While the line up for the 2019 MotoGP season was settled surprisingly early in the year, the opposite has been the case for WorldSBK. With just two weeks to go to the first full test of 2019, there are still a whole range of seats open, and questions going unanswered.
One of the reasons for the delay became clear at the EICMA show in Milan last week. While the manufacturers were presenting their newest bikes, including some of the key machines that will star in World Superbikes next year, a couple of manufacturers also presented their racing programs for 2019.
Perhaps the biggest story came from Honda, where HRC presented Althea and Moriwaki as their new partners in running their WorldSBK program. After a partnership of three years, and a relationship going back nearly two decades, Ten Kate are out, with the Italians and Japanese taking over.
It wasn’t just Ten Kate: title sponsor Red Bull were also out. The energy drink firm had signed up when Nicky Hayden was with the team, a big name draw for sponsors, and a rider with a long connection to Red Bull.
It was Red Bull who brought in Jake Gagne, the American who never really found his feet in the WorldSBK championship. After two years of poor results, Red Bull withdrew.
Honda is making waves in the World Superbike paddock for next season, as HRC has pulled its support from the Ten Kate team, and is instead creating a factory team inside the garage of Althea and Moriwaki, who will jointly run the Red Bull Honda WorldSBK racing effort.
Contracted to HRC, Leon Camier will remain on the Honda CBR1000RR SP2 next season, and he will be joined by Ryuichi Kiyonari. Possessing the correct passport, this news means that the 2019 season will mark nearly a decade’s worth of time since Kiyonari last started a World Superbike race.
As we understand it, Althea Racing will run the logistics and hospitality of the new Honda WorldSBK team, while Moriwaki will handle what happens in the pit box and out on track.
Where this news leaves the Ten Kate team remains to be seen, though the championship is currently without representation from Suzuki, Aprilia, and MV Agusta – the latter making its plans to leave WorldSBK racing clear, earlier this year.
It is a race unlike any other, and it has a circuit unlike any other to match. The Suzuka 8-Hours is the biggest race of the year for Japanese manufacturers, and it is held on one of the longest laps of the year.
With lap times of over two minutes, it is very easy for time to burn during a session, and it is very easy to left rueing any mistakes you make.
The Japanese venue is one of the most technical on the planet. It is a lap of contrasts, with the sweeping corners of the opening half, followed by a hairpin and chicanes in the second half of the lap.
Getting it right takes time and any mistake is heavily punished on the stop watch.
Jonathan Rea may have done the double at the Italian circuit, but WorldSBK was in rude health last weekend. Continue reading for Asphalt & Rubber’s World Superbike debrief, from Misano Italy.
Leon Camier has plenty of experience at Misano. The Red Bull Honda WorldSBK star has ridden at the Italian circuit in Grand Prix and also on a Superbike.
He’s spent time learning the nuances of the Rimini venue, and over that time he’s found out one thing: patience is key.
“Misano is a tricky circuit, but it’s got some interesting quirks,” Leon Camier told us. “The opening sector of the lap is very challenging because if you make a mistake in Turn 1, it affects you for the whole sector.”
Round 6 of the 2018 WorldSBK Championship sees the paddock head for the home of Superbikes: Donington Park. The British circuit hosted the first ever round of the championship in 1988, and since then the affinity for superbike racing in the UK has only continued to grow.
The spectacular, flowing track has been the canvas for some of the most incredible moments in the history of the class, but will this weekend be remembered in the same light?
Following his double victory at Imola, Jonathan Rea has laid the foundation for his fourth consecutive WorldSBK title.
Jonathan Rea’s 59th WorldSBK victory saw the Northern Irishman join Carl Fogarty as the most successful rider in WorldSBK history. The triple champion was however quick to point out that winning races is good, but winning championships is better.
Still trailing Foggy by one title there is now a sense of inevitability that Rea will add to his title haul. The previous two years had seen Chaz Davies do the double at Imola, but he had no answers for Rea over the weekend.
The Kawasakis were the class of the field, but it was Rea who came out on top following a tough weekend for the Ducati rider, and with a 47-point advantage the title race is now firmly in Rea’s hands.
The Italian round of the WorldSBK season marks the end of the opening third of the season, but it’s hard to see how it marks the end of Chaz Davies’ dominance at the Imola circuit.
The Welshman has been a wizard around the technical circuit in recent years, and been unbeatable. Having fallen 30 points adrift of Jonathan Rea in the standings, he will know that this weekend it is crucial to chip into the Northern Irishman’s title lead.
The first European round of the WorldSBK season always brings excitement.
With trucks and hospitality units back on site, the paddock starts to feel more familiar; and with the opening round of the Supersport 300 and STK1000 series, there’s certainly a lot more track action.
The action on track so far in 2018 has seen the series receive a much-needed shot in the arm, and the new regulations have certainly helped to produce more competitive racing.
If the second round of the 2018 WorldSBK season is anything to go by the regulation shake-up could see an absolutely compelling season. Buriram gave plenty to talk about!