Four of the last six podiums have featured an independent rider – is P1 the next step?
While the showdown between Álvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) in the overall championship standings is reaching fever pitch, there’s another, even tighter battle going on slightly further down the ranks, the one to succeed Xavi Forés as the best independent rider of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship.
Early in the season Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) seemed destined to take top honours in the independent class, but a page was turned after Toprak Razgatlioglu’s (Turkish Puccetti Racing) brilliant second place in Misano, combined with the Italian maestro’s mid-race crash. Melandri is now five points adrift of the Turkish starlet, with teammate Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) a further 23 behind, yet these three are far from the only contenders left.
The back-and-forth between the privateers has been relentless. Six different men have entered Parc Fermé as top independent for the day – the aforementioned trio plus Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven), Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) and Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha) – but perhaps the most impressive thing is that most of these performances have happened near the top of the overall timesheets.
The independents are not holding back against the factory guys. In the entire 2018 season only two riders managed a top-five finish; this year there have been four (Razgatlioglu, Melandri, Baz and Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team)). The figure could have been higher still if not for the unfortunate incidents that curtailed Laverty and Cortese’s podium challenges in Aragon and Misano, respectively (both riders have however made it to sixth on other occasions).
Privateers have so far held every position from fifth to second – the next step is self-explanatory. Easier said than done, but there are reasons to be more than optimistic for Donington Park. Razgatlioglu was just two seconds off a sensational rookie win last season (and returns a much more composed and sharper rider), while Melandri is a multiple Donington winner (WorldSBK and 250cc). Both have also already led races this season. Cortese conquered Castle Donington last year in World Supersport, while Laverty and Baz possess their own set of UK credentials.
Several big names with winning experience in the class and the desire to make history. The time will come when an independent makes it to the top step of World Superbike. Could it happen this weekend? Either way, get ready for an independent-made treat at Donington Park as they continue pushing each other to their absolute limits.
Find out what’s in store for the independent frontrunners in the UK with WorldSBK VideoPass!