Jonathan Rea has signed on for two more years with the KRT team in WorldSBK. The Northern Irishman will continue racing a Kawasaki in the World Superbike championship for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.
The press release from Kawasaki appears below:
Four rounds into the WorldSBK season Alex Lowes heads into his home round trying to get back to where he wants to be. After the hardest season of his professional career he’s rebuilt his body following a series of serious injuries and now feels ready to put his hard work to use and get back to challenging at the front of the field.
Last year, his second with the Kawasaki Racing Team, was trying. The injuries mounted up from even before the first round of the year with a flat track crash leaving the Englishman with a serious shoulder injury. The Grade 4 separation of his AC joint was enough to severely curtail his pre-season testing schedule and the opening rounds were trying affairs despite a great start to the campaign in Aragon.
Three podiums at the opening round gave Lowes and Kawasaki hope but that was the highlight of his season. Lowes would only take two more podiums in 2021 as the injuries mounted.
Through the pain
"I worked hard to get ready for the opening round of last year,” said Lowes ahead of his home round at Donington Park. “I had missed a lot of pre-season because of my shoulder injury so it was a lot of work to be ready for the start of the season. Given the shoulder injury the opening three rounds were pretty acceptable but then we tested at Navarra.
The greatest WorldSBK championship fight for many years has just gone all the way to the very last day of competitive action. The new best Superbike rider in the world managed to become the most tip-top Top Cat after a season-long fight with the greatest WorldSBK rider of all time. And don’t forget another bloke in red, not blue or green. He also won more than a fistful of races.
Five of the top six riders also won at least one race, on four of the five competing manufacturer’s flagship products. All five manufacturers took multiple podiums.
When you see the final WorldSBK outcome written down like that then obviously 2021 will be regarded as a classic.
The past season will be remembered for many things, but primarily for Razgatlioglu vs Rea. It was, as even the most cursory glance under the roller-shutter pit garage doors proved, much more than just enthralling man-to-man combat.
It is a slightly different run up to the start of winter testing for the 2022 season. For the past few decades, testing for the following season began a couple of days after the end of the current season, riders taking to the track on the Tuesday at Valencia after the final race. Dorna, the FIM, and IRTA had already decided to make a change before Covid-19 struck in 2020, but the global pandemic meant there was no testing at all at the end of last year.
So this year is the start of the new normal. The season ends at Valencia, everyone gets a few days off, and then the paddock heads south to Jerez for two days of testing. It's better all round for everyone: rider get a few days to recover from the final race weekend, teams get a chance to catch their breath again, and prepare for their new riders/bikes, and the factories have time to prepare the new bikes and parts to be tested ahead of the test.
Jerez is also a much better test track than Valencia. It has a bit of almost everything: slow corners, fast corners, hard acceleration in low gears, hard acceleration in high gears, etc. All that is missing is a very high speed back straight, but the Sepang test in February should soon put that right.
Now that we are nearly at the end of the 2021 WorldSBK season, but still with what feels like ages to go until the deciding round in Indonesia, we have a chance to look back and forward at the same time.
We’re not looking at the enthralling final championship battle, however. No matter how much it has captured the imagination of the public. That will be decided in a while under the gaze of an increasingly appreciative bike-racing world.
Behind the headline happenings there have been another two important subplots brewing, simmering and both are worthy of a closer look before we get to see if the World Champion spends the winter on an island in the far west of Europe or as close as you can get to Europe but still technically be in Asia.
So, for a moment, pin that forthcoming campaign map up on the back wall of your mind’s personal Operations Room and think on this. We are - whisper it - watching the true start of the changing of the old guard in WorldSBK.
I guess it is a credit to modern motorcycle engineering that so few bikes that get looked after properly in racing break down in actual races any more. With major parts of most WorldSBK machines coming from a production line somewhere, along with the rest of the bikes destined for the street, that’s remarkable in itself. Given that they all have upper rev limits and just a little bit of something in reserve on the computer design screen simply because you have a very limited engine allowance through the racing year, overstraining even your purpose-built racing components is a risky business nowadays.
Especially as in all but a few straights, the electronics spend a lot of the time attenuating the power you already have. Most of these bikes make too much power now, so the way it makes it matters more.
The reason I mention this potential race bike breakdown thing is that as I am clattering the keyboard in a hotel in Murcia, halfway between Barcelona and Jerez, the championship lead is a mere point, with Toprak Razgatlioglu just one ahead of Jonathan Rea. But, without an unfortunate front-running breakdown, due to an electrical charging system and voltage drop problem in Race One in Catalunya, Razgatlioglu would be leading by quite a few more points. He’s running away with this championship, if only he didn’t keep losing points.
I am striking while the iron of competition is hot here. In addition, it is halfway through the season now, so time for a recap. This is a chance to indulge in a bit of fortune telling and then possibly a nightcap when the laptop lid closes on another busy workday.
It’s just a short time since the racing fates piled into the 2021 WorldSBK street fights that took place in the shadow of a heavenly Czech Castle in Bohemia and the reflection of a ‘flame-off’ from whatever satanic mill was blasting away just down the hill from the Motodrom Most.
At a characterful but sporadically outdated new WorldSBK venue, the 2021 WorldSBK championship trendometer swung to full scale deflection once again as those aforementioned racing fates jumped on Toprak Razgatlioglu’s pillion and helped him win two, and nearly three, races on his factory Yamaha. Fairly turbocharged him they did, and a treble was almost achieved.
KTM has officially confirmed that Raul Fernandez will be moving up to MotoGP in 2022, racing for the Tech3 KTM team. The Spaniard has been rewarded for a sensational rookie campaign in Moto2 with a promotion to MotoGP.
That Fernandez would move up to MotoGP was an open secret. The only question was the timing of the announcement. But KTM had to fight to keep the Spaniard, after Yamaha had attempted to poach him for the Petronas team.
With Fernandez joining current Moto2 Ajo teammate Remy Gardner in Tech3, the current line up of Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona are set to lose their places in MotoGP. Lecuona has been linked to a move back to Moto2, while Petrucci is widely tipped to move to the WorldSBK series, where he could make a return to Ducati.
After the first few races of the 2021 WorldSBK championship some trends have already become apparent.
One, the usual one, is that nine races/nine podium man Jonathan Rea is leading the championship by a fair margin of 20 points. That’s equivalent to a second place in a full race. Four 2021 race wins under his awning already, he became the first rider to smash through the 100 race victory barrier in WorldSBK history at the opening round.
Two, Toprak Razgatlioglu is now turning into the more rounded, consistent force his talents have always pointed towards. Maybe his factory Yamaha too? Hence it is he and not two-time race winner Scott Redding who went from 35 points behind Jonathan Rea after Estoril to 20 points behind after the long-awaited return of Misano after two years. Redding is himself a full race win of 25 points behind Razgatlioglu. So that’s 45 points - yes, numerology is clearly not just for cranks and conspiracists - of deficit to the leader for the person many thought would challenge Rea most strongly after his great 2020 ‘rookie’ season. And he still might, of course. He’s still many people’s best bet, for obvious reasons.