Two rounds in, and there’s patterns emerging throughout the World Superbike class, with the 2021 campaign shaping up to be an absolute thriller
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship has had an explosive start to the season with two action-packed rounds of drama, with everything from tyre debates and dodgy weather to titanic rivalries and big battles and new motorcycles showing strength. Amongst all of this however, what did we actually learn from the opening two rounds of the season? Well, maybe we should debrief the main themes from the first two events.
REA RISES ABOVE THE CHAOS AROUND HIM
After a long off-season, one thing we’ve learnt is that WorldSBK in 2021 is even more unpredictable. A chaotic first two rounds saw weather have a say, late Superpole drama set the scene in the races, Championship contenders jump-start, long lap penalties and tyre gambles in all kinds of conditions. However, even despite this sensational start to the year, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) has kept a cool head, winning four races and not finishing off the podium. We’ve seen before from Rea that his ability to stay calm, play the long game and build into the season can be one of his strongest qualities, but there was so much happening across the two rounds, seeing him rise above the drama around him is as admirable for us as it is worrying for his rivals.
REA’S RIVALS: the speed is right there
At MotorLand Aragon, Rea did look comfortable and had it not been for a Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) tyre gamble in Race 2, he may have had a hat-trick. However, Estoril showed that his rivals are right there with him and that he was not the dominant force right through the weekend. Race 1 at Estoril was a stunning display of resilience and tactics from Redding for his second win of the year, whilst Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK) had stunning pace too, and perhaps without a jump-start in Race 2, could’ve been a winner. Then, there’s Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), who was unlucky in Race 1 to get mired down field early on, as he had the pace to run at the front, whilst in Race 2, it was another Lap 2 incident, taking him and Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing Ducati out of the race. Rea’s rivals are a serious threat in 2021, but without consistency, it’s going to be hard to overthrow the reigning Champion.
RAZGATLIOGLU AND REDDING: the main threats to the throne?
Even after two rounds of the Championship, it is clear to see who Rea’s main threats in will be 2021. Toprak Razgatlioglu and Scott Redding have both shown that they have the pace to win races, with Redding taking to victories whilst Toprak has enjoyed four podiums and has looked like having a strong race pace throughout the year so far. Next up is Misano and with the gap back to Razgatlioglu 35 points and another three back to Redding, they need to conquer Jonathan and reduce the points lead he has. Easier said than done at the circuit Rea achieved his first win, and won at in 2019 on the last visit – perhaps more importantly, he’s one of the only riders to have stayed in the same team since this latest Misano triumph – although he did fend off a young Toprak on the final lap…
THE M 1000 RR HAS MADE STRIDES FORWARD
The new BMW M 1000 RR has certainly got the paddock talking about the German manufacturer, as all four riders have shown great strength at different points over the first two rounds. A double top five in Race 2 at Aragon for the first time since 2013 proves that the strategy in the garage with regards to tyre choice is just as important in helping to get the results on track. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) gave them a front row in Spain, but it was teammate Michael van der Mark who looked in better form at Estoril, carving through the field after a tricky Superpole that left him 12th. He was seventh in Race 1 and started 14th for Race 2, in which he came through to finish sixth. Besides van der Mark, Eugene Laverty (RC Squadra Corse) also had a great Estoril weekend, regularly inside the top nine, whilst Jonas Folger (Bonovo MGM Racing) had a stronger round than his result show, with no points achieved.
IT’S BEEN HARD FOR HONDA
After all of the preseason hype, Team HRC have had a comparatively quiet start to the year. Crashing out of top five contention at Aragon in Race 1 left Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) with a point to prove in the remaining two races, whilst Estoril was another round plagued by electronic issues, mainly impacting on the engine braking and power delivery. Nonetheless, Bautista has salvaged two points-scoring top ten finishes at Estoril with eighth and seventh in Race 1 and 2 respectively, although the chronological lap analysis shows he had the pace to be in the fight for the top five, had it not been for starting 18th. For teammate Leon, he’s had just one points-scoring top ten and that was Race 1 of the year. Misano is next, a new track for the ‘new’ Honda, so how will they go there?
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