New and old faces bolster grid as 2020 WorldSBK returns to action

After five months between rounds one and two, the 2020 WorldSBK Championship is primed for action in Jerez with several new and returning faces

Lorenzo Zanetti - motocorsa racing

The 2020 WorldSBK Championship will make its long-awaited return next weekend as it follows up MotoGP by visiting Jerez for round two of the season, almost exactly five months after the curtain raiser in Australia.

Unlike most series’, WorldSBK did manage to get its season away in Phillip Island in late February/early March and was triumphant in producing three immensely competitive races with three different winners.

However, while Kawasaki, Yamaha, Ducati, Honda and BMW return looking to hit the ground running again with their full-time riders, round two in Spain will see a fresh look to the grid compared with Australia with five different faces, both new and old.

The highest profile of these is Marco Melandri, who makes a surprise return to racing action just months after announcing his retirement from motorcycle racing. His comeback has been made possible by the parting of ways between Leon Camier and the Barni Racing team, the Briton axed over ongoing injury woes to open the door for Melandri to return.

The decision to comeback isn’t entirely a coincidence though. Indeed, Melandri believes he has a chance to perform well on the Ducati Panigale V4 R having been robbed of the opportunity in 2019 when he was dropped by the factory Ducati team in favour of Alvaro Bautista. In short, it’s likely this is the only motorcycle he would return for.

Over at MIE Racing Honda there has also been a change of rider with Jordi Torres being replaced by WorldSBK debutant Lorenzo Gabellini. Torres had originally planned to dovetail his WorldSBK commitments with a stint in MotoE, but the change in the schedules means this is no longer possible, with the Spaniard opting for the electric series.

Gabellini is no stranger to the MIE-supported Althea Racing team having begun the CIV Superbike season with the outfit. The Italian Supersport Champion will ride the privateer Honda CBR1000RR-R alongside Takumi Takahashi.

WorldSBK stalwart Leandro Mercado will be back on the grid for round two as he prepares to make his debut with the Motocorsa Racing team. The Italian outfit has made handfuls of appearances in recent years, but this represents its most determined effort yet with a plan to complete in all remaining eight rounds using a Ducati Panigale V4 R

Another rider to have notched up a healthy number of WorldSBK starts over the years, two-time Superstock 1000 champion Sylvain Barrier will also see out the year on the Brixx Ducati. The team originally entered BSB in 2019 before withdrawing and focusing on WorldSBK, entering the final three events before confirming a fuller campaign in 2020.

Finally, Aprilia will be represented on the WorldSBK grid for the first time since 2018 after Nuova M2 Racing confirmed it will enter as many as five events to see out the year. Spanish Superbike champion Christophe Ponsson will compete with the team on the venerable RSV4.

As such, Jerez should feature 23 riders on the grid next weekend