WorldSBK commentator Steve English looks ahead to the second half of the season
There are five rounds and ten opportunities left for riders to end the 2017 season with some momentum behind them, before heading into the winter. It was at this time last year that Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) went on a winning spree that left many in the paddock tipping the Ducati rider as the title favourite entering this season.
Ultimately as the year has played out Davies has once again been the challenger, but securing the title will be a tough challenge. The Welshman has taken four wins and ten podiums, but it is his three retirements that could ultimately lead to him standing on the outside looking in at the end of the season. The Ducati package has been superb for most of the campaign, but it still lacks some consistency which we can see from the Kawasaki’s.
Championship leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) he has had to dig deep at times this season but with only one race off the podium - when a tyre issue caused him to crash at Donington Park - the Northern Irishman is on course to be the first rider ever to win three WorldSBK titles in a row. It would be a remarkable achievement from Rea and would show just how strong the Kawasaki package, and team around Rea are. The double champion has always made clear how important “Team 65” is to him, but what about the other team's in the paddock. Could one of them spring a surprise in the coming months?
Yamaha are the most likely to spring a surprise. Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) has had two podiums already this season, and with the Englishman having formed a winning partnership with Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) at the recent Suzuka 8 Hours, their confidence is high. The R1 has improved over the last 12 months and while there is no definite introduction of development parts from Suzuka, there is some momentum swinging their way.
Germany will be a home round for BMW and with Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) having led eight laps at Misano, the Spaniard will feel that there's light at the end of the tunnel. It's been a tough season for the Althea squad but if they can get the S1000RR dialled into the right setting, Torres can be a consistent top five threat.
While Torres will be aiming for improvement Davide Guigliano (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) will just be glad to be back. Of course it was the Italian's back injury which was the centre of attention for him earlier this summer, but his return to WorldSBK this weekend will be closely followed. A good performance, being close to his teammate Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team), could do wonders for his future prospects.