Ten races, five years, many talking points: these are the five most shocking moments from recent seasons
The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola, 4.9km of treasured racing history, host of some of the most notorious moments on two and four wheels alike; 22 turns designed with only the most unflinching, stout-hearted riders in mind.
The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship returns to the celebrated racetrack for the eleventh consecutive season from May 10-12. With every full race since 2014 available on WorldSBK VideoPass, we’re celebrating the occasion by taking a quick look back at five captivating moments from the past five years of World Superbike.
2014 – Jonathan Rea, your new championship leader
2014 was in many ways a watershed year for British riders. Chaz Davies’ debut with Ducati Alex Lowes’ rookie season, Tom Sykes’ first year as a World Champion… While all-UK podiums have been far from a rare occurrence in recent seasons, the 2014 Italian Round’s Race 1 threw out a now familiar rostrum, featuring Davies, Sykes and one Jonathan Rea above them all.
Yet it’s the result from Race 2 that, with the benefit of hindsight, carries the most significance. Securing only the second Double of his six-year tenure at Honda, Rea moved into the lead of a world championship for the first time. It was to be but a brief spell at the top of the mountain – two weeks later Sykes reclaimed the lead at Donington Park – yet one that hinted at the domination to come.
2015 – Giugliano’s emotional return
One of the biggest ‘what might have been’ stories in recent years may be Davide Giugliano on the factory Ducati. A former STK1000 champion and proven talent, the Giugliano-Panigale combo seemed to many like a match made in heaven. Yet an injury-plagued 2015 left the Italian out of action for all but five rounds, with Giugliano never quite able to fulfill that astounding potential.
Still, there were a few shining moments that season, and perhaps none brighter than the Superpole at his own home Round. Back on the bike after the first of two career-threatening injuries that season, Giugliano blasted into pole position before an ecstatic crowd. A fun battle with the Kawasakis would follow in Race 1; while the Japanese machines had the upper-hand that weekend, Giugliano made the remaining podium spot his own. A sensational return that left every WorldSBK wanting for more.
2016 – Davies’ perfect weekend
First came the top spot in Free Practice 1. Then, the same with improved lap times in FP2 and FP3. A couple of hours later? Best in the Superpole for just the second time in his career and with a (still unbeaten) lap record to boot, which led to a dominant Double, leading every lap in both races, a fastest lap for each one the icing on the cake.
We may see red machines at the forefront at Imola in 2019 – but it probably won’t get close to this demolition job from Chaz Davies from three years back. It was also the Borgo Panigale factory’s first home win in four years.
2017 – A fiery fright for Laverty
Just like year before, the timesheets in 2017 were all about Davies, Ducati’s lucky number 7 in sizzling form at the Italian track. Eugene Laverty could have done with some of that fortune, considering the incident which caused Race 1 to be cut short by six laps. A slight collision with Alex Lowes left the Irishman’s Aprilia without functioning brakes at the top of Rivazza, the bike sent careering against the wall before exploding on impact, instants after Laverty had, wisely, jumped off.
Here’s how the Irishman – thankfully unharmed – described the moment: “I’m lucky I’m still in one piece! There was nothing left of the bike… […] I had no brakes; the braking lines came out when we were hooked together. I tried to pump them a few times, but when I realised there was nothing there the wall was fast approaching… It was time to get the hell out of there!”.
2018 – One for the future? Rinaldi takes shock lead
After two years of Welsh domination, the fans at Imola finally saw a different rider lead proceedings the following season, with Jonathan Rea guiding a KRT one-two in Race 1. After one lap of the Sunday race, things were almost back to normal, a Ducati chasing away in P1 – just not the one most were expecting. Because for nearly three laps of Race 2, Michael Ruben Rinaldi was the man to beat.
This was just the Italian’s third round in the series and, admittedly, the dream of a heroic win faded away shortly after, but not before leaving his name in the record books: Rinaldi is the fifth youngest rider to lead a WorldSBK race this millennium. The other four names? Loris Baz, Chris Vermeulen, Michael van der Mark and Jonathan Rea. Not bad company, by any means.
Watch every race from the past five seasons as well as all the action from the 2019 World Superbike season with WorldSBK VideoPass.