have a set plan that we were ticking through each day, we were more working on something we needed to work on until it felt right and then moved on to the next thing to test.
Jason and I split the work 50/50, he’d work on one thing while I worked on another, and by the time we went to Jerez we were in a good position. I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be leaving Monteblanco, but after Jerez, I was feeling much better in myself, my riding and with the bike.
We also managed to have a bonus two-day test in Almeria, which gave us even more time to make more progress with the bike. Over the three circuits, we didn’t really change the bike’s set-up too much which is really encouraging as they are three very different tracks. In all, after seven days on the bike, I was very happy.
What are your expectations for the 2020 season?
Last year the goal was to build on the end of my first year in BSB where I was consistently fighting for podiums and to win a race in 2019 was one of my main goals so to do that at the first round was quite good.
The first few rounds went quite smoothly; in the first five or six rounds, I was fighting for the podium. I had a crash at Brands Hatch, but I came back at Knockhill and Snetterton and continued to fight for wins and podiums. When I broke my wrist at Thruxton, this made things more difficult.
Going into the winter, I wanted to focus on being more consistent. If I can have a more consistent and injury-free season, there’s no reason I can’t be finishing inside the top three. If we can be there or thereabouts every weekend, and we’re in a strong position come the end of the year I’ll be giving it my all in the Showdown!
Finally, have you got a message for the BSB fans?
These are tricky times and everyone has different circumstances. We have to listen to what the government are saying and stay at home aside from essential trips to the shops or if you absolutely can’t work from home.
It’s frustrating for everyone, but the UK is doing the right thing at the minute with the self-isolation and social distancing. Try the best you can to stay healthy and stick to the guidelines – the quicker everyone does that then the quicker we’ll be back to normal and racing bikes again!