2018 Portimao WorldSBK: What We Learned In Portugal

Jonathan Rea may have had a third consecutive double at the Portuguese round of WorldSBK but that's not to say there wasn't plenty of action and intrigue as WorldSBK resumed following the summer break.

Rea gets creative

Jonathan Rea came away from Portimao with another 50 points and moved ever closer to a historic fourth consecutive title. The Northern Irishman has enjoyed another stellar campaign and has won 12 races already this year. He'll be out to wrap up the crown in two weeks time in France and knows that following his Portimao double, he has one hand on the crown.

“I can't quite believe what's happening right now,” said Rea afterwards. “We knew after coming to the test that we'd be strong, so we kept the bike the same as at the test. I had really good pace to catch Chaz, but he was braking like an animal and I knew that I'd have to be creative to overtake him. I made the move at Turn 10 and it stuck, after that I tried to control the race. I know that my target is to win the title in Magny-Cours because I know that at this point, it's my championship to lose.”

With 116 points in hand over Davies, the title can be secured following Race 1 in France.

Davies digs deep

There are few things more difficult in racing than to race injured. Riders constantly push themselves through the pain barrier, and following two fourth place finishes it was clear how much Chaz Davies was suffering. The Welshman has twice fractured his collarbone in recent months, and Portugal proved especially trying. The Portimao circuit is physically challenging when you're in full fitness. Davies was far from that and in stiflingly hot conditions he had a very impressive weekend.

“Collarbone injuries are quite common in racing,” reflected Davies. “It's not really so bad because you screw in a plate and the bone is stable. If you damage the plate, though, or tear the screws out of the bone, then you're in trouble. I had a crash on Friday, but if you'd told me before the weekend that I'd have two fourths I'd have taken it.”

The Friday crash came as a result of a technical problem in the opening moments of Free Practice 3, and the time lost also left the Welshman facing a further challenge. Having to take part in Superpole 1 he was only able to qualify on the fifth row of the grid, so to be able to finish fourth was an impressive feat. On Sunday he scrapped with Rea for the lead, before ultimately giving way and dropping to fourth.

No luck for Laverty

Eugene Laverty was back on pole position for the first time in five years on Saturday. The Irishman's Superpole success was hugely impressive, because it came on the back of arguably one of the worst tests of Laverty's career. During the official test three weeks ago, the Milwaukee Aprilia rider struggled to get the bike stopped and turned. At a circuit that he always feels confident on, this was a weekend that he suddenly feared.

Immediately up to speed on Friday morning, his nerves were settled and he built on it to show his speed on Saturday. Unfortunately for Laverty, it all came to nothing with an opening lap crash. He was an innocent victim to a Xavi Fores mistake, but it was of small consolation as the 31 year old was forced to line up 10th on the grid for Race 2. With rear grip issues he lost time trying to make his way through the pack.

Plenty of 2019 options for Shaun Muir

Shaun Muir Racing could have a very different look in 2019. The former British Superbike champions have had a difficult three years in WorldSBK but their future could be secured as soon as the end of this week. The team had executives from Milwaukee in Portugal and are discussing continuing their role as sponsors while Shaun Muir also chases additional backing. With Gulf having been the team's title sponsor, they could also be a player for 2019. Muir commented that he should be able to announce his plans in the coming weeks but that “securing our budget is the most important thing for us.”

Once the budget is in place the team can shift their focus to the bike they'll compete with. Their link to BMW has been well documented, but Muir was at pains to point out that nothing was secured and that he was evaluating all possible options. Ensuring support from Munich seems to be the biggest issue for the team. Electronics have been a constant bugbear of the current version of the S1000RR, and SMR want to ensure that a plan is in place to develop that area of the bike.

There are plenty of rumors circulating around the WorldSBK paddock about BMW's 2019 involvement, with some discussions having taken place about a full-time test team with wildcards at European rounds and additional teams on the grid. Whether this happens remains to be seen.

Muir also spoke about running the brand new Ducati V4, the Honda Fireblade and indeed continuing with Aprilia in 2019.

Riders being linked with the ride will be “top-line riders” because they offer an easier path to success. Muir is keen to retain Eugene Laverty and talks are very close to being concluded, with the Irishman thought to have agreed terms to remain with the team, but waiting until machinery is confirmed. Tom Sykes has also been in discussions, while Muir confirmed that he had not held talks with Marco Melandri, but that he would be open to discussions with the Italian.


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Total votes: 12
Total votes: 13

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Comments

As this article  is about Wsbk I'll put this comment here.

I saw a tweet from David re the number of people attending a Wsbk round in England and was a bit disheartened that he reported that not many people attend Wsbk and he agreed that with another tweeter comment that it was most likely due to their having a very good internal series.

One tweeter suggested it was boring as bat shit and another tweeter longed for the good old days and another wanted foggy to come back because he had character.

I have to say that I find a low attendance at Wsbk by the English a bit unbelievable considering  an article, I think by Matt Oxley, inferred that England has a history of producing top quality Superbike riders due to the historical influence of the Isle of man etc.

It sounded a bit like America with its love of hillbilly's racing V8's in NASCAR due to moonshine runners evading Police.  Yeehaa, good ol' boys!

I just thought that the English bikers, more than anyone else in the world, would be right into Wsbk. But supposedly they're not!.

So if a superbike nation isn't interested it suggests that there is a major problem with the actual racing and people enthusiasm which I guess is nothing new considering there has been fair bit of debate on that subject about Wsbk over the years.

Anyway the popularity and enthusiasm for Wsbk seems to have been made worse by a factory team building the best bikes and an outstanding rider who dominates the class. Sounds a bit like formula one or even the Doohan era! I would suggest that Wsbk is far too expensive for even small teams to be competitive.

Well if its anything that I have learned from many years following motor racing of all sorts is that the racing public like to follow riders who show "character/attitude/determination" on the track. They want to see a fight. They loved Simoncelli. they love Rossi barging Gibernau/Lorenzo/Marquez off the track to take a corner.  they loved  Lorenzo fighting off Marquez a few races back.

Based on that I believe that the best way to get crowds back and maintain a viable two championship series is to adopted superstock rules which might allow talented locals from each country to be able to afford compete against the regular World Super Stock racers, on their own turf, and maybe even beat them!

I know that in Australia that if our internal riders could afford to compete in a World championship race against international riders that they would be more than capable of handing out a few cans of whoop ass.

I mean I know of no other class of motor racing where a road vehicle can be so easily adapted to racing that its not funny. So why not take advantage of that fact.

Forget about competing against MotoGP.  Do something different..radical...innovative. That's what made Wsbk good in the first place.

Total votes: 6

I would be interested in seeing the attendance figures for all the SBK rounds, BSB, MotoAmerica etc. How have they changed over the years ?

I travelled to Donington for the SBK weekend in May & there seemed to be a reasonable crowd. Lots of campers & mobile homes at the infield camping area. All the people I made contact with seemed to be enjoying the weekend.

I don't think that the Kawasaki racing team should be punished for doing the job so very well, but...

Maybe a Ducati V4 will change the dynamic next year, how is that project going ? Other manus like Suzuki, BMW, a serious effort from Honda might help.

Agree that the same or compatable rules for the world SBK and as many of the national championships as possible should be better. Superstock rules or somewhere between SBK & superstock. Everyone likes to see a local rider or two do well. Although no Aussies in WSBK hasn't stopped me going to the superbike races.

Over to you DORNA.

Total votes: 7

Both comments above pose good questions, wish I was confident enough to suggest answers. So I just have more questions...

Good point made on the numbers. What exactly is current paid attendance by event, and what is the comp to prior years? Is WSBK really spinning down, or is it flat? David?

Dorna is really trying to make the races competitive (Sunday reverse grid, rev limits based on results), they're just not succeeding. JR is dominant. And really, motogp is so exciting the last few years, WSBK pales by comparison.

Am I looking at the era 10 years ago with rose colored glasses? I so enjoyed watching Haga, Checa, Spies, (Rea on a Honda), Fabrizio, etc. 

Also, the massive summer break doesn't help either, especially when you already know the championship winner. Anyway, I really want to love WSBK 2018, I just don't. Why?

Total votes: 12

Battles amongst leading riders, ideally over multiple races are good for the sport and good for the riders and teams - sponsors will fund potential winners more generously, and more people will turn up or tune in.

Dorna has failed to spice-up the series with its rule tweaks and the likelihood is that Kawasaki without the distraction of MotoGP is putting more resources into winning than anyone else. The kiss of death to competition has been Rea’s dominance with a bike that just suits him as well as anything could. Sykes’ attempts at keeping a semblance of competition were lost along with the first rule changes intended to neutralise the Kawasaki advantages. Unintended consequences....

BSB has shown that other ways work better in terms of creating interest and competition, albeit with a slightly bizarre re-set of results that makes it possible for losers to win the title (and I mean losers in the racing sense of being second until all of a sudden the race is re-started with a 6 lap sprint race after a visit to the pits for suitable adjustments.) Hard-won leads are lost and even the runners-up stand to end up as title stragglers. It’s harsh but, I have to say, interesting and engaging.

Dorna could do worse than adopt BSB specifications - standardised electronics, no traction control etc., but race tyres and chassis tweaks. That would reduce costs and allow more teams to enter and wild cards to have hopes of success.

The BSB Showdown may rub against racing purity, but with Rea close to title No.4, and probably planning 5 and upwards, I have lost interest until someone can bring more than a ‘knife to the gunfight’.

Davies kept it interesting, but the Ducati effort has waned and I just hope that the V4 hype can help them achieve what they have done in MotoGP - I would rather not wait 2 years for that to happen though.

Total votes: 8