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 O’Halloran to get his thoughts on the current situation.
With the season postponed, what are you doing to keep motivated and how are you training ahead of the 2020 season?
I’m quite lucky that I have everything I need at home to keep training, I converted my garage into a gym not that long ago so I’m in there a couple of times a day, staying at home and following the guidelines from the government. I’m training just as much as I would be, it’s just more at home than usual!
I’m lacking some equipment at home compared to the gym so there are a few things that we’re missing or not able to do but we’re managing. The plan throughout pre-season was to be prepared for the 10th-12th of April. I wanted to be at my prime by then, but now obviously the program will change a little bit but the key is still to be ready for whenever we go racing.
You have done seven days of testing with the new R1, what do you think?
Testing was good. It was a little bit of a different test this year as we didn’t quite have a full team, so it was more about me riding the bike and getting up to speed.
We worked a little bit on electronics but in terms of chassis stuff, we didn’t really do a massive amount as I didn’t want to chase a circuit-specific set-up at Monteblanco or Jerez. I just wanted to work on the areas I knew we were weak last year and to work on myself and I feel we improved in each of those areas.
Although the timesheets didn’t look amazing, in Monteblanco I didn’t put any tyres in to have a time attack and we were only half a second off from the top of the timesheets which I was pretty happy about.
At the end of the second day in Jerez, we put in a fresh set of tyres but unfortunately, the session got red-flagged due to an accident so the overall timesheet isn’t a great indication on where we ended up in the test.
I can’t wait to get on some UK tracks to see if we improved the areas we needed to, get the full team in and crack on with it.
What are your expectations going into the 2020 season?
Every year is different and everyone on the grid has the same goal at the start of the year.
Last year I started the year strong and unfortunately got hurt straight after the opening round and then hurt again in the middle of the year so the only round I was fully fit was the first round at Silverstone.
This year I just want to take my time, my first target is to get on the podium and then my second target is to win a race and if we can do that, we can work on getting into the showdown and anything after that happens.
You can’t plan too much with our championship as it’s just the three rounds towards the end of the year that count but I want to tick the boxes as we go along, be at the front and ultimately be satisfied with the results we get.
Last year I wasn’t satisfied with what we achieved even though I was injured, I felt like we could have got more out of the package that we had and I think that this year the target has to be to make the most of the bike.
The YZF-R1 is a really competitive bike and we have even more to come than what’s already been shown. I want to maximise everything we have and that will hopefully put us near the front.
Have you got a message for BSB fans?
Stay at home and follow the government guidelines.
The sooner we can all stay at home the sooner we can beat the virus get back racing. If we all start to follow the instructions, be patient and listen to the experts who know what they are talking about, then hopefully normal life will be back before we know it.
Ahead of BSB, it’s only going to build the anticipation more. It was already going to be an exciting year but now it’s going to be even better as it’ll be condensed over a shorter period. The fans are going to get more races in a short space of time, which should be quite the spectacle!