10 reasons not to miss the 2019 WorldSBK pre-season

Thursday, 22 November 2018 10:00 GMT

The thrills begin early this year, with several riders and teams facing new challenges

1. FIVE factory teams: Kawasaki, Ducati and Yamaha are joined next year by BMW and Honda, who will introduce factory-backed bikes onto the grid in an ambitious and exciting bid to battle with the championship’s frontrunners. We’ll already get the first signs of how powerful their respective new projects are through winter testing.

2. Bautista arrives: The Spaniard is ready to start rocking his new red machine. World Superbike is the former 125cc World Champion’s new home and you can be sure that he won’t be satisfied with just making up the numbers. Expect Bautista to grab headlines very early on as he makes his debut for the Racing – Ducati team next week at the two-day Jerez Test.

3. The V4 R shows its full potential: Four cylinders to topple the four-time champion. Ducati’s new beast has already started making waves this month at the MotorLand Aragon test, where Chaz Davies was competitive right from day one. Will the Racing – Ducati team riders catch up with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) before the season kicks off down under? There’s three months to find out.

4. ‘Pocket Rocket’ is back: But the men in red are not the only ones taking aim at Rea’s title. As Tom Sykes leaves KRT after nine years, in steps another Englishman and proven race-winner to take his place. Leon Haslam has locked horns with the best since making his WorldSBK debut in 2003, including his new teammate, and returns to the championship with a point to prove – starting in the winter tests.

5. BMW’s new bike debuts: Ducati will also not be the only manufacturer with a new bike next year. BMW presented a revamped version of their S 1000 RR at EICMA and will be riding their first few miles on track in early 2019. A two-rider lineup featuring 2013 world champion Tom Sykes and 2018 European Superstock 1000 champion Markus Reiterberger as well as powerful backing from BMW Motorrad is a promising first step.

6. More power for title number five: Not ones to be left behind, Kawasaki have also got a new machine for next season, as their championship-winning ZX-10RR receives a 2019 update. Rea tried out his new bike at MotorLand Aragon this month and was already faster than on the 2018 model; the green machine’s full potential will be unleashed in the coming months.

7. HRC, in it to win it: It’s been 16 years since Honda Racing Corporation last fielded a factory-backed bike in World Superbike. The legendary Showdown at Imola where Colin Edwards won his second title for Castrol Honda was the last race with an HRC bike on the grid – there’s little doubt that they’ll be aiming to create similar memories from 2019 onwards, as they return in collaboration with Moriwaki and Althea Racing.

8. Melandri returns to his WorldSBK roots: The Italian legend and Yamaha, reunited seven years later. The 36-year-old made his WorldSBK debut onboard a YZF-R1 and together they made an instant impact on the championship. Melandri finished that 2011 season as runner-up to Carlos Checa – can he go one further in 2019?

9. Another World Champion on the grid: Melandri will have a strong partner and rival in the GRT Yamaha team, as Sandro Cortese debuts the World Superbike class. The German will become the first World Supersport champion to move up since Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) in 2015. His baptism of fire will also come this very month at the Jerez Test.

10. New ventures for STK1000’s final two champions: Another German champion on the 2019 grid will be Markus Reiterberger, who returns after winning the European Superstock 1000 championship last year in dominant fashion. The 24-year-old will aim to again be a force to be reckoned with, as will 2017’s STK1000 champion Michael Ruben Rinaldi who joins the 2018 WorldSBK Independent Team champions Barni Racing. Add 2017 STK1000 runner-up Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) into the mix and you’ve got a strong, youthful set of riders ready to take the championship by storm right from the first winter tests.

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