Jason O’Halloran heads into 2021 off the back of his best-ever Bennetts British Superbike season, securing a total of 11 podiums and three race wins, finishing second in the championship.
With no racing action until testing in April ahead of the Bank Holiday season opener at the beginning of May, we caught up with Jason O’Halloran to find out what he’s been up to during the off-season, how he’s preparing for 2021 and who his main rival will be this season.
What have you been up to since the season ended?
I’ve used the off-season to take a bit of time to reflect on the 2020 season, It was a shame given the current situation we couldn’t go out and celebrate so we just had a bit of quiet time at home and that’s about it really! After that, I got back into training again; fortunately, this year there’s not much else to do, so eyes turn to 2021. It’s been the first year in a couple of off-seasons where I’ve built from a really strong year. I feel really good at the minute, I’m not working too hard because we’re still a long way from the start of the season so we are ticking over and doing our thing.
We don’t go racing until a month later this year and no testing until April – how does the extended off-season benefit you?
This year it isn’t too much of an issue because I’m fit, healthy and raring to go. I liked the condensed season last year, so I think starting later and finishing at the same time, as usual, will help me again. I don’t particularly like going racing then having a big break, I like to keep it rolling, so I think the 2021 calendar will be really good.
It’s a shame we’re not testing until April because six months off a Superbike is a long time to have off! I had some track days planned in Spain for February, but unfortunately due to the Lockdown that’s all been cancelled, but hopefully, it won’t be too long before we can get some laps in.
2020 was your best season to date, how have you been working on going one better in 2021?
To be honest, I’m the most relaxed I’ve been during an off-season because I come into it off such a strong year. So, it’s a case of refining myself, the bike and the whole package to make it even stronger. Compare that to previous years where I’ve been trying to sort my body out, or I’ve not had the best year on the bike, and I’m stressing on how to make a big step, so it’s the first time where I’m looking at the details of it all and fine-tuning everything to become even stronger in 2021.
It will be a lot of small things that will make up half a step because, at the end of the day, we got beat by one-person last year, which was Josh, so when I look at the season as a whole there are a few things I can improve on. My consistency was good; my speed was also good, so all we need to do is try to win a few more races because at the end of the day the rider who won in 2020 won the most races, Scott in 2019 won the most races, so that’s my aim, to win a couple more races than I did in 2020 and hope to lift the crown at the end of the year.
The R1 was a new bike for 2020 and it was pretty much fast straight away, do you think there is more to come?
I think so for sure. The 2020 format with one practice on Friday and then pretty much jumping straight into qualifying and the race meant it was tricky to dive in and change things on the bike. If we turned up on Friday and were somewhere near the front, we wouldn’t change too much on the bike. We found a comfortable base setting and tweaked it little by little for each track. I do think there’s scope for improvement; there are two areas, in particular, I want to improve, so using the data from last year I think we can improve those areas and become even stronger. But racing is constantly evolving, as much as we’re going to try and improve our weaknesses, our rivals will be too, but the aim is to improve the package and be strong again.
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 liked the three races; I thought it was quite good, especially the Saturday afterrnoon race because you always get the best data from a race. It was nice to have an evening to go over everything, sleep on it and then have two more opportunities to deliver the best results again, so the more races, the better. If I’m completely honest, I haven’t looked too much at the new format, but I think it will be good for us. With us motorbike racers, you still get nervous every time you line up on the grid, but it becomes more natural, and you enjoy the races and the battles. I found during 2020 that lining up on the grid as often made it all more enjoyable for me, so hopefully the 2021 format will be the same.
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’?
It’s a hard one. At the end of the day, I’m a rider, and I have to compete within the rules and regulations that are set, so in that perspective, it doesn’t affect me at all. However, if we look at 2020, a start to finish championship, it delivered spectacular racing because every race mattered. Going back to the Showdown, especially with eight riders in it, it’s like going to three-round championship just with eight riders.
The first eight rounds will be all about podium credits because that’s the only thing that matters because once you’re in the Showdown, everything resets for those nine races. For sure it puts a lot of pressure on us in the off-season and then in the ‘main season’ to put a season together and then have almost a second championship with the nine races at the end, but at the end of the day, if that’s what the fans want to see and that’s how it is being run, that’s what we have to turn up and race with.
I really enjoyed being involved in 2020 after years with the Showdown format, but it’s reverted back, it is what it is, and we’ll tackle it head-on and make the most of it.
Who do you think will be your main rivals next season?
Josh Brookes for sure is the number one guy because he’s the champion. He has the target on his back; he’s the reference point. If we want to be champion, we have to beat him. There’s a lot of riders in the BSB championship and there’s a lot of strong teams up and down the pit lane. I wouldn’t say there’s any team who doesn’t have a strong rider and there’s definitely no ‘top tier team’, if you like, that doesn’t have two top riders, so anybody could come out and cause an upset or a surprise.
If you looked at me in 2019, although I had my issues, and then compare that to my 2020 season it shows how quickly things can turn around so I don’t think you can discount anybody on the grid; it comes down to who turns up on the day and who can stay there over the course of the season.
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?
Absolutely. I wish when I was coming through when I was a kid, things like this existed!
The bLU cRU programme will be a massive opportunity for young riders, firstly learning all the UK tracks, secondly having a bike built to the spec and the quality that these bikes are built to, plus the support you will receive from Yamaha, you couldn’t ask for anything more in your first steps in road racing.
And obviously, if you do well, you get the opportunity to join the bLU cRU Masterclass and given the opportunity to learn from their Yamaha Racing heroes and hopefully join the 2022 R3 bLU cRU Challenge, which runs within the World Supersport 300 championship. But what a carrot to chase, if you do a good job in the UK and then have that opportunity to progress on to the world stage!
I think if anyone is looking to get involved in Junior Supersport, then this is the way to go and something I wish I had available when I was getting started.
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 email@example.com for more info.