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British Superbikes: Mackenzie out for season opener

The 2022 British Superbikes season gets under way at Silverstone this weekend with the reigning champion out of the race after crashing in testing.

Tarran Mackenzie, the man who raced to glory in 2021, will not get the chance to open the defence of his British Superbikes title at Silverstone after breaking his ankle in pre-season testing.

The Leicestershire-based Scot fractured his left ankle after skidding off at Woodcote at the same circuit, and was rushed to hospital. He underwent surgery on Monday and will miss this weekend's first three races of the season.

Mackenzie, 6/1 to retain his crown, finished 2021 in serious style, winning four of his last five starts to steal the crown at the end of a thrilling campaign.

Silverstone all set for high-speed marathon

It's been a torrid winter for Mackenzie, who had only just got back on his McAMS Yamaha after breaking his other ankle and dislocating a shoulder in winter testing in Spain.

His latest injury also means his World Superbikes debut has been put back - he was supposed to make a guest appearance on a full-spec Yamaha R1 at Assen next weekend, but that is now on ice.

Mackenzie sitting out the opening weekend isn't catastrophic for his title chances though it will clearly put him at an early disadvantage.

There are 11 rounds of action with three races in each round - one on Saturday, two on Sunday - and Mackenzie is going to be playing catch-up should he be able to get back on his track for round two at Oulton Park at the start of May.

Points are awarded to the top 15 finishers in each race - from 25 points for winning down to a solitary point for 15th place - so Mackenzie will be fully aware he's going to be some way off the pace after the dust has settled at Silverstone on Sunday night.

O'Halloran determined to set record straight

Mackenzie's success in 2021 wasn't without controversy, though not of his making.

A divisive quirk of the British Superbikes campaign is that the last three of the 11 rounds are called the Title Showdown, a format that effectively handicaps the top eight riders going into those last nine races.

Last year it meant Jason O'Halloran had a 106-point advantage after eight rounds effectively slashed to 30 going into round nine without having turned a wheel.

The Australian had won 11 of the first 24 races, that was six more than team-mate Mackenzie, but he couldn't win again in the Showdown and it proved fatal.

"It nearly broke me. It was tough," reflected a bitterly-disappointed Aussie who, in the final analysis, had actually accrued 36 more real-time points than his Yamaha colleague - yet finished the season in third spot on the podium.

He's obviously on a very fast machine, has the backing of his team and is certainly motivated following last year's heartache. And he's also 4/1 to get it right this time.

Who can challenge Yamaha in '22?

O'Halloran's side of the Yamaha garage have to be privately pleased that Mackenzie won't be starting the season but it doesn't mean their man won't find opposition at Silverstone and elsewhere.

The 2020 champion Josh Brookes has been retained by Ducati and gets a 12/1 quote for glory though it's his team-mate Tom Sykes, making a high-profile return to the sport after a 14-year absence, who is preferred at 6/1 by the odds-compilers.

And there's a third Ducati on the grid ridden by Tommy Bridewell, last year's runner-up, 9/1 to go one better and looking good after topping the timesheets in pre-season testing at Silverstone.

Kawasaki are mob-handed where 7/1 chance Leon Haslam will be hoping to show the speed which took him to the title, for the same team, in 2018.

Bradley Ray, 15/2, was a consistent points scorer for BMW in 2021 and is expected to fare better now that Rich Energy OMG Racing have gone in with Yamaha.

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