Jonathan Rea stands on the verge of defending his World Superbike title after finishing second at Jerez in Race 2. The Northern Irishman came out on top of a tussle with his Kawasaki teammate, Tom Sykes, and will enter the final round of the season with an almost unassailable 48 point lead.
Latest World Superbike News
It was smart strategy that won Chaz Davies the opening race of the French round of WorldSBK but in Race 2 it was patience and perseverance that won out. The Welshman clocked up his third win in four races and each have come in very different circumstances. A dominant victory in Germany started this rich vein of form but France showed how strong Davies has become. Having the mental strength to stick to his guns, and his intermediate tyre choice, in the opening race was contrasted with his patience in waiting for an opportunity to pass the Kawasaki riders in Race 2.
The decision on whether to be conservative or aggressive with your choices wasn't the key in Magny-Cours rather it was just about having belief in your convictions. With a drying track Chaz Davies was one of the few riders to start the race with intermediate tires and the gamble proved worth the risk for Davies as he romped to victory.
In the early stages with a wet track Davies was a sitting duck to riders with more grip from full wet weather tires. The Welshman even said afterwards that “I was so slow that I wouldn't have been surprised if someone had hit me!”
The FIM and Dorna have agreed on a new entry class for the World Superbike championship. A Supersport 300 championship has been created to house the burgeoning market of lightweight sports machines, such as the Yamaha YZF-R3 and the KTM RC390.
Aprilia have finally confirmed that they will be providing factory backing for the Milwaukee SMR squad in WorldSBK in 2017. It had been an open secret for months that the Milwaukee team were looking to make a switch to Aprilia, and they had signed Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori to contest the championship for them. But it took a long time for the official confirmation to come through.
It was a weekend of contrasts in Germany. Four weathers in a race weekend is usually something associated with Phillip Island, but with 30°C temperatures having welcomed the WorldSBK paddock from their summer break, the heat gradually transitioned to a downpour on a cold and windy Sunday.
With Chaz Davies and Jonathan Rea claiming the spoils in the races there was little reason to think that this was a standout weekend, but in many ways the German round of WorldSBK could prove pivotal when the season concludes.
In the latest round of poorly-kept secrets emerging at last, Yamaha have announced that they have signed Michael van der Mark for the 2017 season. He will join Alex Lowes in the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK squad for next year, replacing Sylvain Guintoli.
The move had been long expected. It became clear over the summer that Van der Mark would be leaving the Ten Kate Honda team, with whom he has had a long relationship. Once the signing of Stefan Bradl alongside Nicky Hayden at Honda was announced, there was only one destination Van der Mark could be heading.
The final piece of the MotoGP puzzle has finally dropped. Eugene Laverty has decided that he will be switching back to WorldSBK, where he will ride a factory-backed Aprilia RSV4-RF with the Milwaukee Racing SMR squad. The departure of Laverty means that Yonny Hernandez will get to keep his place in the Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati team, filling the final empty slot on the MotoGP grid.
It may seem strange for Laverty to abandon MotoGP, just as his star has been rising in the class. Since Aspar switched from Honda's RC213V-RS Open Class machine to the Ducati Desmosedici GP14.2, the older Ducati working very well with the Michelin tires, more rear grip helping to reduce the understeer the GP14.2 suffers from. He is currently eleventh in the championship, and has a fourth and a sixth as best finishes, Laverty being annoyed that early traffic cost him the chance of a podium at Brno. It took the factory Ducatis on their brand new GP16s six races to get ahead of the Irishman in the championship standings.
So why has Laverty decided to abandon MotoGP in favor of WorldSBK? There are a number of reasons, but all of them boil down to a single issue: Eugene Laverty is a winner, and he likes to win. On two-year-old machinery, in a private team (though with good factory support, unlike other satellite set ups), Laverty's only chance to win in MotoGP would come when the weather acts as the great neutralizer.
In the first of a two-part announcement, the Honda WorldSBK team, run by Ten Kate, have announced that they have signed Stefan Bradl for the 2017 season. He will join Nicky Hayden for next year on the Honda CBR1000RR.
The Aruba.it Ducati WorldSBK team have confirmed that Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri will be their riders for the 2017 season. Davies has signed with Ducati for two more seasons, while the (nearly) 34-year-old Melandri has only a one year deal.
The announcement had been widely expected, as we wrote in our latest round up of WorldSBK Silly Season. Melandri had been working on a return to the World Superbike paddock ever since his ignominious exit from Aprilia's MotoGP team in the middle of 2015. His return has come at a price: informed paddock sources say that Melandri is to ride for free, and is bringing money to the team through sponsorship deals. Melandri is a proven commodity on a competitive bike, the only question mark being the effort he is willing to put in if he believes the bike is not capable.
While the MotoGP grid is as good as settled, Silly Season for World Superbikes is in full swing. With the Kawasaki riders' contracts settled before the summer break, attention has turned to the other seats, most of which are up in the air. In addition, there could be some changes in machinery, with some teams eyeing a switch of manufacturers.
The biggest news – still unofficial, but widely believed to be a done deal – is that Marco Melandri is set to make a return to the World Superbike paddock, this time in the factory Aruba.it Ducati team alongside Chaz Davies.
The WorldSBK season goes on its annual summer break with the championship suddenly poised on a much finer edge than was imaginable just a week ago.
Jonathan Rea's dominance of the current campaign has been almost unparalleled. However, his run of 17 consecutive podium finishes to open the season is now over and suddenly he faces a threat from within for his title defense.