We are now well into a slightly extended off-season for the Bennetts British Superbike Championship, with the 2021 series set to get underway at Oulton Park over May Bank Holiday weekend.
Due to restrictions around the globe, testing is also not permitted at present until the official testing tour gets underway across four UK circuits in April.
This not only gives riders a little extra well-deserved rest and relaxation after a frantic 2020 season, but also extra time to prepare for the season ahead.
After his best-ever season in the British Championship saw him win two races on his way to fifth in the standings, we caught up with Tarran Mackenzie to find out how he’s feeling heading into 2021.
What have you been up to since the season ended?
It was my birthday just before the Christmas period, so my girlfriend and I went away, but that’s about as exciting as it got really! The Christmas period was steady as nothing is open, so I didn’t see any of my mates. I’m just ticking over with training as before the New Year I didn’t have a structure with it, it was just a case of having fun and having a bit of time off. But when the clocks turn, and the new year begins, it’s time to get back into a routine and get ready for the new season.
We don’t go racing until a month later this year and no testing until April – how does the extended off-season benefit you?
I think in a normal year where you can go to Spain, for example, it would work well. Last year I went to Spain for a training camp, but it was still quite cold, and the weather wasn’t fantastic, so if we were allowed to go to Spain, it could work out better because you could go slightly later when it’s warmer or for longer.
Being at home is good in a way, although I don’t want to get into a training routine between now and May and get sick of it without any riding. I have a good structure of training and riding with the track at the back of the house. The biggest thing for me is to keep riding; we can’t do that properly, so it’s important to do as much as we can here at home.
It also helps the team too because we would normally be gearing up to go testing within the next few weeks, so it gives them a bit more time to get everything prepared for April and then even more time for the start of the season. There are pros and cons, but I think starting testing in April will have its benefits.
How have you been working to go even better this season?
For me, comparing it to last year, I went to Spain to try and keep riding, get bike fit and get back into the swing of things, so I think it’s important to keep riding as often as I can, especially when it’s safe to do so. Last year I didn’t have a routine until we went into Lockdown, it was about just trying to ride as much as possible. It’s nice to have a structure to my training, it’s fun training, and I get to do it with Taylor with the help of Loughborough University, who have worked with many riders in the past. I take their program and stick to it, so with this time off hopefully we can get up to speed, get back up to peak fitness and head into 2021 in the best way possible.
The R1 was a new bike for 2020 and it was pretty much fast straight away, do you think there is more to come?
Definitely, I think we went into pre-season testing last year with a good understanding from the PATA World Superbike team, there were a few changes, but it was very similar to the bike we had the year before. It was all about figuring out what changes worked best. Jason had a strong start to the season, and by the mid-point, I think we were on the podium in every race, so I think having the new bike and the way we progressed with it will benefit us. For me, I had another year on the R1, and it showed towards the end of the year for me that we had a strong package and there are still improvements to be made, the team are working hard to fine-tune it, so hopefully in May we hit the ground running.
BSB organisers opted for a three-race weekend format, that stays for 2021 along with other changes to qualifying, how did you find three races in a weekend and what are your thoughts on the 2021 format?
I really enjoyed the three races because there was a couple of occasions where things didn’t go my way in one race, or I’d make a mistake race two, but then you have the extra race to bounce back and try and end the weekend on a high. I prefer the World Superbike style sessions with the shorter single session for the qualifying format, but our format is based on practice which should benefit me! Last year I only qualified inside the top ten once, and even that was ninth, so having to come through the field wasn’t ideal. I think it’s nice having something new going into the year as well as the extra races, it mixes it up slightly and makes it interesting. It will make it interesting to watch for sure!
The Showdown returns for 2021, with a slightly revised format, with now eight riders being promoted into the Showdown. How does that change things over the course of the ‘main season’?
The Showdown format will be interesting going into the last three rounds. I know getting into the Showdown in 2019 was tough because I had a wrist injury two rounds before which hampered me going forward. But I scraped through, so if there’s a rider in a similar position, it makes it easier for them to get into the title fight. In a way, it reduces the pressure on us slightly because a poor result might not cost you as much as it would originally. But the mentality is the same, pick up as many points in the first 24 races and qualify for the top eight positions as early as possible. If you can get in the Showdown as early as possible then you can slightly relax because you’re not losing 25 points, you’re effectively losing five points, so it’s not as big of a loss. It will suit a lot of riders having eight places in the Showdown as it gives more people an opportunity, but I think as a general Showdown it will work well.
Last year, in a “normal” season, we had five riders going into Brands Hatch with a chance of becoming the Champion, whereas with the Showdown, although you go into the final three rounds with six riders in the mix to become Champion, it never ends up like that, but with more riders in the mix, hopefully, it will make it a bit closer.
Who do you think will be your main rivals next season?
The Ducatis will be there again for sure, especially Brookes. Josh was there or thereabouts pretty much every round, or when he had a bad first race, he would always bounce back. Oulton Park, for example, he had a difficult opening race, but by the time the weekend ended he was back at the front. Jason had a great year too as did Iddon in his first year with the Ducati. But there are also riders who will be hoping to bounce back like Bridewell, for example. There’s a lot of riders who have changed teams and manufacturers too.
I think it will be Brookes and my team-mate, I know how strong our bike is now, and it will only improve for this year, so I think those two, but definitely Josh!
Finally, Yamaha UK have launched the R3 bLU cRU Challenge in the 2021 British Junior Supersport Championship, supported by McAMS Yamaha. How important is it for young riders to get involved in this, and how much of a benefit is it to have these sorts of programmes in the UK?
The bLU cRU Challenge is a brilliant idea because when I started riding the only route was the British 125 championship, which could be quite costly, and the bikes varied. I know back in the day the KRP or the Ryan Saxelby bikes were always strong, so unless you were on one of those it was always difficult to fight for a championship, and unless you were a little bit older or a little bit bigger and could jump on a 600cc bike, there weren’t many other options.
These YZF-R3s are a good step, and it gives riders another option into getting into racing and getting on their career path. It’s good to think that just because you’re not in the British Talent Cup or on a Moto3 bike that you can’t progress on to better things, so I think the Junior Supersport route is a good option, especially for those who ride Mini Motos or Metrakits as it’s not too big of a jump.
It’s a good stepping stone to progress younger riders onto bigger things and the support you get from Yamaha is impressive, I know our team have thrown a lot into the R3 project this year – my crew chief Chris spent the period after the season, when he could have had some time off, putting the spec of the bikes together and there is technical support throughout the year and Jason and I will do some track walks and stuff too.
I think the fact it is global is massive. The top two riders get to go to the Masterclass in Europe and they could end up winning support to get to World Supersport 300. I know from experience how tough it is to get to world stage so to have that opportunity via the bLU cRU is huge.
The YZF-R3 looks amazing too, it’s like a little R6, and I think it will make good racing as always in the Junior Supersport class.
2021 Yamaha UK bLU cRU Challenge
Riders participating in the UK programme will receive support from Yamaha Motor UK, which includes:
• Technical assistance from our official British Superbike team (McAMS Yamaha)
• Thursday track walks with Yamaha rider ambassadors
• The chance to run in our iconic Race Blue colours and become an integral member of the Yamaha Racing family
• Opportunities to feature in the official Yamaha Racing UK press and social media coverage
• Workshops and seminars with Yamaha Racing ambassadors including but not limited to BSB stars Jason O’Halloran and Tarran Mackenzie
• Paddock Blue race wear
Riders are not automatically entered into the R3 bLU cRU Challenge | UK and must meet the following requirements to submit their entry to the programme:
• Riders must apply through an official Yamaha dealer (contact Raceways Motorcycles today)
• Riders must follow the official bike livery and R3 bLU cRU Challenge branded Paddock Blue clothing and leather suit designs
• Riders must be between the ages of 14-20
• Deadline for entries is Friday 20th March – riders must also be registered with MSVR for the Junior Supersport Championship by this time
The McAMS Yamaha team have been busy preparing race-ready versions of the YZF-R3, built to the highest specification permitted in the class. These bikes are available for sale – email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.