WSB

Back to school: Who in WorldSBK has hopefully done their homework?

The WorldSBK Championship blasts for the run in to the 2019 title - but who should have spent the summer hiatus doing their homework?

After the (very!) long six-week summer break, the 2019 World Superbike Championship (WorldSBK) powers into action again this weekend with Round 10 of 13 kicking off at Portimao in Portugal.

For some the hiatus came at a good time, allowing them to stop, collect themselves and re-focus for the final push of the year - we evaluate those who hopefully used the break to do some homework, rather than play video games...

Alvaro Bautista

It isn’t a terribly promising sign that Alvaro Bautista is already mentioning the shoulder he hurt at Laguna Seca in July ahead of this weekend’s return to racing action at Portimao this weekend. 

This is a crucial weekend for the erstwhile WorldSBK leader as he stares down an 81-point lead to Jonathan Rea. Only a few rounds earlier he was literally staring down at Rea from the series summit as he romped to 11 WorldSBK race wins in succession. 

In essence, it will take more than Bautista alone now to recover that margin. The Spaniard can win all remaining 12 races this season, but if Rea is second to him on the road – like he has been in 10 of his 14 wins this year – then that will also be enough to see off the ex-MotoGP rider.

Regardless, with his Ducati exit already confirmed, it will a test of Bautista’s team player spirit to keep fighting for every point even if he doesn’t win the title and won’t be staying in 2020 because that manufacturers’ title is still very much up for grabs [see below].

Ducati 

Ducati hasn’t needed to do its ‘homework’ because it needs to improve its form per se, but - Alvaro Bautista’s questionable form notwithstanding - because it needs to be on the ball in the fight for the Manufacturers’ championship… which depending on who you ask, is actually the ‘important’ crown here.

With a format that rewards the single highest-scoring manufacturer representative (rather than both riders of a factory, for instance), the combination of Chaz Davies and even privateer Michael Ruben Rinaldi have helped keep points ticking over for Ducati on the days Bautista was busy throwing them away.

Indeed, it’s bizarrely easy to forget that Bautista has brought Ducati 14 wins this year, which rises to 15 with Chaz Davies’ Laguna Seca triumph and comfortably trumps Kawasaki’s ‘meagre’ nine success. Even so, it remains very close – just a single point in fact, in Ducati’s favour. 

When it comes to marketing clout, the manufacturers’ title is arguably more valuable to Ducati given it’s in the first year of running a V4 superbike. With this in mind, it would be a justified reward for a team that has done wonders turning it into a superb racing bike.

Ducati has won the WorldSBK Manufacturers’ Championship 17 times in 31 years… but has not taken home any ‘title’ silverware since 2011.

Leon Haslam

There has been nothing outwardly wrong with Leon Haslam’s 2019 WorldSBK campaign, but in the context of team-mate Jonathan Rea the results speak for themselves.

Whilst jumping on the Kawasaki ZX-10RR and expecting to defeat Rea out of the box is a big ask, it is no less than Haslam would have asked of himself before the start of the year. Instead, he languishes fifth overall behind both Yamahas and only just ahead of privateer Kawasaki man Toprak Razgatlioglu.

Issues getting to grips with the electronics package on the bike have been identified by the man himself as the culprit – particularly the brakes – with Haslam saying just doesn’t have time in free practice to dial in the right setting before he has to turn his attentions to the races. He says with a year’s experience under his belt, he’ll be more prepared for a victory challenge in 2020, but it remains to be seen whether Kawasaki will let him

He has multiple factors on his side though. Already popular with the big bosses in Japan, where the wider Haslam brand is still a notable one, his victory at the Suzuka 8 Hours will only help this cause, while arguably the biggest rival for his seat – Razgatlioglu – is Yamaha-bound. Regardless, Haslam needs to use these rounds to show more of the form had him chasing Max Biaggi all the way to the 2010 title on a Suzuki.

Honda

It’s fairly common knowledge now that Honda is in a ‘holding pattern’ of sorts with its WorldSBK campaign until HRC comes in for the 2020 season. 

Even so, even if Honda is distancing itself somewhat from the Moriwaki Althea Racing effort using the outgoing Fireblade, it has by all accounts been a terrible year for the manufacturer. 

Whilst HRC has kept WorldSBK at a relative arm’s length for around 15 years now, instead allowing partners to head up its effort with varying degrees of factory support, under-performing relative to Kawasaki, Ducati, BMW and Yamaha in a series engineered towards selling bikes – in this case a volume model – is starting to bite back.

Indeed, though Leon Camier’s long-running injury hasn’t helped matters, Honda will have likely expected a better result than eighth from the opening nine rounds… and even that was achieved in the wet where the CBR1000RR is – tellingly – competitive. 

Eugene Laverty

Hopefully Eugene Laverty has used the summer break to get fully fit having seen the first-half of his season ruined by injuries to not one, but both wrists.

Fortunately for him he heads into the final four rounds with his immediate future already decided after it was confirmed he’d be joining BMW in a deal that sees him return to the Shaun Muir Racing team he raced Aprilias with in 2017 and 2018.

Even so, it’s been a chastening season for Laverty, who has struggled for strong flourishes on the Go Eleven Ducati. Though the privateer team doesn’t have the clout of the factory effort, Laverty will hope to have been a lot closer up to his injury, which in turn potentially scuppered any shot he ever had of being in the frame to replace Alvaro Bautista.

He needs to use these four rounds to show what Ducati could have missed out on…

Join the conversation!

Let us know what you think, just sign up for a free account, leave a comment and get involved!
Register Now

Latest Reviews

Review
Review
Review

Latest Videos

Feature
Article
Article