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2019 WorldSBK Testing Round Up: Panigale A Work In Progress, Rea Dominant, Lowes One To Watch

Testing paints a picture but it’s never a complete one. It shows only what the artist wants you to see with their work in progress. The winter is a time to work through your program and do it at your own pace. This year that has been even more the case. With new bikes for Ducati and BMW there is plenty of change in the air of the World Superbike paddock, and after eight days of testing there are arguably more questions than answers.

The Ducati V4R was billed as the weapon to finally end Jonathan Rea’s dominance of WorldSBK. It was a MotoGP-derived bike that didn’t pull punches. It was one that broke cover over 12 months before its competitive debut. It was expected to be a honed creation from the outset. It was expected to be seamless. But instead, Ducati’s introduction of their new machine has run aground this winter.

Circumstances have worked against Ducati. Four days of testing in November were ruined by bad weather in Aragon, and then a bad track surface at Jerez that would need to be replaced. With a brand new surface at Jerez, it was dirty for the opening test of 2019. It took time to clean and it was almost impossible for riders to do long distance stints without excessive tire wear. Coming to Portimao it was hoped that Ducati could get some information on the new bike.

Hampering progress

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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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Interview: Tom Sykes Out To Prove Himself Again

Can he still cut it? That's the most common question that was asked in Qatar about Tom Sykes as the 2013 WorldSBK champion signed off from Kawasaki

Over the course of 228 races, Tom Sykes made himself into a Kawasaki legend. It's easy to look at the last four years and to only see the success that Jonathan Rea has achieved on the green machine, but before 2010 the Japanese firm were struggling. Chris Walker's win in the wet at Assen was a bright spot that punctuated ten years of failure.

From the turn of the millennium until Sykes joined the team had three wins, a home double at Sugo in 2010 by wildcard rider Hitoyasu Izutsu, and Walker's famous result. These weren't lean times for Kawasaki, this was a famine. With only 19 podiums in the ten years prior to his arrival, it's remarkable what the Englishman has achieved with the team.

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All Change In WorldSBK: BMW, Honda, Yamaha Announce New Teams And New Bikes At EICMA

While the line up for the 2019 MotoGP season was settled surprisingly early in the year, the opposite has been the case for WorldSBK. With just two weeks to go to the first full test of 2019, there are still a whole range of seats open, and questions going unanswered.

One of the reasons for the delay became clear at the EICMA show in Milan last week. While the manufacturers were presenting their newest bikes, including some of the key machines which will star in World Superbikes next year, a couple of manufacturers also presented their racing programs for 2019.

Perhaps the biggest story came from Honda, where HRC presented Althea and Moriwaki as their new partners in running their WorldSBK program. After a partnership of three years, and a relationship going back nearly two decades, Ten Kate are out, with the Italians and Japanese taking over.

It wasn't just Ten Kate: title sponsor Red Bull were also out. The energy drink firm had signed up when Nicky Hayden was with the team, a big name draw for sponsors, and a rider with a long connection to Red Bull. It was Red Bull who brought in Jake Gagne, the American who never really found his feet in the WorldSBK championship. After two years of poor results, Red Bull withdrew.

HRC + WorldSBK

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