t may be an overused superlative but 2015 really does look like being one of the best, if not the best, seasons ever. That's the view of MCE BSB Series Director Stuart Higgs as we countdown to the landmark 20th anniversary season of the Championship in its current guise.
"Never before has such an MCE BSB rider line-up been assembled, as strong in depth as it is in volume.
"The much talked about Showdown format will exaggerate the tension further: realistically, half of the 40 riders, yes 40, our biggest rider line-up ever have the talent and equipment capable of making the top six come Oulton Park in September.
"To illustrate the depth of talent, 11 riders on the current grid have been race winners [Easton, Laverty, Mainwaring, Walker, Waters, Kiyo, Brookes, Bridewell, Byrne, Ellison and Hickman] and a further three have secured podiums [Parkes, Linfoot and Cooper].
"MCE BSB now has eleven nationalities represented in the Superbike class - the most in recent times and more than the equivalent World Championship, which shows the global appeal of the series and that number continues to increase every year.
"The easy money could be placed on Shane Byrne and Ryuichi Kiyonari to carry on where they left off taking great chunks out of each other with epic last lap lunges. However, the winter has seen the emergence of multiple race-winning and title challengers. Where to start...
"Full factory Yamahas for Josh Brookes and Broc Parkes - the new R1 has been developed by Valentino Rossi no less, and everyone is expecting big things from the 2011 title-winning team. Last year there was a real scrap to be the leading Milwaukee Yamaha rider at the finale - Brookes has come close before and Parkes has been a runner-up in World Supersport, so you have to expect more of the same!
"The return of the mighty Honda Racing team with a triple line up of Dan Linfoot, Jason O'Halloran and of course racing's fastest female, Jenny Tinmouth. The team won the title with Alex Lowes in 2013, defeating the might of PBM and Shakey, and they won't be coming back simply to make up the numbers.
"BMW launch their strongest ever challenge as they join forces with Tyco to field MotoGP rider Michael Laverty and 2014 third place finisher Tommy Bridewell. The team have won Supersport titles, but have only finished runner-up in Superbike and this manufacturer switch could be what they need to go one better.
"The Tyco change sparked a change of machinery to Suzuki for Halsall Racing. The team have rapidly established themselves in the championship under the guidance of owner Martin [Halsall] and team manager Jack Valentine and this should be their biggest year yet. Josh Waters is already a race winner and Christian Iddon proved how fast he can adapt when he wild carded with the Alstare team at Assen last year.
"A fully fit James Ellison is sure to be a contender. He must surely have got his bad luck out of the way now, after two chances to fight for the title were curtailed through injury and a determined recovery to return. In his second season with the GBmoto team he has consistency, which means he should be up the front from the start.
"New teams Smiths BMW, with reigning Supersport Champion Billy McConnell, and Be Wiser Kawasaki bring a new flair to the series. Billy is one of the toughest racers in the series and I expect to see him really going for it - he never holds back! Plus the mix of youth and experience with Chris Walker and Danny Buchan, led by 2011 Champion Tommy Hill, is an exciting prospect.
"2015 sees a brand new Ducati Panigale in the capable hands of Jakub Smrz. Last year the team achieved the first pole position for the Panigale - this could be the year we see a return of the famous Italian manufacturer to the podium.
"We also have seven of the major manufacturers represented this season [Kawasaki, Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, BMW, Ducati and MV Agusta] and the well policed technical rules of the Championship ensure that it delivers close racing between them all; something which is crucial for the teams, riders and of course fans worldwide.
"We welcome new riders to the grid for this season, including Spain's Dani Rivas, Italy's Vittorio Iannuzzo and South Africa's David McFadden, plus former British Supersport title-contender Jack Kennedy, who makes his Superbike debut on his return from the World Supersport Championship.
"Aside from the impressive Superbike grid, we continue to have an incredible line-up of support series, headed by the Motorpoint British Supersport Championship duo of races during each weekend. This year's cast of 'axe murderers' is headed by Graeme Gowland, Jake Dixon, James Rispoli (USA), Andy Reid, Glenn Irwin and a returning Ben Wilson.
"The HEL Performance British Motostar Championship will now feature as double-header events for the only Grand Prix prototype category in the UK.
"The Pirelli National Superstock 1000 and 600 Championships remain as highly-competitive feeder series to the leading classes and the Ducati TriOptions Cup as an established one-make series.
"For the upcoming stars of the sport there is the new Santander Consumer Finance KTM British Junior Cup. The one-make series now importantly a route to the MotoGP World Championship with two selected riders given automatic places for the MotoGP Rookies Cup selection process.
"No event would be complete without the spectacular sidecars. The Hyundai Heavy Industries/Molson British Championship boasts the biggest grids anywhere in the world.
"MCE BSB's expansive broadcast coverage continues with British Eurosport, who will broadcast live for qualifying and race day from each round of the Championship. There will also be the free-to-air, hour-long highlights programme on ITV4 after each event. The tens of millions of UK TV viewers will be in for a treat and we continue to push international boundaries with a mix of live and highlights broadcasts to Europe, North and South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. And for the 400,000 visitors who prefer their MCE BSB in the flesh there's more race weekend action than ever before.
"There is huge anticipation for the season ahead, perhaps more than any in recent years. Best ever? Hell yeah!"