2023 WorldSBK silly season | Who is staying, moving and leaving?

School's out for summer but while some riders can rest easy with a 2023 WorldSBK contract in their pocket, there is plenty of paperwork ahead...

Jonathan Rea, Alvaro Bautista, Toprak Razgatlioglu

The 2022 WorldSBK Championship takes an extended breather after six rounds with a summer break of sun, sea, sand and negotiation ahead.

Indeed, while there are those on the grid with a signed contract for next season packed firmly into the pocket of their swimming shorts, for others it will be seven weeks thrashing out deals for the remaining seats on the grid.

While seven of the ten factory rides have been confirmed already, 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.

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.

2023 WorldSBK | The Rumours…

Ducati - which is already having a headache deciding between Jorge Martin and Enea Bastianini for its works seat in MotoGP - 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, so there remains a good chance it will remain loyal for another year.

If it doesn’t, however, Danilo Petrucci has been widely touted to replace him for 2023. The ex-MotoGP rider is finding a new fortune racing Superbike in the MotoAmerica series, where he is locked in a fierce title battle with Yamaha’s Jake Gagne.

However, while Petrucci has intimated a desire to race on the world stage again, he is clearly enjoying his lucrative time in the USA all the same. 

As such, if he decides to remain stateside, 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.

Honda, meanwhile, is yet to confirm its riders for 2023 but is believed to have signed a multi-year contract with Iker Lecuona, who has comfortably out-performed fellow GP-exile team-mate Xavi Vierge and has received a sure sign of approval from Honda bosses by being invited to race in the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hours.

Vierge says he will be using the summer to work on a new deal, but there is speculation the manufacturer is also looking closely at Bassani too. If he doesn't secure one of the seats at Ducati or Honda, Bassani will very likely remain at Motocorsa.

While the factory seats are sealed, there are as many as seven Yamaha seats up for grabs among the privateer contingent. 

Currently there are four independent Yamaha entries - two at GRT, one at Gil Motorsport and one at Motoxracing - but it is known Gil Motorsport is looking to double up for 2023, while the French GMT94 outfit competing in the Supersport class is understood to have secured two spots too.

This is good news for as many as three Yamaha associated riders looking for a WorldSBK graduation. Key among these is 2021 British Superbike Champion Tarran Mackenzie, who is believed to be hot favourite for a GRT deal.

Indeed, the Italian team could be looking for two new riders for 2023. While Garrett Gerloff remains in Yamaha’s favour, his form has taken a downturn since a flurry of high-profile incidents in 2021. Kohta Nozane, meanwhile, has struggled to progress out of the rear-quarter of the field since his 2021 debut but his fate will ultimately hinge on whether Yamaha desires a Japanese rider on the grid.

Along with Mackzenzie, WorldSSP Champion and runaway 2022 leader Dominique Aegerter - who is also heading the MotoE World Cup - has made no secret of his desire to move into WorldSBK, pointing out that his results have been even more dominant than those of current factory man Locatelli.

Also on the options’ list is MotoAmerica Champion Jake Gagne - who will wildcard at Portimao in October - plus a bevy of other WorldSSP rider options, including Andy Verdoia and Jules Cluzel, GMT94’s current line up in the intermediate category.

Should Cluzel follow GMT94 up, it would be his second year in WorldSBK some ten years on from a podium-winning rookie campaign with Suzuki that was curiously not rewarded with an extended deal.

Over at BMW, the factory-backed Bonovo MGM team is likely to retain Loris Baz but will hire him a new team-mate after it emerged Eugene Laverty will revert to a managerial role for 2023. 

Top of BMW’s shopping list is Gerloff, though German Moto2 racer Marcel Schrotter is also rumoured to be in the hunt too.

Finally, with Lucas Mahias failing to sparkle on the Puccetti Kawasaki during his two seasons in WorldSBK, there is talk 2014 WorldSBK Champion Sylvain Guintoli has been in discussions over a surprise return to the series having been handed his redundancy notice from MotoGP-exiting Suzuki. 

Tom Sykes is another WorldSBK title-winner on the consideration list for Puccetti, as is Kenan Sofuoglu-endorsed Can Oncu, who races for the team in WorldSSP.