The Barcelona rider has made the leap to WorldSBK with the aim of fighting at the front again and feeling fully competitive on a motorcycle
Esteve ‘Tito’ Rabat's arrival into WorldSBK has been one of the striking attractions of the new season. The Barcelona rider, who will turn 32 a couple of days after making his racing debut in WorldSBK at the season-opening Aragon Round, has recharged his illusions and motivation with the Barni Racing Team in 2021. After five years competing in MotoGP™ without consistently great results, Tito seized the opportunity arisen in this Championship to feel the adrenaline on the track and the euphoria of the podium places.
Passionate about racing since he was a child, Rabat became known in 125cc back in 2005, and since then he has lived for motorcycles. Always chasing glory, which in his case has had an intermittent presence. If his passage through 125cc was a learning stage, with podiums but without wins, his consolidation on the world scene came with the jump to Moto2™, where he rose to the podium in all the seasons he contested and where he achieved the dream by being crowned World Champion in 2014, after a phenomenal campaign in which he achieved seven victories and 14 podiums.
Every intermediate class Champion aspires to compete with the MotoGP™ elite and Rabat made the leap to the premier class in 2016. Over five seasons he participated in 77 races, with a seventh place as the best result. Despite not being a constant front-runner, Rabat is nonetheless a World Champion: “I have been World Champion, I have achieved pole positions, I have won races... I’ve shown my potential,” he said shortly before his arrival to the Barni Racing Team was announced.
Rabat is also known as one of the most dedicated riders in terms of bike fitness. Of those who train alone, even if it is with the street bike, Rabat often completes more than 100 laps during a day of practice at any given track, as he did recently in the tests in Barcelona and Aragon. Rabat also joins the likes of Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa and Nicky Hayden, who headed to WorldSBK from MotoGP™ in their 30s, all taking wins and in the case of Biaggi and Checa, they were rivals, and both took titles.
At the moment, the Rabat has struggled in the new chapter aboard the Panigale V4 R, a motorcycle that resembles the factory Ducati at 99% but with which he still does not understand 100%. “They tell me that, if I show that I can win races and be ahead, I am sure that I will have all the equipment to be fighting for the first places," said Rabat at the beginning of his preseason.
However, in subsequent tests, the former MotoGP™ rider has encountered more difficulties than expected to handle and, above all, he’s had a recurring vibration problem that has seen him suffer. “I'm understanding how the team works, the tires, the bike," he explained after his most recent test. “But you have to work to get the bike a little more ready, because we have a wall there. The team is working well, within the possibilities, but we need the bike to go a little better, it has a lot of chatter and that needs to be improved. I’m better every year, stronger and more focused, so I am convinced.”
With that mentality, Rabat made it clear that his arrival in the new paddock is to feel like a winner again, to return to the podium and show his full potential, to be competitive with the most competitive. Rabat has declared that he is not just on the grid to ‘make up the numbers’ and sooner or later, his World Champion experience should shine through to propel the Spaniard forward in WorldSBK. Add on to that a MotoGP™ appearance and some competitive experience before the start of the season, Rabat will continue to make incremental improvements.
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