Dan Linfoot back with point to prove in Superbike elite

It is hard to imagine that anyone in the British Superbike paddock is looking forward to the 2021 season more than Yorkshireman Dan Linfoot.

Back on his bike: Dan Linfoot. Picture: Alex Burstow/Getty Images

The Knaresborough rider endured a nightmare last year, seeing his TAG Racing team pull out of the Championship after just three starts that heralded one finish and two DNFs.

A chatter problem – a fast vibration or juddering from the front or back end of the bike – followed the team from 2019 and became unsolvable amid a shortened campaign that had already caused huge frustration due to a delay and rearrangement owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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With Linfoot left in limbo without a ride, he opted to reaffirm his commitment to the TAG Racing outfit for a third straight year before finding a short-term solution to keep him on-track and sharp in the Superstock 1000 class.

Seeking more podium finishes: Runner-up Dan Linfoot, winner Josh Brookes and third-placed Tommy Bridewell with their respective trophies following Race One of the British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch on June 16, 2019. Picture: Getty Images

After a campaign as a replacement rider in the support class for injured champion and good friend Richard Cooper with Bathams Racing, the 32-year-old is ready and raring to return to the premier class and has a point to prove after one of the toughest periods of his career.

TAG Racing are switching from Yamaha to new manufacturer Honda – a motorbike Linfoot knows well having spent four years in the full Honda Racing set-up – and will be backed by factory support in a bid to give the team a new lease of life for the upcoming campaign.

Due to restrictions, Linfoot has not ridden a bike in anger on track since October at the BSB season finale at Brands Hatch.

Next month, though, the testing and tweaking will officially begin at UK circuits ahead of the first flag being dropped at Oulton Park in Cheshire on June 25 – a month later than initially planned in the hope that fans can make a long-awaited return.

Premier rider: Dan Linfoot. Picture: Getty Images

“Last year was mega tough and one of the hardest I’ve ever had,” Linfoot told The Yorkshire Post.

“Not just because of Covid and the season being cut in half but all the technical problems we had with the bike and the team. We had a similar issue the season before but it seemed to just be much more aggressive.

“To have to change class and team two or three rounds into a half season anyway was really tough. I tried to make the most of that opportunity and, unbelievably, we had a few tech issues with the Superstock bike as well which took a bit of time.

“We finally cracked it at the last round of the year and I led for the majority of the final race. That gave me that fire back to know I can still race competitively, be at the front and look to win races.

“It gave me that feelgood factor again and I’m looking to go into 2021 strong. I know what I can do in Superbikes from past years. I’ve won races and finished in the showdown three times. It’s clear that’s where we need to be as a team and where I need to be as a rider.

“TAG have won races in the past and been in the showdown themselves, so we need to make it work together and get back to consistent podium finishes with a view to fighting for those top positions on a regular basis.”

Linfoot is entering his 11th full season in the British Superbike paddock but after a revised calendar and changes to the format, this year promises to be one of the most hectic he has ever taken part in.

The 11 rounds of action will see 33 races across the season and the usual ‘Showdown’ format – where the champion is crowned after a shootout between those who qualify at the end of the campaign – has been expanded from six riders to eight.

“Even if it was still the top six I’d expect to be in there,” continued Linfoot.

“That is where my mind sits and what I expect of myself. The first task is to secure that place so that we can go into the final part of the season fighting for the championship.

“Until you get to that point in the year you just never know how it is going to go. There’s a lot of racing this year with triple headers at each round.

“There’s going to be crashes, mechanical problems and all sorts of stuff that gets thrown our way without a doubt – but that’s British Superbikes in a nutshell, so let the riding commence.”

There are plans for Linfoot to take part in this year’s Le Mans 24-hour race with Team R2CL Suzuki, something which has been somewhat of a bucket list item for the BSB veteran.

He has previously competed in the Suzuka 8 Hours and is a keen admirer of the Isle of Man TT – though the latter is one which may yet come later in his career.

When he finally swings his leg over a bike in France in mid-April, it will be the first time he has done so in a competitive environment for over six months, and yet despite the lack of track time a 24-hour race is just the ticket for Linfoot, who would not have it any other way.

Amid the uncertainty of the initial nationwide lockdown across England in 2020, Linfoot pressed on with plans to launch a motorcycle trade shop – iBuyAnyBike – based out of York.

He insists it was not a move with an eye on retirement but more due to circumstance and keeping up interest amongst two wheels away from the circuit.

“I used that opportunity and time to make it happen,” said Linfoot.

“I didn’t really know how the racing was going to be affected with Covid. I couldn’t really rely on income from racing so I just went for it.

“We’d had some plans and preparations for it before that but once lockdown came it sort of accelerated everything and here we are a year on.

“It’s kept me in and around bikes but in a less speed environment like on track. It sounds funny but it’s kept me busy during the lockdowns, probably more so than at any time in the actual season.

“I’m not sure whether it will engulf my life after racing but it will, hopefully, be there whenever that time does come. At the moment, I can’t be there all the time because of my commitments but it’s a hobby and one that I really enjoy.

“It’s something I have there and it’s a big interest but for the moment I’ve still got lots to do and to hopefully achieve in my career.”

For Linfoot, the immediate target and full focus is clear after two seasons of relative disappointment; finding those elusive BSB podium positions once again with new machinery at his disposal.

By the tone of his voice and the determination in his words, you would be silly to count out this gritty Yorkshireman.

“It’s going to be about me blowing a few cobwebs off, dialling into the new bike and then we’ll get racing,” concluded Linfoot. “I’m dead happy just being me. I know what I can do and that doesn’t change this year. It’s been a tough period but I’m ready for whatever this year holds.”