Jonathan Rea

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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Opinion: It Isn't Kawasaki Who Should Be In MotoGP

Jonathan Rea on the WorldSBK Kawasaki ZX10-RR

Why don’t Kawasaki race in MotoGP? It’s a question asked almost as frequently as why doesn’t Jonathan Rea switch to MotoGP? The simple answer is money. For a fraction of the money Kawasaki spent to finish at the back of a MotoGP field they’ve been able to dominate the Superbike World Championship for the best part of ten years.

Six titles in a row and 123 victories since 2011 versus five podiums in six years. The cost of investment in their Superbike project is a fraction of what they spent in MotoGP but their results are enough for them to sell the ZX10-RR as the all conquering Superbike on the planet. It’s a marketing dream compared to the nightmare of trying to sell being a MotoGP backmarker.

Since Rea signed for Kawasaki in 2015 he has won 81 races and six titles as a Kawasaki rider. Aprilia started their MotoGP programme the same year. Who’s had better value for money? There’s only one winner in that discussion.

Teamwork makes the dream work

For a generation Kawasaki has found a partner team. At one point Paul Bird’s squad ran the Kawasaki programme in WorldSBK, with limited success, but since 2012 it has been the Provec Racing operation run by Guim Roda, and the results speak for themselves. First Tom Sykes and presently Rea have dominated to such a degree that the role of Provec is undervalued.

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Teruel WorldSBK: Jonathan Rea Grinds Down The Opposition

Jonathan Rea & Michael Ruben Rinaldi at Aragon - Photo credit WorldSBK
Jonathan Rea leads Michael Ruben Rinaldi into Turn 1 at Aragon - Photo WorldSBK

Jonathan Rea just keeps ticking boxes in his title defence. Another weekend and another victory, but crucially also another three podium finishes. Consistency wins championships, and in the history of the Superbike World Championship he has no equal in this regard.

Motorland Aragon was a case in point. With back-to-back rounds at the Spanish circuit, this was a prime opportunity for his rivals to take points away from him. Instead Rea extended his title lead to 34 points by a mixture of risk-taking on track and conservative strategy in the garage.

Aragon is historically Ducati territory. The long straight clearly plays to the strength of the Panigale V4R, its horsepowers. When riding on board with Rea throughout the race weekend we could see where his bike excels: through Turn 10 on the edge of the tyre with the throttle pinned and the rear sliding but still able to find drive grip. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, but giving up so much acceleration on the straights meant the Kawasaki rider had to push incredibly hard everywhere else.

Lessons learned

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - “I’m happy I don’t race with Marc!”

Five-time World Superbike king Jonathan Rea evaluates the talent of six-time MotoGP champion Marc Márquez as the Spaniard aims to continue his march into history at Jerez on Sunday

Every year is a big year for Marc Márquez but 2020 will resonate more than most, if he can retain the MotoGP world title. So far the 27-year-old has won eight world championships – six in MotoGP, one each in Moto2 and 125s. If he does win this year’s MotoGP crown he will equal Valentino Rossi’s tally of nine world titles – seven in the premier class, one in 250s and one in 125s. That would be an important milestone.

Most racers deny any interest in records and racing history, until they grow older and become more aware of their place in the world. Mick Doohan, Honda’s most successful grand prix racer until Márquez took that record last summer, insisted records meant nothing to him, until the all-time 500cc victory record of Giacomo Agostini hove into view; then he thought seriously about trying to beat it, until serious injury stopped him in his tracks.

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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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Jonathan Rea Signs 'Multi-Year' Contract Extension With Kawasaki

The Kawasaki WorldSBK team has its line up set for the 2021 season. After signing 2020 championship leader Alex Lowes to another year back in May, Kawasaki signed a new multi-year deal with reigning champion Jonathan Rea.

The press release is short on detail as to how many years the contract is valid for, and as such, for how long Rea intends to continue racing. But it seems unlikely that Rea will in the next couple of years. The contract could also cover the period past the end of his racing career: as the most successful WorldSBK rider in history, Jonathan Rea will be a valuable marketing asset for Kawasaki for many years to come. Some form of ambassadorship will likely have been agreed between Kawasaki and Rea.

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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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Interview, Part 2 - Ana Carrasco: "I thought about moving category, but it needs to be at the right time"

In part one of our feature with former WorldSSP300 world champion Ana Carrasco, based on interviews with Carrasco by Israeli journalist and TV commentator Tammy Gorali, Carrasco spoke at some length about how becoming the first female rider to win an individual motorcycle road racing world championship had changed her life, and the effect it had on the wider world, both inside and outside of motorcycle racing. She discussed at great length with Tammy Gorali about what it means to be a woman racer, and a woman winning a championship.

In the second part of the feature, Ana Carrasco talks about her career as a rider, what her plans are, and what she would like to do in the future. She discusses her relationship with the team, and the bond she has developed with reigning five-time WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea. As a reward for winning the WorldSSP300 title, Carrasco was also given a chance to ride Rea's Kawasaki ZX-10RR, and Carrasco explained to Gorali how that felt, and the differences between a 400cc Kawasaki twin and a 1000cc four.

Tammy Gorali also asked Jonathan Rea, Rea's crew chief Pere Riba, and Carrasco's own crew chief, Nicola Sartori about the test, and how Carrasco fared on the bigger, much more powerful machine.

Looking to the future

But first, Ana Carrasco talked about her future. The Spaniard will be staying in WorldSSP300 for the 2020 season, though moving up into the World Supersport category had been an option. In the end, it was an option she had rejected, she said.

"I thought about moving category, but it needs to be at the correct time," Carrasco told Gorali. "Currently in the 600cc class, Kawasaki is not the best bike, so I prefer to wait until they have a bike to win. For example Lucas Mahias was fighting for the championship last year [2018] and now he is struggling, so I think it's not the right moment as I do not wish to change factory. I would rather wait."

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