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.
The WorldSBK season has simply exploded with bizarre chapters since the last time this wee column was punched out.
The gleeful anoraks will remember it, at least, as a season of three roughly unequal parts. The early third when Alvaro Bautista came in from MotoGP like a tiny trophy typhoon and forced everybody else back onto the cold shelter of their tech basements to try and find something – anything – that could match the rev-ravishing Ducati. That whole red effort huffed, puffed and blew all their houses of hope down flat, right up until Imola.
Even at that serpentine circuit, which snakes uphill and down and has tricky entries ready to punish the reckless, Bautista took a deep breath, accepted he was not finding his way around it like 11-year Superbike man Rea (not on his first visit anyway) and took his medicine in the form of minor points losses. Second and third and then once cancelled wet race for everybody. Hardly the stuff of nightmares...
Come Jerez, still near the beginning of the season’s middle third, the wee man carrying all of Ducati’s hopes in confident fashion was on for a great weekend. Two race wins at home, until probably over-confidence kicked in and he no-scored after a literally inexplicable front grip fissure that got Kawasaki and Yamaha’s optimism sensors twitching for the first time all season.
OK, it was a blip, everybody has them, even Foggy and Polen and Bayliss, and all the other top Ducati riders of yesteryear. And none of them had such a positive start to compare to Bautista’s Reign of Red Terror for all his rivals.
A blip, then?
The next round was Misano. Bautista looked great at times and took his most recent win and a third place, but was again a faller, for no explained reason.
Then another race fall at Donington very recently, in the rain this time, followed by a fourth and a third race finish.
Rea and Kawasaki, by now proving to a schadenfreudenly-sceptical MotoGP world exactly what kind of hard work and capability winning four consecutive WorldSBK crowns took, have switched into race-winning gears like it was late 2018 all over again.
With Rea scoring his first ever ‘tripla’ at Donington, Bautista was to have entirely the wrong kind of tripla at Laguna Seca.
Three no-scores. All in different ways, but all resulting in a big fat zero being added to Bautista’s championship points total.
The Media Centre misfits, used to seeing some weird and wonderful happenings over the decades, kinda gasped and looked shell-shocked when they saw Bautista first fall in race one, then collide with Razgatlioglu fell off and was injured in the sprint race, being unable to restart immediately.
When he finally missed the second 25-lap and 25-point Laguna race due to his shoulder ligament injury – suddenly riding into pitlane after going missing from the early TV pictures - there was just silence and fixed stares at the Media Centre monitors. Nothing. Rows of people who just sat there not quite believing what was being served up.
Blip? It had accelerated into WTF-WTF-WTF-WTF-WTF-WTAbsoluteF was going on?
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