WorldSSP: The new arrivals ready to follow in Cortese’s footsteps

Tuesday, 15 January 2019 10:04 GMT

The German titan won last year’s championship on his first attempt – can anyone emulate his efforts in 2019?

In 2018 fans of motorcycle racing were treated to one of the most exciting championship tussles in recent memory, thanks to the FIM Supersport World Championship. Six race winners, last lap battles, and a mind-boggling denouement in Qatar left the bar incredibly high for this season. With last year’s champion Sandro Cortese switching to WorldSBK – alongside team champions GRT Yamaha –  the stage is open for a new star to shine. Now that the provisional permanent entry lists have been published, let’s look at five World Supersport newcomers ready to emulate and succeed the departing champion.

Sharing family ties and a surname with one of motorcycling’s most brilliant riders, Isaac Viñales (Kallio Racing) can more than hold his own on two wheels. In fact, the speedy Spaniard has arrived in WorldSSP as the heir apparent to King Cortese’s throne, inheriting the German’s championship-winning Yamaha YZF-R6. But competition will be fierce for Viñales, even inside his own Kallio Racing team, as 2018 starlet Thomas Gradinger and Loris Cresson – Cortese’s teammate last year – also push for the top spot of the Finnish-based squad.

Another rider switching over from Moto2™ to WorldSSP is Federico Fuligni (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), who faces the challenge of matching teammate Raffaele De Rosa. The F3 675 was one of the few bikes able to go toe-to-toe with the Yamaha bikes last season, and with the MV Agusta family now focusing exclusively on the World Supersport season Fuligni has a good platform to make an instant impact.

Thirteen days the senior of Fuligni, Jules Danilo completes the trifecta of former Moto2™ riders with a point to prove. The 23-year-old joins a championship that has been kind to many of his countrymen in the past, including 2017 champion Lucas Mahias and multi-time runner-up Jules Cluzel amongst others. Can Danilo be a tour de force in WorldSSP like his predecessors?

One of the most intriguing names present on the 2019 entry list is Gabriele Ruiu (GEMAR – Cioiciaria Corse WorldSSP Team), who will share his new garage with 2017 WorldSSP300 runner-up Alfonso Coppola in an all-Italian team. The youngest rider and points scorer in WorldSBK history, Ruiu has also competed consistently in STK1000, the CIV and the FIM CEV Moto2, yet is still just 18 years old. Age and talent are on his side; all that remains is to plug away and get his CBR600RR up to speed.

And speaking of history-makers, in 2019 Maria Herrera (MS Racing) is set to become the first female rider to compete in a full WorldSSP season. In twenty-plus years of competition distinguished names such as Melissa Paris, Paola Cazzola and Katja Poensgen have occasionally graced the intermediate class, but Herrera has the opportunity to go one further and show her pace over an entire calendar year. Herrera will have her hands full this season as she also competes in the inaugural FIM Enel MotoE™ World Cup.

With the WorldSSP regulars Jules Cluzel (GMT94 Yamaha), Randy Krummenacher, Federico Caricasulo (BARDAHL Evan Bros WorldSSP Team) or Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) still aiming for the world championship, this quintet of newcomers will have their work cut out for them in 2019. But with Cortese’s epic title win still fresh on everyone’s minds, absolutely nobody can be counted out.

The World Supersport season is set to be a thriller once again! Relive last year’s epic finale and get up to speed with every update for 2019 thanks to WorldSBK VideoPass.