Gordon Ritchie has covered World Superbikes for over a quarter of a century, and is widely regarded as the world's leading journalist on the series. MotoMatters.com is delighted to be hosting a monthly blog by Ritchie. The full blog will be available each month for MotoMatters.com subscribers. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.
It has been said before, and I will say it again, it is a welcome feat of logistics and determination that there is a 2020 WorldSBK season going on, and a near miracle that we media types are allowed in to cover it from inside. Thank you to all involved, without exception.
Given my shockingly bad air travel experiences at the first two ‘season comeback’ rounds in Jerez and Portimao, my media enterprises empire (a laptop and the soft machine that thumps its keyboard) quite literally set sail for the rest of the championship, by motorcycle. Which is fair enough, as I am covering a championship that is indeed based on production-derived motorcycles.
Somewhere between the Picos de Europa mountains of Asturias and the swimming pools of Calpe near Valencia - and exactly between the Teruel and Catalunya rounds in chronological terms - my mind was distracted from a heat-induced intermittent loss of friction between throttle grip and throttle barrel by thoughts of a much more extreme version of the real road bike scenario; WorldSBK racing.
I was on a very suitable bike for my working/travelling European multi-week expedition, thankfully. But what would be my first choice of current motorcycle if I were a WorldSBK competitor, and in some impossible Utopian position of having the pick of any bike? What I would I want to park my monogrammed pitbox deckchair and personalised facemask selection parked next to?
Teams are, as a wise man once told me, the most fundamentally important aspect of the whole business of racing. So let’s remove that from the immediate equation, and concentrate just on the bikes. For now.
The bike is actually a difficult choice on paper as they are all pretty even nowadays. On paper. OK, you cannot take a knife to a gunfight, not at this level, but nowadays there is zero reason why all the WorldSBK compatible models cannot be completely competitive as a base package. It truly gets interesting after that realisation is made.
To keep things in order, let’s start with the bike lowest in the current ‘Manufacturers’ Standings’ as we speak, and work upwards. Such is the close nature of the overall fight in 2020 that I am honestly about to look up which bike is the least potent in pure combined points terms.
Ah, of course, the Aprilia RSV4. A long-termer in WorldSBK but not a serious permanent entry in 2020, it props them all up as a part-time rolling test bed for a possible comeback next year. Given its previous success, and what Aprilia can do in WorldSBK when they really put their minds to it, few seriously think that an official WorldSBK Aprilia could not still be right in their swinging. Especially if they gave it a bit of a re-homologation and made a kind of ‘R’ version, like the Ducati.
BMW is the next one up. And at time of press, very much in fifth, despite it being a new bike last year, and all the main tuning elements that were going to be in place for this year. There are of course so many limits and regs on manufacturers in 2020 (plus Covid-19) that you cannot just re-tune or re-spec as you please any more, but it is a disappointment that the combination of BMW Motorrad/SMR and two of the most experienced riders there are – Sykes and Laverty – have so far rustled up a single Superpole win between them in 2020. This was supposed to be the BMW S1000RR’s biggest year for many years.
Next up, the new Honda CBR1000RR-R SP. Now could you, in all conscience, attack the WorldSBK championship with a brand new, high revving, full HRC motorcycle and team, after having an exploratory season in 2019 on the old one, and expect anything less than winning potential?
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