The 6 OTHER riders who could rip it up in WorldSBK… and 3 who will in future

In an alternative universe, we reckon these riders would defnitely be up there fighting with the likes of Jonathan Rea in the WorldSBK Championship

Katsuyuki Nakasuga

Generally speaking, the cream ‘should’ rise to the top in motorsport and - in fairness - it would be hard to argue Jonathan Rea is anything other than the best rider in the world when it comes to racing Superbikes… but could you say the same for the entire WorldSBK field?

Bluntly put, no… we reckon there are a few standouts who could (and maybe one day will) be challenging the likes Rea, Toprak Razgatlioglu and Scott Redding given half the chance. If you agree or don’t, answers on a postcard (or in the comments section).

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Cameron Beaubier - Yamaha

Cameron Beaubier

One of the more pleasing occurrences over the winter was the confirmation American racer Cameron Beaubier would finally make the transition to international competition, even if there are many that may raise an eyebrow at the decision to move towards Moto2 rather than the WorldSBK Championship for 2021.

A Californian with a rich pedigree competing on the American Superbike scene (MotoAmerica), Beaubier has been a firm target for WorldSBK teams seeking to discover the next Ben Spies ever since he wrapped up his first title in 2015.

Since then four more titles have followed with Beaubier taking the decision not to follow the Mat Mladin format of staying in the US to collect the sizable pay check from Yamaha by opting for a switch to prototypes in Moto2.

While Dorna’s determination to promote US talent on the GP racing scene and Beaubier relations with the American Racing Team he is joining can explain why he swerved WorldSBK, the fact he comfortably defeated eye-catching 2020 WorldSBK rookie Garrett Gerloff when they raced together suggests he would acquit himself very smartly on world production stage. 

Still, if Moto2 doesn’t work out for him...

Katsuyuki Nakasuga

Katsuyuki Nakasuga

Here’s a good pub quiz question for you… if said pub was a bit motorsport obsessed. Or in Japan. Either way, who was the last Japanese rider to score a podium in MotoGP…?

If you said Takaaki Nakagami then you’d be wrong (though we imagine this is on the cusp of changing). If you said Makoto Tamada, it’s a good guess (he was the last Japanese rider to win a race) but the answer is in fact Katsuyuki Nakasuga… and it occurred more recently than you probably thought, in 2012.

A child of Yamaha’s domestic programme who has probably now completed more miles on a Yamaha M1 than Valentino Rossi, Nakasuga is the leading light from the manufacturer’s in-house development team who covertly pops up in pre-season showing on the timesheets as ‘Yamaha Test 1’ rather than his actual name.

However, via this he has also taken in the odd wild-card outing, mostly on home soil in Motegi, but also as a sub for Jorge Lorenzo in the 2011 Valencia MotoGP where he finished an excellent sixth before another outing in place of Ben Spies saw his wet weather prowess shine through to claim a shock second place finish the following year. It’s worth noting he also finished each of his Motegi wildcards (seven in total) in the points.

So why would this make him an ideal WorldSBK candidate? Well, he clearly knows his way around an electronics-laden machine but more relevantly he has won the All-Japan Superbike Championship a remarkable nine times, while he is also a four-time winner of the Suzuka 8 Hours, out-pacing team-mates that include Michael van der Mark, Alex Lowes and Bradley Smith.

One would assume Nakasuga has been offered the chance to race on the world stage given Yamaha wasted no time to promote the man that beat him to the 2020 Japanese title - Kohta Nozane - at the first opportunity for 2021 with GRT. Should Nozane prove competitive, it only begs the question as to what Nakasuga - now 39 - could have achieved in his prime years. 

He also has arguably our favourite helmet design anywhere in racing!

Jake Dixon - Moto2

Jake Dixon

With no British riders on the MotoGP grid in 2021 (the first time since 2020), Jake Dixon appears to be one of the rider best placed to end this (hopefully) brief drought after a notable step forward on Moto2 machinery in last year, even if a late season injury ultimately prevented him from realising that momentum.

Making the unusual transition from BSB to Moto2, it has not been a seamless one for Dixon as he gets to grips with formula machinery but if he can’t break through the cluttered and high quality feeder series then WorldSBK presents an interesting option. 

While this arguably applies to all Moto2 riders right now (including Sam Lowes), we’ve featured Dixon here because he cut his teeth in Superbikes. 

A BSB runner-up in 2018 on a privateer Kawasaki after pushing Leon Haslam all the way to the title, that performance alone would have made WorldSBK teams sit up and take notice, especially those misty-eyed about the throngs of hot talent that have come through the domestic series over the past 15 years, like Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes and Cal Crutchlow.

While the steady flow has slowed to barely a trickle since, Dixon’s youth, growing international stage confidence and evident abilities on a Superbike make him a tempting proposition if he did decide to turn his back on the GP route.

Christian Iddon

Christian Iddon

We were tempted to put Josh Brookes here for reasons that don’t need much explaining, with Scott Redding’s efforts in WorldSBK last year only strengthening the notion that the Aussie on the right machinery could easily be a race winner on the global stage.

However, we have plumped for his current team-mate Christian Iddon as a rider that has successfully grasped the opportunities afforded to him to date. While it took until 2020 for him to score a belated BSB win, it’s fair to say his talents were largely wasted for several years pedalling the perhaps ‘more average than we realised’ Tyco BMW.

Moreover, with BSB not always the best indicator of true abilities due to its entertainment-led format and bulging fields that make it hard to stay at the front if you’re a touch ‘too nice’ - something Iddon can be in elbow-to-elbow battles - the more spaced out, technically-minded WorldSBK would suit him better perhaps.

While many will have forgotten, Iddon has in fact got some decent WorldSBK experience behind him after competing in a handful of races in 2013 as part of the short-lived Bimota project, where he was a top ten finisher, a leading EVO class contender and a match for experienced team-mate Ayrton Badovini before Dorna realised the manufacturer wouldn’t meet homologation quotas and threw it out mid-season. 

Tarran Mackenzie - McAMS Yamaha [credit: Ian Hopgood]

Tarran Mackenzie

While it feels as though Tarran Mackenzie has been competing in BSB for a while now, the young Scot - son of former champion NIall Mackenzie - seems to be on a track for WorldSBK once he can get a solid title tilt under his belt.

A race winner in 2019 and 2020, while his championship hopes have been hampered by damaging errors and the odd injury, the impression is that if (when) Mackenzie strings it all together he can at his best stream away with a BSB title. 

He certainly has time on his side at 25 and few youngsters with his experience are riding around him, Yamaha hold him in high regard (he is the official WorldSBK sub), while the family connection certainly wouldn’t hurt. Provided he can get to grips with those electronics, he is the BSB rider with arguably the most promising WorldSBK future if it so proved. 

Jules Cluzel

It’s easy to forget Jules Cluzel is a race winner in Moto2 and has podiums in WorldSBK given the amount of years he has now spent almost winning the WorldSSP Championship.

While certain riders - * cough * Kenan Sofuoglu - are just more comfortable on a 600(ish) than a 1000(ish), there seems to be something of a missed opportunity with Cluzel given his perennial front-running status in what is supposed to be a feeder category to WorldSBK.

Moreover, he went from Moto2 to WorldSSP to WorldSBK in 2013 and back to WorldSSP, where he has been ever since. On the FIXI Crescent Suzuki Cluzel he finished a fine tenth overall, but was left out in the cold the following year. 

He has gone on to impress in WorldSSP and now has a championship record of 2-2-4-2-3-3-3-4, during which he has accumulated 20 wins, which places him second on the all-time list behind the aforementioned Sofuoglu.

He will race in WorldSSP again for 2021 while his counterparts Andrea Locatelli, Lucas Mahias and Isaac Vinales all step up… surely it is time to give Cluzel another chance, eight years on!

The future of WorldSBK

Rory Skinner - FS-3 Racing Kawasaki

Rory Skinner

Of all the riders lining up for the 2021 BSB Championship, teenager Rory Skinner is arguably the most exciting and one that - if he commits to SBK - could be the next big thing to hit the world stage. 

Having steamrolled his way to the BritishSSP title, Skinner was in high demand for 2021 before opting to ride the new Kawasaki ZX-10RR with FS-3 Racing and is known to be watched closely by manufacturers for a rapid progression if he acquits himself well.

Ana Carrasco - Kawasaki Provec WorldSSP 300

Ana Carrasco

The first woman to win an FIM track-based World Championship, Ana Carrasco is the star of the WorldSSP 300 series she clinched in 2018. While a back injury halted her title tilt in 2020, she is back to finish what she started in 2021 and provided it goes well is likely to be on big Supersport machinery in 2022.

With Provec (the team behind Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki’s WorldSBK wins) fostering her progression, the sheer marketing might of Carrasco combined with her immense talents could see her in the Superbike ranks ‘racing like a girl’ as she says sooner rather than later. 

Troy Bayliss, Oli Bayliss, Ducati

Oli Bayliss

You may not know much about the lad himself, but the surname certainly needs no introduction… the son of triple WorldSBK Champion Troy Bayliss, Oli makes his Superbike debut in 2021 at the tender age of only 17. 

A runner-up at Aussie Supersport level, while Superbikes - a Ducati Panigale V4 R to be exact - presents a huge challenge for the fresh-faced youngster, you wouldn’t want a better person in your corner than possibly the smoothest and most dependable hands on a big bike.

He has time on his side, but surely Oli is being primed for the world stage before long...