Team managers and other WorldSBK key people give their opinion about the 2019 grid after the season opener in Australia
The first round of the 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship has left us with more pending questions to be answered than before. Will Bautista and Ducati be able to dominate all the season? Will Rea be back into his usual shape in the next rounds? What is the actual level of Yamaha, Honda, and BMW? How high is the competition this year?
2019 is already proving to be different from any other season that we saw in the past, and even if just 18 riders are lining up on the WorldSBK grid, competition seems higher than ever before. The first “triple treat” of the year saw Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and the new Ducati Panigale V4 R dominating throughout the weekend, but the general opinion of the people in the paddock is that we still haven’t seen everything yet and that the series will provide the most excellent show ever this year.
The first to affirm this is Serafino Foti, team manager of triumphant Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team in Australia: “I’m sure the championship will be very competitive this season. Phillip Island is an unusual track, and even though we dominated with Alvaro, we will see everyone’s true level in the next few races. For sure our rivals will be tough to beat, and we know what they are capable of doing, we have a lot of respect for them, so we have to keep our feet firmly on the ground and continue to work hard.” Speaking about the current line-up, the Italian added: “18 riders might not seem a lot, but I think that the level of the teams and the riders themselves are very high, so I think it’s better to have quality and not quantity - to make up the grid. Clearly to have a grid of 20/22 riders would be perfect, but I don’t think much would change for the show.”
Coming out defeated from the first round of the year, WorldSBK team title holder Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK know that they don’t have to underestimate the level of their rivals this year. Their team manager Guim Roda commented: “Taking a closer look at this year’s grid, you can see that the quality is very high and even independent teams are at a good level. Right now, there are five manufacturers involved in the championship, Kawasaki, Ducati, Honda, Yamaha, and BMW and this makes a total of 10 factory-supported riders and five official teams. If each manufacturer lined up two satellite bikes, we would have 20 bikes on the grid. We are very close to this reality, and I hope that this will happen in the future, but I prefer quality over quantity. I believe that WorldSBK is already capable of providing the greatest show this year and of offering exciting race weekends for both fans and the tv audience”.
Former WorldSBK rider and twice WorldSSP Champion Andrew Pitt, who is now working as Alex Lowes’ crew chief in the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team made his analysis after the first round of the season: “In my opinion, the biggest addition is the manufacturers support that WorldSBK is very lucky to have this year. Bautista is making a big difference. He is a strong rider, and the new Ducati is a great bike too, but the rest of the grid is made of the same riders of last year, so I believe that the level is the same. The manufacturers support is making a big difference, and the championship is lucky to see the return of Honda and BMW. I think in Thailand, and especially once we will get back to Europe, we will be able to see the true strength of all teams, as we will compete on race tracks that usually provide close racing all the time”.
Confirming the interest of Honda to return with strong support in the series starting from this year, Genesio Bevilacqua, team manager of the Moriwaki Althea Honda Team said: “This year the level is very high, and this is because we have a lot of manufacturers interested in the series. Ducati is putting a lot of effort in WorldSBK, Yamaha has been working hard for many years now, Kawasaki has dominated in the last four seasons, and now Honda is back, and I believe they will be adding even more competition soon. It is true that there are a few riders this year, but I believe that the show is one of the greatest ever this year. The Tissot Superpole Race will provide even more on-track action on Sundays for the fans, and in general, I believe the series has grown a lot”.
Partnering with Shaun Muir Racing, German manufacturer BMW have made their return to WorldSBK this year providing their strong factory support to the British based squad. After a promising start to their 2019 campaign, BMW Motorrad WorldSBK team manager Shaun Muir added his opinion: “The competition has got really exciting with the addition of Alvaro Bautista. Clearly, it is going to be a championship threat for the WorldSBK title. But also, the competition for the podium in the top six is going to be as tighter than ever. There are just 18 riders on the lineup, but the fact is that from top to bottom there is some real quality there. I think that every rider on the grid is capable of a top ten and I think that there are at least ten riders capable of a podium. I agree with that probably this is one of the best grids and maybe with a few wildcards, there will be a regular 20 or 22 riders on the grid each round in Europe. I think WorldSBK is becoming a very exciting championship”.
Alongside the factory supported teams there are also seven independent squads aiming for the big prize. Marco Barnabò, team manager of the Barni Racing Team, which was crowned WorldSBK Best independent team last season, confirmed that the battle for the championship title had reached new heights in 2019: “This year competition is higher than ever before. There are many strong contenders, and for an independent team like us, this makes staying into the top ten even more difficult. I believe that the competition this year is a big addition to the championship, and I believe that the show has become greater and nicer than ever before”.
We won’t need to wait for too long to turn some of the pending questions into answers, as the second round of the season will take place soon in Thailand from 15th-17th March 2019. Find out what will happen next in the 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship with the WorldSBK VideoPass.