Honda launches 2023 WorldSBK effort: "title win difficult, but this our goal"

Honda has launches its 2023 factory WorldSBK team, as it continues with Xavi Vierge and Iker Lecuona into the new season.

Leon Camier, Xavi Vierge, Iker Lecuona with 2023 Team HRC Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade, 2023 Team HRC WorldSBK team launch

WorldSBK is less than one month away from the start of the 2023 season, and that means team launch season for the production derivative series is well underway. Kawasaki has become the latest manufacturer to launch its factory effort for 2023.

Three manufacturers and five teams have now launched their factory teams for 2023. Ducati kicked it all off on 23 January when it launched the factory Racing team alongside its factory team for the 2023 MotoGP season at Madonna di Campiglio; then Yamaha launched all four of its teams for the WorldSBK upcoming season. the third factory effort to launch for WorldSBK 2023 has been Kawasaki, who will be looking to regain the riders' title they last won in 2020.

Overview Racing Ducati - Alvaro Bautista unveils #1 plate ahead of WorldSBK title defence

Yamaha - Toprak Razgatlioglu heads Yamaha's 2023 challenge, seeks to regain world title

Kawasaki - WorldSBK and MXGP launch together for Kawasaki as they prepare to chase both titles

ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK - New title sponsor for ambitious BMW team, eyeing the top positions in 2023

Team HRC - Continuity for HRC in 2023 as it seeks to return to the top step



Team HRC's 2023 season will be an important one for the Japanese manufacturer. Having finished as the last-placed manufacturer in WorldSBK last year, it seems odd to be placing race-winning expectations on the factory Honda team, but that is the reality of HRC and how they are perceived.

For 2023, the team continues with Xavi Vierge and Iker Lecuona as the riders, and for the latter the start to the season will be a complicated one as he was unable to ride in Indonesia and Australia last year thanks to a crash in practice at Mandalika.

This will be the fourth year of the most recent Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade generation, and the most recent signs are that it is still a 'work in progress'.

Iker Lecuona said: “We learned a lot last year and achieved some strong results, like pole position in Barcelona and a podium at Assen, which we weren’t really expecting as that was only the second race. Definitely a very positive year overall, and it helped me get to grips with a lot of things, like how to manage the situation in every race and at every track, also with the Pirelli tyres that were very difficult to understand at first. 

“I plan to harness all that I learned in 2022 in the year to come. Over the winter, the team and everyone back in the Honda factory have worked really hard to provide us with a better bike. We still have two days of testing in Australia before the first race, so we have time to understand the new material and find the best setup in order to exploit it as best we can. We start with the two rounds that I wasn’t able to compete in last season, but I like both tracks, feel good, and am ready to give it my all.”

Xavi Vierge said: “This is my second year in WorldSBK and so we’ll benefit from not having to start from scratch. We now know many of the tracks and understand how the tyres and electronics work, while it was all a big challenge for me last year. 2022 wasn’t an easy season but we scored some good results and demonstrated our potential. 

“They’ve been working hard in Japan and so we’ve had a lot of work to do and elements to test over the winter. I am really pleased with how that all’s gone and now we just need to identify our base setup for the season. 

“Testing is great but it doesn’t compare to racing. Luckily, this year we start early and there’s no better places than Australia and Indonesia. I love those tracks, especially Phillip Island. It’s the first time I’m heading there in February, which is summertime, so I’m looking forward to getting there and beginning what should be an amazing season."

Leon Camier, Team HRC WorldSBK team manager, said: “The 2022 World Superbike season was a good foundation year for our two young rookies. Throughout the season, we were able to see what they are both capable of and were impressed by the way in which they were able to quickly adapt to new circuits and different situations. 

“Now that we’ve done a lot of the learning, we can aim to focus on race performance right from FP1. We’ve worked hard in a lot of areas and improved in many aspects. 2023 starts now, and we’re ready to go. The goal is to improve globally, both with the bike on the team’s side, and working to take another step more generally speaking. 

“Our top speed has always been really good with the Fireblade, but we must keep working to improve in every area. When you bring a new spec of a given component to improve in one area, you sometimes find this sets you back in another area. This is something that Honda have been working very hard on in Japan and we are confident that this year we will make another step in the right direction. 

“To expect to go from where we were last season to aiming for a title win will be very difficult, but this is essentially our goal, and one that we will keep working towards until we achieve it.”

ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK

2023 will be an important season for BMW, after taking steps forward in 2022 but still being left with a not insignificant deficit to the leading manufacturers of the Superbike World Championship. 

Certainly, there were flashes last year of what the BMW M 1000 RR is capable of, and there is clearly an evolution of the bike for 2023. BMW will also be one of the manufacturers - along with Honda - that can make use of 'Super Concessions' in 2023, which is part of WorldSBK's bid to close the gaps between the top manufacturers and those who are trying to join them in the fight for race wins. 

While the riders remain the same as last year for 2023, with Scott Redding and Michael van der Mark on-board, a new title sponsor has arrived in the form of ROKiT, which has previously had its name on the Formula One cars of the Williams team, the IndyCar of Tatiana Calderon, and the Formula E cars of the Venturi (now Maserati) team. ROKiT has also been involved in American sports, but, as Sportico wrote last year, six of ROKiT's subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy in 2022.

As for the BMW WorldSBK team, the prospects are positive for 2023, and both Redding and van der Mark should not be discounted from podium and potentially victory conversations.


Kawasaki has taken a different approach to the other manufacturers in launching its WorldSBK team for 2023, as it has launched the factory MXGP squad alongside it. 

Jonathan Rea, himself a keen and talented motocrosser, was probably somewhat jealous of Romain Febvre and Mitch Evans as they took the wraps off their factory KX450s just a metre or so away from Rea himself.

Febvre fought for the MXGP World Championship in 2021 but was out of action for most of 2022 due to injury; while Mitch Evans had a similar season last year in terms of returning from injury, and had a decent second half of the year - but by then the HRC team he was with had decided on Ruben Fernandez to partner Tim Gajser, and so Evans took the opportunity to go to Kawasaki in place of the Beta-bound Ben Watson. 

Kawasaki's MXGP team can in some ways be compared to its WorldSBK squad. Both have two riders who have the potential to win races - with Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes in WorldSBK, and Romain Febvre and Mitch Evans in MXGP - but when you look into the rest of the field you see bike-rider combinations that might prove more effective.

In MXGP, they may come in the form of KTM and Jeffrey Herlings, Honda and Tim Gajser, or even Yamaha and Jeremy Seewer and Maxime Renaux. In WorldSBK, the answer is the same as last year: Ducati and Alvaro Bautista, and Yamaha and Toprak Razgatlioglu. 

WorldSBK's top trio seem unlikely to have their dominance of the series seriously broken in 2023, because of the size of the the chasm the rest of the field has to close from the end of last year. The order of the top three themselves, though, is anyone's guess, and discounting a six-times Superbike World Champion with the kind of hunger that Jonathan Rea continues to display would be a mistake.

Guim Roda, KRT WorldSBK Team Manager, said: “Racing is fun, enjoyable - a show - and we were happy to work together with the MXGP project to show this passion. The same passion we will attack 2023 with, the same motivation to enter each race to fight until the last lap for the victory. We worked hard to polish some details, improve our bike and the organisation of the team to try to win the title again.

"More important than that, we want to make the fans enjoy watching the races, and hopefully make sure a green bike stays on top. Johnny and Alex are ready to go with fully recharged batteries, so let's see at the Australian round how strongly we have arrived in this new season.” 
Alex Lowes said:  “I love how the bike looks. I really like the 2023 design. Last year I had some quite good speed, strong qualifying performances and I could hang with the top three. As the race went on, when the grip dropped, I was struggling a little bit more. That is an area we have focused on.

"I am really looking forward to the year. I have had a good winter of training and I really can’t wait to get started. It may be a few years now that I have been in the Superbike World Championship but I am still excited like it is the first time; like I felt back in 2014. Now I am looking forward to getting to Australia and getting down to business.”

Jonathan Rea said: Jonathan Rea KRT WorldSBK, stated: “I am really excited about this new season. We had a really solid off season. I am also excited to go to Phillip Island and start the year in what seems to us like a more normal way. I feel that I have prepared really well away from the track, and during the winter tests we have improved, which is very motivating.

"It’s nice to have some new people around and that itself brings a different feel. I am eager to get going. We have made progress with the bike and are working hard to try to improve our feeling and results from last season. Hopefully we can challenge for race wins and fight for a world title.”


Yamaha goes about racing in WorldSBK quite differently to the other manufacturers. The opposite end of the spectrum to Yamaha would be Kawasaki, who give very little support to the teams outside of its factory squad, but Yamaha's launch of its 2023 WorldSBK programme is indicative of its own approach. 

Instead of launching only its factory team, Yamaha launched all four of the teams that will be running Yamaha machinery in 2023: Pata Yamaha Prometeon, GYRT GRT Yamaha, Motoxracing, and GMT94.

All are well-known in some way in circuit racing. The factory Pata Yamaha Prometeon team might have grabbed new sponsorship for 2023, but it is of course the same outfit which took Toprak Razgatlioglu to the world title in 2021.

GYRT GRT, on the other hand, has struggled in the last season-and-a-half or so since Garrett Gerloff's form dropped off after Assen 2021, but it also took Gerloff to what has so far been the peak of his WorldSBK career when he was a constant podium threat in the back-half of 2020 and into the beginning of 2021. A new line-up for the team in 2023 sees two-time reigning WorldSSP Champion Dominique Aegerter join 2021 Moto2 World Champion Remy Gardner in what will be a debut campaign in the top production derivative category for both. 

Motoxracing and GMT94 will be compared this year because they are both Yamaha teams running only one motorcycle. However, while GMT94 will run the whole series, Motoxracing will only compete in the European rounds - therefore, their season with 2022 British Superbike Champion Bradley Ray will begin in Assen in April. As for GMT, their experience at Endurance World Championship level is unquestionable, but in WorldSSP in the past couple of seasons it has not been a smooth transition into sprint racing. Moving up to the 1000cc class could be a struggle, but it would also be unjustified to count such an experienced team out of a good season before it has started, and with a rider like Lorenzo Baldassarri a good season is certainly on the cards for the French squad. 

Toprak Razgatlıoğlu said: “Everybody knows now, my goal is to win as many races as possible! It is not easy, because all riders are strong but I am happy with the work Yamaha and the team have done this winter. Good for me to be back on my bike, I am happy for this, and we have many improvements to try during the tests. In Jerez, I saw very good lap time, okay not the record but very close – now we continue working, because we cannot stop. It is nice to see the new Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK colour – looks good I think! We keep working now to continue make everything better, but very soon we are ready to race.”

Andrea Locatelli said: “It has been a really short winter, which for a rider is good! I am really happy to start the season again – for sure my objective is to continue to work step-by-step, but I think we can do very well this year. We finished the season in a good way in Indonesia and Australia, of course I want to close the gap to the front and fight for the podium, and to try to win! Last week in Jerez was just the first two days in the dry, so we still have some work to do these days in Portimão, but I am looking forward to the first round in Australia. The bike looks really nice, with the new colours and everything, and it is great to continue with Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK for our third season together.”

Remy Gardner said: "Finally, I can see myself in blue! I'm excited about this new chapter, new paddock, and new bike; I'm thrilled. The team and Yamaha have been great, and we have enjoyed a good chemistry since the very first test. I can’t wait to start the season in Phillip Island. I am looking forward to starting a new project, and the championship looks very exciting. We'll keep working during the test days, trying to extract as much potential as possible to be ready for the first round of the season."

Dominique Aegerter said: "I'm really looking forward to riding the new colours on track, I love the scheme, and I can't wait to show you on track the new livery. It's cool, and I hope you'll like it and we hope it will also be fast at every circuit, which is the most important thing. It's nice to be part of the Yamaha and GRT family, we already enjoyed good times in the first pre-season tests, and I believe we're working well together. We aim to improve consistently at each round, and I'm confident we can achieve this. l cannot wait for Phillip Island to begin a new, thrilling championship." Racing Ducati

The Racing Ducati team has launched its 2023 WorldSBK campaign today (23 January), and has confirmed Alvaro Bautista will run the #1 plate this year.

WorldSBK has had a rider run #1 every year since 2014, with it passing from Tom Sykes to now Alvaro Bautista via Sylvain Guintoli, Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu. Additionally, the only reason there was no #1 plate in WorldSBK in 2013 was because Max Biaggi retired at the end of 2012. Therefore, the last rider to win the title and choose to stay with their regular number was Carlos Checa in 2012. That was also the last time Ducati defended the WorldSBK title, but Alvaro Bautista's defence will be carried out with his regular #19 replaced with the #1.

This was confirmed in the Racing Ducati 2023 team launch which took place today (23 January 2023) simultaneously with the Ducati Lenovo Team launch for the factory MotoGP squad of the Bologna brand. 

Bautista and Ducati were very much the dominant force in WorldSBK last year, winning the title with only two DNFs - only one the fault of Bautista himself - and with races to spare. 

Bautista's teammate will remain Michael Ruben Rinaldi for 2023. Although there was pressure from the likes of Axel Bassani at some points in 2023, Ducati has stuck with the #21 for 2023. Certainly, he has a good relationship with Bautista, one which certainly did not impede the Spaniard's run to the 2022 title. Will Rinaldi win in 2023? Races - possibly. Championship - no, but that's not why he's there, no matter how much he would no doubt like to be.

Alvaro Bautista said: "We have a new challenge ahead of us. After a fantastic season in which we won with Ducati in both Superbike and MotoGP, 2023 will inevitably be a difficult year. Racing with the number 1, in fact, means that our objective can only be one: to win. We'll have a lot of pressure but at the same time we'll have to keep calm, try to work with high concentration but also with serenity. We'll have a new bike and even if it won't be extremely different from the 2022 one, the work that we’ll be able to do before the first race is crucial: we have to fix all the details that will allow us to get the best performance.

"I'd also like to address a thought to all the Ducatisti: I'm very proud of all our fans who followed us last season, and I hope that with the result we've achieved, in 2023 there will be even more of them supporting us at circuits all over the world. I am a Ducatista and I feel lucky to be able to defend the colours of the Racing - Ducati team."

Michael Rinaldi said: "I start this new adventure with great enthusiasm. Together with my team we have always made progress in the last two years, managing to improve our results. As a team we won the three titles last season and this means that the package is very strong. During the winter, we have analyzed the points we have to focus on, in order to improve and to be competitive for the title race.

"I have worked a lot over the last few weeks and I will continue to do so with great dedication as I want to  always be able to express my maximum potential. There will be a lot of new things, also on the bike, so I can't wait to get started. I want to thank Aruba and Ducati for the opportunity to ride this beautiful Panigale V4 R and be part of such an ambitious team". 

Whether you consider that Bautista won because of the Ducati Panigale V4 R; Ducati won because of Bautista; or that they both won because of each other and how they worked together, it is impossible to deny that the Spanish-Italian pairing will be the one with the target placed on its back for the upcoming WorldSBK season, which will begin on 24-26 February 2023 in Phillip Island, Australia.

Ducati Panigale V4S (2022) Full Review &Test Ride

Ducati Panigale V4S (2022) Full Review & Test Ride