Gordon Ritchie's blog

Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Calendar Grills

As one more championship in WorldSBK has now run its enormously unexpected final course, the off-season gives us time for both reflection and plotting a path forward.

OK, that’s the reflection over, what about 2020 and beyond?

The WorldSBK series does not quite restart its new season preparations just two days after the old season, as it does in MotoGP. In those terms it took a bit over two weeks to get WorldSBK bedded in again, but most teams are already getting into 2020 mode after two days of tests at Motorland Aragon.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Tyred And Commotional

As one more championship in WorldSBK has now run its enormously unexpected final course, the off-season gives us time for both reflection and plotting a path forward.

OK, that’s the reflection over, what about 2020 and beyond?

The WorldSBK series does not quite restart its new season preparations just two days after the old season, as it does in MotoGP. In those terms it took a bit over two weeks to get WorldSBK bedded in again, but most teams are already getting into 2020 mode after two days of tests at Motorland Aragon.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Tracks Of Our Years - Notes From Argentina

The sight of six top WorldSBK riders boycotting the Saturday race at the largely excellent Villicum circuit was alarming in so many ways. For the organisers, of both the race series and the track, it could have been more alarming had all the riders that the ‘Villicum6’ said were not going to ride - before being persuaded to - followed through with that plan. The verbal fallout was sometimes downright nasty, as battle lines were drawn and opinions hardened.'

How did things get so bad? How did people who would normally have been over the moon to ride at one of the best laid out contemporary circuits on the planet decide not to compete on the first raceday of the penultimate round?

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Super Subversions

Sometimes things are hard in WorldSBK.

The perennial difficulty, however, is defining, balancing and homologating exactly what a WorldSBK machine is. And consequentially, what the technical rules should be.

Now that every single WorldSBK machine is a 1000cc four-cylinder of some kind you would think that the old issues of balancing machines against one another would have been homogenised out of their long-lasting and controversial existence.

After all, Ducatis and eventually Hondas and Aprilias were all bigger on twin-cylinder engine displacement than their four and occasional three-cylinder competitors for almost every season in WorldSBK until this one.

And therefore, usually, they delivered better results. Look at the stats.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Stock Market Derivatives

The WorldSBK season has simply exploded with bizarre chapters since the last time this wee column was punched out.

The gleeful anoraks will remember it, at least, as a season of three roughly unequal parts. The early third when Alvaro Bautista came in from MotoGP like a tiny trophy typhoon and forced everybody else back onto the cold shelter of their tech basements to try and find something – anything – that could match the rev-ravishing Ducati. That whole red effort huffed, puffed and blew all their houses of hope down flat, right up until Imola.

Even at that serpentine circuit, which snakes uphill and down and has tricky entries ready to punish the reckless, Bautista took a deep breath, accepted he was not finding his way around it like 11-year Superbike man Rea (not on his first visit anyway) and took his medicine in the form of minor points losses. Second and third and then once cancelled wet race for everybody. Hardly the stuff of nightmares...

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Brainstorming New Rules

Sorry to leave you on an old-fashioned matinee cliffhanger last time, but here is my answer to what the WorldSBK technical regulations should be from now on. In these days when homologation specials are set to take over all over again, WorldSBK is about to be dragged back into a less road bike-relevant arms race. Smells like more cost and complexity to me.

It is also a contrary vector to the desire to have more streetbike-derived World Superbikes. A desire that appeared to be universal, until recently.

Personally, I can handle as much roadgoing exotica as you can throw at me, but it is not what we were all led to believe was WorldSBK’s future tech, even very recently.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Stock Market Derivatives

No sooner had the idea of a full World Championship for so-called production machinery been agreed in 1988 than half the manufacturers had already created homologation special road bikes which then dominated most of the early results. But that was only part of the story, then and now.

WorldSBK has never been a true production racing series, whether you started in year dot with a super-special 851 Ducati or a humble Kawasaki GPX750. Chassis or engine; you could legally muck about with them.

Really, quite a lot.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Questions And Answers

After one chilled and one deep-frozen WorldSBK outing since the last column we still have red-hot Bolognese as the only meal available in the WorldSBK race-winning restaurant.

It may have a liberal sprinkling of Manchego cheese on top, in the form of the super-fast and utterly faultless Alvaro Bautista, but so far the winning recipe in WorldSBK has been mostly about a game-changing machine and the people who make it sing at castrato engine frequencies all the way to 2019 perfection.

Proof that a well-set-up Ducati Panigale V4R is peerless right now came in two ways in Assen; an event so cold that even well-padded people known for their polo-shirts-with-everything-attire had to fiddle with zips on puffa jackets on their way out of the media centre.

Firstly, when the Aruba.it Ducati team decided to try to give Bautista more of a potential advantage for the future, their attempts to take his bike setting into a potentially more golden point on the compass met with disaster. In any direction of change, it seemed. Disaster was their rider’s word, not mine.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Are We Done Already?

We have never seen anything quite like the arrival of Alvaro Bautista and his big red rocket of a Ducati Panigale V4R in WorldSBK history. Well, we kinda have, in the form of Doug Polen on that year’s ballistic desmo missile back in 1991. Just not quite as dominantly in only two rounds, as Polen won five from six, after a retirement in race two at Donington.

Whatever the comparison, ex-GP runner Bautista has entered WorldSBK at Star Trek levels of spacetime continuums by winning the first six races of the 2019 season, his first ever races in WorldSBK. The fact that there are three races per meeting now, not two, only slightly detracts from the glorious arrival of the new class act - stage left, right and centre.

Really, can you pick holes in the fabric of Ducati’s Alvaro effort so far?

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Premature Participation

For many years now, WorldSBK bods of all kinds have asked themselves the same question as they wake up in strange beds in Australia, at a reliably horrible 3.30am for the first few days.

Jet lag does, at least, give you time to think of an answer to it.

That question is, ‘does WorldSBK start too early in the year?’

The answer is of course a firm yes, it does.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: The Missing Links

Whatever number of permanent WorldSBK entries Dorna had in mind for the 2019 season, you can bet it was not 18. Yet, to listen to some comments regarding this final number you might imagine that some global tragedy had occurred, rather than WorldSBK simply facing up to reality.

A reality created both by itself and the actions of others.

So why are there missing links in WorldSBK’s ideal drive chain length this year? Many reasons, but here are the biggies.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Perception Is Reality?

In the ever-whacky race series that is WorldSBK, watching it all from up close for over two decades allows a very different perspective from those who comment on it from afar.

Whether that remote viewpoint comes from all along MotoGP's ivory watchtower, or the ramparts of lower altitude national series', the view of WorldSBK through foreign field glasses shows a perennially distorted and often negative image.

But closer inspection always allows a greater level of clarity.

Simply put, what those outside 'the scene' believe are the few assets and multiple liabilities of WorldSBK are frequently different from the realities that make up the other World Championship.

Now that social media posts often determine what is 'true', simply by having more people agreeing with this belief rather than that opinion, you don't need to examine things too closely in our post-truth age, do you?

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