Alex Lowes

Bikes Back On Track As WorldSBK Testing Resumes At Jerez

Despite the best efforts of the coronavirus, the winter break is nearly over, for the WorldSBK series at least. On Wednesday, half of the WorldSBK grid take to the track at Jerez for the first major test of the 2021 season. They will be working on their preparations for the season opener, not at Phillip Island, due to the travel restrictions still in place for Australia due to the pandemic, but at the Assen circuit in The Netherlands on April 23rd.

The weather does not look like playing ball for the first full test of the season. The forecast is currently for rain on both days of the test, heaviest on Wednesday but easing off on Thursday. Wednesday may see a dry spell in the afternoon, but whether that means the track will dry enough to produce usable data is open to question.

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What Will The 2021 WorldSBK Grid Look Like?

Same old, same old in WorldSBK season. Jonathan Rea walking away with his sixth consecutive title. Kawasaki doing the same with the manufacturers title. No matter what happens Rea and Kawasaki have all the answers and the title all sewn up.

That’s the narrative spun by many about WorldSBK but the reality is very different. Rea and Kawasaki might have won the titles, but this was a challenging season for both that ended with the ZX10-RR clearly outmatched at two of the last three rounds. Ducati had the bike to beat in 2020 but too many riders fighting with one another.

Yamaha are close, very close, and have a hungry rider line-up. The return of a full-blooded factory effort from Honda showed lots of encouraging signs. BMW were a write off this year but still claimed two pole positions and have an all-new bike coming for next season. The future is brighter for WorldSBK than it has been for many years.

New era?

The season began with a classic in Phillip Island. Three great races and a tenth of second the combined victory margin. It was a terrific blend of strategy and different bikes. It encapsulated why WorldSBK is looking forward rather than to the past. We don’t have to look at the “golden age of Superbikes” any longer. We’re living one. Seven different riders won races. Ten riders stood on the rostrum.

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MotoGP And WorldSBK Back On Track: Three Days Of Testing At Misano

World championship motorcycle racing takes another step back to the season returning at Misano. The next three days sees both MotoGP and WorldSBK teams testing at the Italian circuit, preparing for the resumption of hostilities at Jerez in July and August.

Present are the MotoGP teams of KTM and Aprilia, allowed extra testing due to their status as concessions teams. Aleix Espargaro and Bradley Smith are riding for Aprilia, the second test for the Italian factory. Espargaro was forced to miss the first test, unable to travel to Misano, and so waited for this test to get back on track, as he explained to Tammy Gorali in an interview a week ago. He joins Bradley Smith, promoted from test rider to permanent rider for 2020, to replace Andrea Iannone, still suspended after a positive doping test.

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Gossip Moves The Market: How Rider Managers Maximise Earnings

Picture the scene. The sun is setting over the hills that surround the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The day has been fierce and the weekend is only going to get hotter. Keeping a cool head, keeping your eyes on the prize will be crucial but all you can hear is talk of chatter.

Chatter is a paddock keyword. You hear about it all the time. You hear it a lot more in June because this isn’t chatter on the bike. It’s chatter inside the paddock.

Rumours become fact very quickly in the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks. All it takes is a chance photograph for a story to suddenly have legs and suddenly half the paddock is running around and chasing their tails looking for quotes and concrete information.

The rider market. The silly season. The rumour mill. The fools errand. Trying to keep abreast of the market is an important part of paddock life. Rumours are currency and having good sources gives you a lot of information to trade with people. Trying to report it? If you’re hitting more than you're missing it’s a very good batting average, and people remember the wild swings more than the home runs.

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Coach Them Up! - A Closer Look At Rider Coaching

WorldSBK riders are embracing the role of track spotters and rider coaches, but what do they actually do?

The SAG Team Moto2 rider coach Alex Debon at the 2019 Sepang round of MotoGP

If Tiger Woods needs a swing coach, it stands to reason that even a world class motorcycle racer needs a coach too. Gone are the days where riders eschewed coaching; now they are embracing it. In paddocks, like in any walk of life, keeping up with the Joneses is a factor of life. When one rider makes a change, it forces others to do the same.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Making The Jump

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. This month's blog has been published for non-subscribers as well, as it addresses an important subject, and is in part a reply to an article by respected Spanish journalist Manuel Pecino. If you would like to read all of Gordo's columns in full, make sure you subscribe.

New season looming, same old story. Where are the indicators of new/young British talent coming from in the MotoGP entry list? Actually, in WorldSBK too, which is the point I would finally like to address.

Let me be clear that this column was going to be about something else entirely this month until a wander through the Twittersphere pointed my curiosity in the direction of old friends and colleagues, Mat Oxley and Manuel Pecino. Few racing journalists are as respected as these guys, each with decades of cutting-edge MotoGP scribing and insight behind them.

I was hooked even before I followed the link to read the pecinogp.com story asking – from a Spanish perspective and using Mat as their British conduit - where were the British riders going to come from now in the top MotoGP class?

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WorldSBK Finale At Qatar: The Battle For Third

Argentina showed again just how tight the battle for third in the WorldSBK title will be. The championship battle gets the attention but don't underestimate how much the scrap for third can be worth

Three riders, one prize. The fight for the bronze medal of the 2019 WorldSBK campaign will go down to the wire in Qatar. Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Toprak Razgatlioglu are split by just six points, and while the Turk is the form man, don't rule anything out in the desert.

All three riders - a British Superbike champion, a WorldSSP champion and a WorldSBK race winner - are consumed by a need to be the best. They want to win. Fighting for third isn't where they want to be, but it has to be their target for 2019. The future will almost certainly hold title challenges but for now it's about doing the best possible and beating each other.

The WorldSBK grid is stacked. It's not enough to be doing a good job, you have to do a great job on every lap of every day to be able to fight at the front. These riders can be upset with a top five finish because they expect more from themselves. When you talk to engineers inside the paddock, however, they'll point to the consistency needed to be a leading rider. This is a world championship and the gap between it and other series can be huge. In WorldSBK to be at the front you have to maximise everything.

Teammate tussles

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Steve English Suzuka 8 Hours Blog: The Best Team Won, But Was That The Right Result?

The 2019 Suzuka 8 Hours was the greatest race I’ve witnessed in the flesh. It was tremendous from start to finish...it was just the extra time that left a bitter aftertaste.

With only one lap remaining we had witnessed the greatest spectacle imaginable. Three teams - Kawasaki, Yamaha and Honda - had treated us to a feast of great racing. With the eight hour mark in sight we had seen twenty lead changes, and up until the final half hour all three teams were within 30 seconds of each other. Suzuka is always reckoned to be a series of sprint races wrapped up as an endurance outing but this race truly was just that.

It was unbelievable. Standing trackside I just wanted to get back inside to watch it on the TV and fully understand what was happening. If you believe that you’d believe anything. I was sweating so much in the heat that I was running dangerously low of bodily fluids but even in that state of reduced mental capacity I could see this was an all-time classic.

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Adapt and survive at Suzuka – How to win as a team

Ego is a crucial part of the successful makeup of any world class racer. They need to have the belief that they are faster than everyone else on the grid. That they can do things that no one else can. That they’re the man for the job. What happens though when you’re forced to check that ego at the garage door? Having that ability can be the difference between winning and losing in Endurance race.

Adapt and survive. It’s rule of law in the natural world but it’s also the only way to be successful in endurance racing. Being a team and working together is the key success at the Suzuka 8 Hours. If you’re Yamaha Factory Racing Team rider Michael van der Mark, you know this better than most.

The Dutch star might be a four-time Suzuka winner, a WorldSBK race winner, and a World Supersport champion but he’s also cast in an unusual role in Japan; the outlier.

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