2023 WorldSBK silly season | Who has renewed, who is moving and who is exiting?

Summer is over and the 2022 WorldSBK battle stations have resumed...  but who heads into the second half of the year with their 2023 plans already sorted?

2022 WorldSBK field, start, grid

The 2022 WorldSBK Championship is back in action after an extended breather with Magny-Cours kicking off the second-half of the year with six more (now five) races to its conclusion.

Indeed, while there are those on the grid with a signed contract for next season tucked firmly in their leathers, for others there are still some deals to thrash out deals for the remaining seats on the grid.

While nine of the ten factory rides have been confirmed, there are still some competitive options out to snap up. Here is how the field is looking so far…

2023 WorldSBK - Who is confirmed?

Defending champions Pata Yamaha have had the luxury of avoiding all the contractual hubbub having locked down its factory riders on two-year deals last season.

So while Toprak Razgatlioglu was briefly mentioned in relation to an early progression to the MotoGP World Championship next season, he will continue to front the Iwata marque’s challenge in WorldSBK.

He will be joined again by Andrea Locatelli, who was snapped up amid the frenzy of his strong mid-to-late season form last year. However, the Italian has been one of the year’s disappointments, climbing onto the podium just once and seeming to be further adrift of the leading positions than in his rookie season. He will get another year to prove himself, but he has a big job given the depth of talent in Yamaha blue waiting in the wings.

Kawasaki will also retain the status quo for a third season headed up by its six-time title-winning talisman Jonathan Rea, while Alex Lowes - despite some iffy form recently - moving into the second year of his two-term deal.

BMW will also retain the same riders in Michael van der Mark - who hasn’t even started a race this season due to injury problems - and Scott Redding, who after an atrocious start to life with the German firm has since found his stride with two podiums.

Over at Ducati, the Italian marque might have nervously committed to a single-year deal with Alvaro Bautista on his return to the team, but his seven wins and comfortable series lead at the half-way point made his extension a formality. As for his team-mate, the wait to find out whether Michael Ruben Rinaldi will get the nod over Axel Bassani goes on...

Having taken a punt on an all-new rookie rider pairing for 2022, HRC Honda will stick with Iker Lecuona - whose placement became almost a formality upon winning the Suzuka 8 Hours with Tetsuta Nagashima and Takumi Takahashi - and Xavi Vierge, who will need to prove his underwhelming results is more to do with injuries than performance.

Among the independent riders, Barni Spark Racing is committed with rookie Luca Bernardi - who scored his first WorldSBK top ten finish in Most - for another year, while Philipp Oettl put pen to paper on a second season at Go Eleven Ducati this week too.

The Bonovo BMW team will undergo a major change for 2023 both in terms of riders and management with Eugene Laverty stepping aside (he is reluctant to call it retirement) to take on the role of team boss. He will be replaced by Garrett Gerloff, who severs long-held ties with Yamaha after three seasons with GRT to join Bonovo BMW alongside the retained Loris Baz.

With arguably the most sought after privateer seats on the grid, Yamaha has faced a headache when determining where to place its impressive portfolio of international and domestic title-winning riders.

Nevertheless, that hasn't stopped it from shaking its own plans up entirely by moving quickly to snap up MotoGP-exile Remy Gardner, the 2021 Moto2 World Champion having been dumped by KTM after just a single season in the premier class. 

Notably, the Australian - son of 1987 500GP World Champion Wayne Gardner - has been signed on a Yamaha contract, much like Gerloff.


2023 WorldSBK | The Rumours…

Ducati - having already spent an age deliberating over whether to promote Enea Bastianini or Jorge Martin to its works MotoGP seat - is currently mulling whether to retain Michael Ruben Rinaldi for 2023 or take on fresh blood.

Though he has won three races since his works team arrival, Rinaldi - compared with his predecessor Chaz Davies - has struggled to match his team-mates, first Scott Redding and now Bautista. Nevertheless, he is a protege of the manufacturer stretching back several years and all indications suggest it is prepared to remain loyal for one more year.

If it doesn’t, however, Danilo Petrucci had been widely touted to replace him for 2023 having impressed in MotoAmerica, but the Italian has since declared he'd rather remain Stateside for now.

The next obvious rival for Rinaldi’s seat is top independent Axel Bassani, the young Italian having sprung from debuting in WorldSBK as an unknown to emerging as a regular top five finisher on the (very) privateer Motocorsa Ducati.

A match for Rinaldi in terms of pace and fresh off scoring two podiums in France, while it increasingly looks like Bassani will be overlooked by Ducati in favour of Rinaldi for 2023, all signs indicate a certain factory ride in 2024. In the meantime, he will likely stay with Motocorsa.

With one GRT Yamaha settled, there are a number of high-profile potential debutants fighting over the second perch.

Though Yamaha had indicated it wanted to retain a Japanese presence on the grid in Kohta Nozane, the 2020 Japanese Superbike Champion's underwhelming international endeavour looks to be coming to an end.

For a while it appeared 2021 BSB Champion Tarran Mackenzie was the favourite for the ride, but it appears he has now been surpassed by Dominique Aegerter in Yamaha's affections. The Swiss rider landed a dominant WorldSSP Championship win in 2021 and is on course for a similarly commanding title success this year too, which together with his freshly-attained 2022 MotoE World Cup crown, means he is a proposition Yamaha couldn't possibly refuse

It means Mackenzie could find himself frozen out of the Yamaha seat he covets, despite the likelihood of there being at least two more R1s on the grid in 2023 courtesy of the GMT94 squad.

The French outfit will graduate from WorldSSP next season but doesn't appear to have Mackenzie on its radar, with WorldSSP title contender Lorenzo Baldassari and native racer Valentin Debise expected to land the two rides.

Other options could include Gil Motorsport, which will retain Christophe Ponsson (his father is the owner of the team) but is known to be considering expanding to two bikes next year. Alternatively, there could be a ride at 2022 WorldSBK debutants Motoxracing, albeit probably on a year-old R1.

There is likely to be one BSB rider heading to the international stage, however, with Tom Sykes close to securing a return with Puccetti Racing in a deal that would see the 34-time race winner back in the Kawasaki fold a decade on from his 2013 WorldSBK title win.

Elsewhere, MIE Honda is expected to retain at least Hafizh Syahrin, while Orelac Kawasaki is believed to have a second-year option on steadily improving Oliver Konig.

With potentially one MIE Honda seat to fill alongside Malaysian racer Syahrin, the only other seat left openly up for grabs is at perennial Pedercini Kawasaki, which has continued something of a 'revolving door' policy in 2022 having parted ways with Loris Cresson after a single round.

Current seat holder Oscar Gutierrez is favourite to hold onto the ride, though Pedercini could get his wish of a high-profile rider to haul it up the classification with Leon Haslam potentially upgrading his handful of outings to a full-time return, while 2014 WorldSBK champion Sylvain Guintoli - who was in the running at Puccetti - might be a worthy target for the veteran team.