Top ten lists are by their very nature subjective; beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. From the moment the season started in Australia until the very end there was a great scrap for the title, with the fight going down to the wire in Qatar. But, who was the best rider of 2016? This is the our Top 10 riders of the 2016 World Superbike season.
The Jerez Test was hardly the first day at school for either Eugene Laverty or Lorenzo Savadori, but while the bike was similar, it was new surroundings for both riders.
With the Shaun Muir Racing squad switching to an Aprilia steed in 2017, the opening day of the Jerez test was the team’s first experience of the Italian bike.
Both Laverty and Savadori have plenty of experience on the RSV4, the Irishman was a title contender on the bike, and Savadori raced it this year, and that certainly helped both throughout the day.
For SMR however, it was all change, having used BMW S1000RRs during their debut WorldSBK season. For team boss, Shaun Muir, it was clearly an important day for the British squad.
The second day of the Jerez test dawned in similar circumstances to yesterday. With dense fog and cool temperatures, it looked as though there would be sparse action on track, but almost immediately Ondrej Jezek rolled down pitlane.
With the Grillini team only running for half of the allotted time, Jezek was keen to get out and gain some experience on a World Superbike machine.
While the Czech was spinning laps, the majority of the field was biding their time for the conditions to improve. While yesterday the KRT riders stayed in the pits all day they did get some wet weather running today.
Come to Spain they said, the weather will be great they said…There are typically only a handful of valuable winter testing venues. Jerez in the south of Spain is one of the most popular.
Usually the winter sun provides almost perfect conditions for World Superbike teams to undertake their off-season programs. The weather was not co-operating today, and there was limited mileage for all of the runners.
The test did however offer the first glimpses of the Milwaukee Aprilia. Their partnership has been one of the biggest off-season talking points, and while Lorenzo Savadori and Eugene Laverty were unable to complete a lot of miles, they were at least able to start their tenure with the team.
Aprilia have finally confirmed that they will be providing factory backing for the Milwaukee SMR squad in WorldSBK for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
It had been an open secret for months that the Milwaukee team were looking to make a switch to Aprilia, and they had signed Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori to contest the championship for them.
But, it took a long time for the official confirmation to come through.
While the MotoGP grid is as good as settled, Silly Season for World Superbikes is in full swing.
With the Kawasaki riders’ contracts settled before the summer break, attention has turned to the other seats, most of which are up in the air. In addition, there could be some changes in machinery, with some teams eyeing a switch of manufacturers.
The biggest news – still unofficial, but widely believed to be a done deal – is that Marco Melandri is set to make a return to the World Superbike paddock, this time in the factory Aruba.it Ducati team alongside Chaz Davies.
Melandri has been angling for a ride ever since his departure from the factory Aprilia MotoGP squad, a move he had never wanted to make in the first place.
Over the past twelve months or so, he has been linked to rides with Yamaha, Aprilia, BMW, and Kawasaki in World Superbikes, and – possibly the most bizarrely inaccurate rumor to be published in a while – to a ride with BMW in MotoGP.
The fact that BMW have no intention of racing in MotoGP, and the break up with Melandri in 2013 so acrimonious that they would not have him back anyway is what made that particular rumor so entertaining.
Four rounds into the WorldSBK season we have seen three different race winners, two manufacturers vie for the title, but unfortunately one man proving the dominant force.
After eight races it’s hard to imagine Jonathan Rea’s title defence having gotten off to a better start, but it’s happened, despite his lack of comfort with the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. The Northern Irishman has not been comfortable with his new mount.
The much discussed “low inertia” engine has clearly taken some of the edge off Rea’s confidence in the bike. With a different engine braking characteristic, it has forced him to adjust his riding style to get the most from the machine.
Rea has a very natural style while on a race bike, it is something that has been similar on everything he has ever ridden. Whether it’s a Supersport, Superbike, or even a MotoGP machine, Rea has been able to ride in the same way. He’ll continue to adapt to the new bike and mould it to allow his style to flourish.
We are racing at last. The first round of World Superbikes at Phillip Island means we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The long, dark winter is over, and motorcycles are circulating in earnest once again.
What to make of the first weekend of World Superbikes in the new format? Those who worried that spreading the racing over two days would hurt attendance and ruin the series have not seen their fears realized. Attendance at Phillip Island was around 75% of the MotoGP attendance there, really strong figures for the track.
Some caveats apply, of course: firstly, the Phillip Island MotoGP round is one of the most poorly attended on the calendar, though last year numbers improved.
Secondly, the combination of Australian Superbikes with World Superbikes meant there was a full program of racing, and plenty for fans to see.
The real test of the new format will come at tracks like Donington and Jerez, where attendance has been dismal. If they can get more people through the gate there, the Saturday-Sunday format will be more of a success.
The 2016 World Superbike Championship rider entry list is out, and while this story is mostly for reference, it also make official the news of Iodaracing moving from the MotoGP paddock and into WSBK.
Iodaracing will run a factory-supported effort for Aprilia Racing, using the now very mature Aprilia RSV4 racing package, with Alex De Angelis and Lorenzo Savadori at the helm.
The news means that every superbike brand, sans Suzuki, will be featured in the premier production motorcycle racing series, which should make for some good competition at the top of the sport.
The title defenders, Kawasaki Racing Team will have the target on their backs, but the Ducati and Yamaha packages are looking very strong as well.
World Superbike racing will start February 28th at Phillip Island, with a pre-season test scheduled right before the first round. Asphalt & Rubber hopes to bring you more comprehensive coverage of the 2016 World Superbike season, so stay tuned for our updates.