A formidable quintet of factory-backed outfits will be gunning for the title in 2019
The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship promises to be one of the best seasons for motorcycle racing the championship has ever seen. No less than FIVE factory teams are competing across 11 countries in five continents and a stunning 39 fairing-bashing races, all in the bid to become the very best in WorldSBK. A mouth-watering prospect, we look at the five factory teams all looking to be ´number one´ by the end of the 2019 season.
The Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK also have an updated version of their record-shattering ZX-10RR, which will once again feature Jonathan Rea at the forefront of the bike’s development. Joining him on the charge towards what Kawasaki will hope is another constructors’ championship, 2010 runner-up and multiple race-winner Leon Haslam makes a welcome return to the WorldSBK paddock and will look to push the Kawasaki to more records and achievements.
Since 2012, Kawasaki have been inside the top two positions in the manufacturers´ championship, whilst also taking five riders´ championships along the way. Aaron Slight, Scott Russell and Akira Yanagawa had all been a part of the first chapter of Kawasaki´s successes in World Superbike but lately, Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea have been the dominant force due to Kawasaki´s advances in support for the championship. Can Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam continue to fly the Kawasaki flag high in 2019?
The Ducati factory in Bologna have been working hard with cutting-edge technology to deliver the brand-new Ducati Panigale V4, in a bid to make it a championship winner. Its predecessor in the Panigale R left its mark in WorldSBK with 28 race wins across four seasons, yet a lack of championship titles means that the Italian constructor is more determined than ever to take WorldSBK by storm in 2019. The arrival of the new machine will unequivocally mean new challenges, new strengths and renewed battles on circuit – but the desire to win remains the same and the passion for success is arguably higher than ever after seven seasons with no championship win.
The illustrious history of Ducati in the WorldSBK series has seen the likes of Doug Polen, Carl Fogarty, and Troy Bayliss become World Champions with the Italian manufacturer, whilst also crowning Raymond Roche, Troy Corser, Neil Hodgson, James Toseland, and Carlos Checa worthy, dominant champions. Will Chaz Davies or Alvaro Bautista add their names to this decorative array of international champions for Ducati?
The Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team have spent their first three years developing the new Yamaha YZF R1 into a race-winning package; now the factory-supported team want to turn it into a championship-challenging weapon. Riders Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes both took wins in a scintillating 2018 WorldSBK season, which gave Yamaha their first win since Marco Melandri in 2011. The outfit have proven to be a good challenger to Kawasaki on numerous occasions in 2018, with the British round at Donington Park and the Czech round at Brno proving statistically to be two of the best.
Now in his fourth season at Yamaha, Alex Lowes will be hungry to lead the charge in a bid to stop Jonathan Rea´s stranglehold on the championship. Dutchman ´Magic´ Michael van der Mark will seek to add to his tally of wins from 2018 and improve on his championship position of third last year – the best-ever by a Dutchman in WorldSBK. Can Yamaha become manufacturers´ champions for the first time since 2007?
The factory-supported BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team will field two brand-new S1000-RRs, in the capable hands of 2013 WorldSBK champion Tom Sykes and German returnee and reigning FIM European Superstock 1000 champion, Markus Reiterberger. BMW have shown in their brief time in the WorldSBK championship that they are seriously competing for the ultimate crown in production-based racing, looking to be the first German manufacturer to win the WorldSBK championship.
A stunning 2012 campaign with Marco Melandri witnessed the former MotoGP winner take six hard-fought race wins on his way to third place overall. He backed it up again in 2013, taking three further race wins whilst new teammate Chaz Davies secured three wins too – including a dominant double at Aragon, a circuit where BMW have always shone. BMW have been in the hands of privately-run teams since 2014, with Althea BMW achieving numerous fourth-place finishes. BMW want to return to the front, to take their first win in over half a decade.
Finally, Honda return with a dedicated effort that sees a factory-supported Honda team in WorldSBK for the first time since they clinched the riders´ championship in 2002 with double-champion, Colin Edwards. The much-anticipated return of a factory CBR1000RR means that the manufacturer goes in search of a first WorldSBK win since race two at Sepang in 2016, with the late, great Nicky Hayden. With Leon Camier enjoying a second season aboard the new Fireblade SP2 and Ryuichi Kiyonari´s imminent return to the world stage becoming even closer, Honda are certainly back with a bang.
Whilst a rather intriguing off-season has taken place, reports suggest that Honda have been testing behind closed doors at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand – a circuit which boasts long straights and a mixture of fast and slow corners. Looking to improve on the bike´s best result in 2018 of 4th (Race 1), it could be a year where the Moriwaki Althea Honda Team enjoy successes once again.
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