Superbikes lacking true characters

The World Superbike Championship is always looked upon as the little brother of MotoGP. The second child that is loved just the same but doesn’t always get the attention it craves or demands.

To put it simply the Championship lacks a villain. A real character. A guy that the crowd loves to hate and hates to love. This, amongst other things, has led to dwindling crowds and a decline in attention that the racing receives.

It’s been a long time since the likes the arrogant Carl Fogarty, controversial Pierfrancesco Chili and humorous Noriyuki Haga (even if he wasn’t meaning it) all hung up their boots, but in a time that was arguably the World Superbike Championship’s heyday what made it so great was the arrogance, controversy and competitiveness that the riders brought.

While the field is as close as ever you can’t help but feel the other two are severely lacking. The paddock has some phenomenal talent but it is yearning for an ego, it longs for someone who isn’t afraid to make a few headlines.

This weekend, Kawasaki team-mates Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea went toe-to-toe before the Yorkshireman went on to claim both victories in emphatic style. Even with the close racing it was all very civil, but for a few gestures during the race it was back to being friends in parc ferme.

While Sykes etched his name into the history books on Sunday as he equalled Carl Fogarty’s astonishing record of six World Superbike wins at Donington Park, not to mention his third straight double victory at the Leicestershire circuit, Rea was slowly adding to his Championship lead that now sits at 101 points after just six rounds.

The Northern Irishman was beaten comprehensively for the first time this season in both races and part of me wanted Sykes to really rub it in, push his buttons a little and get him second guessing for the rest of the year.

I understand it isn’t Sykes’ style, but Rea has had it easy this season and on a weekend where the Championship leader was beaten in every session it was time to push the doubts that may be creeping at the back of his mind to the fore, but alas it wasn’t to be.

And here lies the problem. Maybe it’s the fact that the four main frontrunners this season are all British, but the paddock needs someone with that fire to tell it how it is, gain the mental edge at every opportunity and say things that sometimes they shouldn’t.

MotoGP could find itself in a similar position in a few year’s time when Valentino Rossi decides to retire. There isn’t anything quite like a mad Italian and as he looked to be passing the mantle to the late great Marco Simoncelli the paddock lost him in tragic circumstances. Super Sic was the breath of fresh air that MotoGP needed and it is time for a gust in World Superbikes.

With only 30,000 visiting Donington Park this weekend over the three days of World Superbike action the Championship sorely needs a character and it needs one quickly, would someone please get Foggy on the phone.

Joe Urquhart