An intriguing scrap right the way through the field sees the battle for Independent supremacy add another dynamic to a thrilling WorldSBK fight this season!
The 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship has been full of battles right the way through the field, from the very front to the very back. The Independent team battle is one with various dynamics, as riders continue to improve and push towards the front of the field in WorldSBK. Looking back over the first nine rounds, who are the Independent teams and riders to have shone the brightest?
“This season, my dream was more podiums,” said Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing), who goes into the Summer break as leading Independent team rider. The 22-year-old Turkish star has been a revelation this season, leading races and securing an unprecedented seven podiums – all of which have come in the last 14 races. Razgatlioglu is in form and lately, consistently ahead of the Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK machine of Leon Haslam, with the British rider beating him only once in the last seven races. “My dream has changed; now, I want to win,” is how Toprak looks ahead to a return to action in Portugal.
Some 53 points behind Razgatlioglu is the next-best Independent rider, Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK). Having announced his retirement for the end of the 2019 WorldSBK season, Melandri’s season has been extremely mixed. The Italian veteran started his year with a third place but, since then, has endured results as low as 17th, coming in the Tissot Superpole Race at Imola. This inconsistency is enhanced when at the next round at Jerez, he was third in two races. Melandri’s swansong season isn’t as competitive as he’d like, but he’s been able to put on a show when it matters.
Melandri’s teammate Sandro Cortese is the next Independent team rider, sat on 100 points. The reigning WorldSSP Champion has had some stand-out rides in 2019, with a best result of sixth coming in Race 2 at Jerez. Add on two front rows and 12 other top ten finishes, it is unsurprising why Cortese is happy with his season thus far. “From Race 1 to the Summer break, I think we’ve made a big step, which was our goal. The team is growing with the riders and I think that together, we can do a lot in the second half of the season.” Keep your eyes on the German.
The first Independent Ducati is that of Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team), who has endured inconsistency in 2019, whilst enjoyed some credible rides too. Six top tens from the first five rounds, Rinaldi headed to the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto, where he achieved a career-best fourth in Race 2, seeing off a challenge from Sandro Cortese and Leon Haslam, whilst also finishing top Ducati. Just three points behind Cortese in the standings, it is a thrilling battle for third in the Independent standings, whilst it is also over the last top ten position in the overall standings too.
The final rider inside the top five in the Independent standings is Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing), who has been lifting the Italian-based team higher and higher as the 2019 season has rumbled on. The Spaniard took his best results of the season at Laguna Seca last time out and wants more as the season evolves. Torres is capable of podiums on his day, so don’t be surprised if one comes his way before the end of the season – particularly at circuits like Portimao and Losail. Will Torres continue to improve?
Other riders who have made their mark in the Independent class include Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha). After just four rounds with the returning Dutch team, has enjoyed eight top ten finishes – with the last six races being inside the top eight. A return to the front for Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura), as the Argentine rider has achieved four top-ten results since his return from injury, after a year of being outside of the top ten places. Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) will hope to continue his development with the Goeleven Ducati, whilst Alessandro Delbianco’s (Althea Mie Racing Team) top ten at Donington Park means that all Independent riders have had a top ten in 2019.
Watch how the rest of the season unfolds for all the riders in the World Superbike paddock with the WorldSBK VideoPass!