The end of the 2014 World Superbike championship, wrapped up last night at Qatar, has triggered a series of official rider announcements for 2015.
Two of the most anticipated announcements were made on Monday, with official confirmation that Jonathan Rea would be leaving Pata Honda to join the Kawasaki Racing Team in World Superbikes, while the seat he is vacating at the Ten Kate Pata Honda team will be filled by newly-crowned 2014 World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli.
Rea will line up alongside Tom Sykes, while Guintoli will be teammate to World Supersport champion Michael van der Mark.
The moves of both men were an open secret in the paddock, and had originally been expected to be announced after the previous round at Magny-Cours.
That, however, was dependent on Sykes wrapping up the title at the French round, but an outstanding weekend by Guintoli and a poor weekend by Sykes took the title chase down to the final WSBK round at Qatar this Sunday. With the championship over, the news could finally be announced.
The partnership of Rea and Sykes is eagerly awaited, both inside and outside the paddock. Rea is very highly rated by industry insiders, who have praised what the Ulsterman has been able to achieve on what is widely regarded as an outdated and underperforming Honda CBR1000RR.
Rea has finished ahead of his teammate and as first Honda rider, ever since moving to WSBK in 2009. Rea is expected to be a very strong teammate for Sykes, something which the rumored animosity between Sykes and Rea will only exacerbate. The pairing of Rea with Sykes will certainly make Kawasaki the strong favorites for the 2015 WSBK title.
Guintoli moves to the Pata Honda team, where he takes the place of the departing Rea. Guintoli’s move has been made necessary after Aprilia’s (unannounced) withdrawal of their factory team from World Superbikes.
The Italian manufacturer is now set to focus their efforts on MotoGP, where they have joined forces with Gresini to run a factory squad. Whether Aprilia will continue to support private teams in WSBK has yet to be decided.
Rea and Guintoli are not the only recent announcements. Earlier, the Althea Ducati squad announced their line up for next season, with former Moto2 rider Nico Terol joining Matteo Baiocco on the Ducati Panigale 1199R.
Terol has decided to switch to World Superbikes after a difficult season in Moto2, when he was sidelined with health issues, including food allergy issues and a hormonal imbalance, both of which badly affected his fitness. With Toni Elias also set to stay in WSBK next season, that makes two Spanish former world champions in the series for 2015.
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.