5 Things to look out for at the first 2020 WorldSBK test

With a month to go until the opening round, the 2020 WorldSBK Championship takes its first turns of the year with two days of testing at Jerez

Honda CBR1000RR-R sP

The 2020 WorldSBK Championship fires into life for the first time this year with two days of private testing taking place at Jerez in Spain.

While we will have to wait until Phillip Island in February for ‘official’ WorldSBK testing in the direct run up to the opener on February 28-March 1, as many as 19 of the 22 confirmed riders for 2020 will be on track this week – including all five works entries.

Giving us a good first hint as to the hierarchy ahead of the 2020 WorldSBK season, we look at the runners and riders to keep an eye on…

New-look Honda team faces rivals for first time

The big news at the test will inevitably be the debut appearance of Team HRC, which is putting the much-anticipated Honda CBR1000RR-R up against its rivals for the first time.

Having swerved the opportunity to join post-season group testing at the tail end of 2019 in favour of conducting its mileage behind doors closed so firmly there was tight security around the venues, Honda seemingly now feels confident enough to measure itself against its four factory rivals.

Expect to hear the words ‘you can’t read much into testing’ but there will be many poring over lap times across the next two days to get an idea of where Honda could be come Australia in a month’s time.

Speculation has suggested the base Honda package is indeed quick but there has been some difficulty getting the CBR1000RR-R to work well on the Pirelli tyres (having been developed on Bridgestone rubber) but even a modest top ten showing for Alvaro Bautista or Leon Haslam will be considered encouraging at this stage.

Scott Redding getting up to speed with Ducati

After an eye-catching debut with Ducati at Motorland Aragon, Scott Redding endured a more sobering time at the following Jerez outing but after a winter of training and acclimatising behind the scenes, the ex-MotoGP rider will look to come out of the box punching this time.

This time last year Bautista was beginning to find his feet on the still developing Ducati Panigale V4 R so Redding will be keen to fire a salvo early on that he means business straight away.

Similarly, Chaz Davies – whose suffered a rollercoaster of a campaign in 2019 – will hope a more cooperative working relationship with Redding than he had with Bautista, not to mention the comparable size, will allow him to make some consistent headway this time.

Kawasaki in fine-tuning mode as team to beat

How confident is Kawasaki heading into winter testing? Well, Jonathan Rea says he is simply looking to fine-tune his ZX-10RR at this test having broken the lap record at Jerez on his last visit in November, while even Alex Lowes – despite his lack of mileage on the bike – says he just wants to get more comfortable on it.

Moreover, this is actually Kawasaki’s final pre-season outing before the official Australia test next month having opted not to take part in next week’s Portimao session.

It will hope it sees nothing at Jerez from rivals that’ll change its game plan heading into its quest for a sixth consecutive WorldSBK title.

Outnumbered BMW needs a good test

One team on the back foot is undoubtedly BMW, which only tested once during the post-season outings last year and heads into 2020 as the least represented brand with just two S1000RRs making the grid.

This is a critical year for the BMW Motorrad project, which returned in full factory capacity in 2019 a year earlier than planned in the hope it could learn more by racing than simply testing.

The signs were definitely encouraging in Tom Sykes’ hands, though his race day pace often didn’t quite live up to that scintillatingly famous single lap form. However, this is the exact area they worked hard to improve on so don’t necessarily expect many sticky tyre fast laps.

Eugene Laverty, now with a much-needed winter of recuperation behind him, will also be keen to get a good show in at Jerez following a solid debut in November.

The riders that could spring a surprise

In addition to the factory riders, we’ll get our first chance to see a few other familiar faces in new places this week with Motocorsa Racing debuting with Leandro Mercado, while Maximilian Scheib (Orelac Kawasaki), Michael Ruben Rinaldi (GOELEVEN Ducati) and Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance) join the fray for the first time this winter too.

Meanwhile, Ten Kate Yamaha’s Loris Baz will be one to watch having gotten amongst the factory PATA bikes at the last WorldSBK test, while rookies Garrett Gerloff and Federico Caricasulo will no doubt be seeking more progress when they jump back on the rebranded GRT Junior Yamaha team.

Elsewhere, Sandro Cortese makes a one-off comeback on the Barni Ducati in place of the injured Leon Camier, hoping to impress enough that he could get a last-minute entry on the grid.