Who is WorldSBK Champ Carlos Checa tipping for a Ducati move in 2023?

Carlos Checa tips Axel Bassani to land one of the 2023 WorldSBK Aruba.it Ducati seats in place of Michael Ruben Rinaldi or Alvaro Bautista

Scott Redding, Michael Ruben Rinaldi - Aruba.it Ducati

2011 WorldSBK Champion Carlos Checa says he is expecting a big inter-team battle in the Aruba.it Ducati factory ranks between Michael Ruben Rinaldi and Alvaro Bautista for 2022 to stop either being replaced by another rider for 2023.

The Spaniard says he expects Ducati to be watching the progress of Axel Bassani very closely with a view to promoting him to the full factory line-up if either Rinaldi or Bautista fail to impress during the 2022 WorldSBK season.

A relative unknown coming into the 2021 WorldSBK season, though Bassani picked up notable results in WorldSSP at a young age when he burst onto the scene as a teenager in 2016, his profile had tailed off once he returned to the domestic ranks.

Despite a modest comeback to WorldSSP in 2020 with Motoxracing Yamaha, Bassani was the surprise choice of Motocorsa Racing for its 2021 WorldSBK tilt.

However, he proved to be an inspired punt, Bassani immediately proving among the quickest of the privateers despite his inexperience and the team’s modest budget relative to the likes of GRT Yamaha.

Building in confidence as the year progressed, Bassani landed his first top six finish during Round 3 at Misano before coming close to a maiden win in the wet at Catalunya, eventually settling for second. A front row start in Argentina and four top five results from four of the final races capped off his breakthrough year.

For 2022, Bassani remains with Motocorsa but is understood to be receiving more attention from Ducati in terms of resources.

With this in mind, Checa - who won the 2011 WorldSBK title with Ducati as part of the independent Althea Racing team - believes he is being primed for the factory in 2023.

“Axel Bassani had a great season as a rookie. I think that this year he’ll try to go one step further and gain the confidence to make it to the factory Ducati team, which is what’s on his mind. 

“Last year, he did enough to be there, let's see if Ducati gives him the necessary support.”

Rinaldi is considered the rider most under pressure from any potential replacement following a modest 2021 campaign - his first in factory colours - that yielded three victory highlights, but also several rounds where he struggled to be competitive.

Bautista, meanwhile, returns to Ducati from Honda three years after his headline grabbing 11-straight wins from his opening round. The length of his contract hasn’t been communicated but is likely to be one year with options for 2023.