Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: And They’re Off…

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.

Well, nearly. WorldSBK will start for real in 2021 not only with summer upon us as we kick off at Motorland in Spain, but so late in May there will be a 20-something in the dates of the races.

Covid is to blame, of course, but after MotoGP has ravaged a full five weekends of its schedule, WorldSBK is just about getting ready for round one to start. Normally it is the other way about.

WorldSBK seasons have started at the glorious Phillip Island circuit in Australia for years now. And at the end of February, ferrgoonessakes, which really means the middle of February because the official tests take place a few days before the opening round.


For the paddock people that PI early bird means escaping the European winter at a nice time of year. For WorldSBK as a global sporting entity it means getting out of the traps first, when MotoGP and even the behemoth of Formula 1 are still getting through their winter tests prep.

Some unusual and welcome outside attention after a barren motorsports winter always feels good at PI as you slap on the factor 50 sunscreen and wonder what kind of rain Clydesiders are experiencing that particular day, especially as the Aussie racing always lives up to the hype. Part of that is down to the nature of the track layout and how it chews tyres like a nervous football manager masticates gum - but who cares. No cobwebs are left unblown after PI, in body, mind and soul.

This year the season starts late, and in the centre of a motorsports action storm, but don’t lose sight of WorldSBK in the middle of all this other stuff. The top end of the Superbike sport is the top end still, with no obvious huge instant challenger to six-times champion Jonathan Rea for the first time in a couple of years. Maybe. What’s the biggest thing to look out for in the seemingly endless game of who can beat Jonathan Rea and KRT this year?

Winning combo

The bar may have been raised even more by Kawasaki for 2021 because of a revamped and much more race-friendly stock Ninja 1ZX-10RR on which to start its tuning efforts within the strict rules packages. You have to build a faster bike as a street model nowadays, with more revs as stock, to keep up with the highest-revving bikes of all. Hence two ‘new’ bikes.

BMW has brought its own heavy revamp job too, what they call an M1000RR, which is a breathed on S1000RR and with the same kind of wing/winglet additions as most others now - only more so. Like the Kawasaki it also has engine internal upgrades, but when BMW riders and staff did a Microsoft teams media meeting on Monday 17th, they still did not know for sure what their upper rev limit would be. The new bike’s FIM mandated figures still had not been released.

But lo! As I write this - Tuesday night, quite late - I have just checked the FIM website and sure enough, the new rev limits we have been waiting on have just been published. And look at this lot for the new bikes…

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Much as I enjoy MotoGP, superbikes remains my first love. To think where we were all at after the first meeting of last season, when it looked like all of our christmases had come at once. Let's hope this year picks up from there, and then some. I don't mind that much who takes the title but very much hope it's much closer than in previous years, and, in my dreams, that every meeting is a replay of PI 2020.

Right Lil? Before looking at riders and their fit for a bike and trajectory, getting a good look at the bikes is a good start. And there are several interesting things to see. 

Unfortunately if you like closely contested championships, the new Kawasaki looks menacingly improved. (To be honest, inverse of Marc getting handed a shite GP tool, disappointment sank in the belly when seeing the new Green bike strength). The BMW has gotten a lot more engine and some nice bits on an already excellent chassis. Both the Duc and Honda aren't much changed, but do have better development and sorting. Red looks to be clearly several steps forward of the Honda, the latter bike a bit of a mystery to me. The Yamaha, it hasn't changed much, has it? I have yet to get into it. Know anything there?

Interesting field. Do you agree that we are looking at Green followed by Red and we are curious what follows? Are we getting any movement towards Aprilia rejoining? They were dabbling recently.

And then there are the riders...a few are sticking out. Two handfuls could be in the front group at various tracks. Speaking of tracks, interesting schedule too. Much to see right now! Curious what folks are zeroing in on.

I'm zeroing in on BMW. VDM on the same team as Sykes, better bike, higher level of commitment...maybe...by BMW? Should be facinating, crash and burn or light it up, who knows?