New season could rewrite the history books for the top class
With the 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship on the horizon, anticipation is building as we begin to look at some milestones which could be reached, or records broken throughout the 2018 season.
Welcoming the arrival of many talented riders such as Toprak Razgatlioglu (Puccetti Racing), PJ Jacobsen (TripleM Honda WorldSBK Team), Yonny Hernandez (Team Pedercini) and Gabriele Ruiu (Grillini Racing), there is a chance one of these riders could win on their debut performance. If this was the case, they would become the first rider since Max Biaggi to stand on the top step in his first race – back in 2007. More recently, Ben Spies also won in his first weekend of competition, although in his case it was in Race 2 (Phillip Island, 2009).
But there are established WorldSBK stars who have the opportunity to write new pages in the WorldSBK record book. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) was able to achieve this feat a few times in 2017, but his achievement of a third consecutive title for the first time in the history of the Championship was the greatest of 2017. The Northern Irish rider can take this record further if he gets a fourth world title this year, which would equal the record of the most successful rider in the premier class, Carl Fogarty. Another noteworthy milestone may come soon if Rea continues to perform at his stunning level, after ending 2017 with his 54th victory in the Championship, he will only need six to surpass the all time record which is again held by Fogarty.
Rea is also close to breaking the absolute record of double victories in a Round. After equalling the record of 16 doubles shared by Fogarty and Troy Bayliss at the end of last year, it is not difficult to imagine that in 2018 he will take another record. If he keeps up his recent performance around Phillip Island of taking the double victory in both 2016 and 2017, he will start this campaign early on.
Fastest laps in a race is a record which may be out of reach for Rea in the coming seasons, as it is currently held by Noriyuki Haga, with 59 accumulated throughout his career. The 2017 World Champion only has 18 in total so far putting him 41 behind the Japanese legend, and even though this looks to be a small number, it is worth remembering Rea secured 14 of these in just one season – 2017.
An even harder record to achieve will be the record of victories in a season, of which Rea set the bar very high with 16 wins in 2017 - the first time that figure has been achieved in the current era, which began in 2004 with the sole tire supplier. Although the absolute record is held by Doug Polen with 17 victories (in 1991), and given the stunningly dominant season in 2017, it will be tough to beat or even equal.
Rea’s teammate Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) is hunting down another remarkable historical record – the most pole positions - which Troy Corser holds. The Australian secured 43 poles throughout his career, but Sykes holds 42 poles and is therefore only two off setting a new record. Last year Sykes added 4 poles - interestingly in a row - which it was a lower figure compared to recent seasons; in 2015 he added six poles and in 2016 it was eight.
With 18 podiums secured last year, Chaz Davies (Aruba it.Racing-Ducati) is now eight podiums off reaching 75 podiums in total, and only seven riders have reached this number in the history of the competition. The Welshman again aspires to win his first world title in WorldSBK, an achievement that would also be the first crown for the current version of the Ducati Panigale.
Neither the Kawasaki team-mates nor any other rider on the grid is close to the maximum number of races started in the category; Troy Corser holds this honour after he competed in no less than 377 throughout his long career. Sykes has competed in 234, Rea has 218, and Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda) with 185 are still very far from that record, although both Sykes and Rea will reach the milestone of the 250 races when they have completed the 2018 campaign.
It has already been seen that the first records of the year can be taken in the inaugural Round at Philip Island. British riders have taken a total six consecutive victories in Australia, and last year they equalled the longest sequence of victories of a country on that track. Australians dominated from 2004 to 2007, so there is a good chance that the season will start with an extra bonus for the dominators of WorldSBK in recent years.
Be sure to keep an eye on the WorldSBK records from Round One at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, all with the WorldSBK VideoPass as the season kicks off from 23rd – 25th February.