The annual game of musical chairs is starting, with big-name riders’ contracts up at the end of this year and the potential for more stars to join the WorldSBK paddock
It’s that time of year again; despite being only four rounds into the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, the music has sounded on the 2023 rider line-up. Right now, there’s still plenty of seats available, but some have been snatched already. With big names like Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) not signed up for next year, two seats at the factory Ducati team up for grabs and the potential for new additions from MotoGP™ and graduations from WorldSSP, we put all the gossip, rumours and hard facts in one place.
DONE DEALS: the future is secured in 2023 for…
As the usual jockeying for a seat in WorldSBK gets underway, others have grabbed the holeshot into next year; starting with reigning World Champions Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK, their line-up will remain unchanged for a third season with Toprak Razgatlioglu and Andrea Locatelli inking new deals. Razgatlioglu had been rumoured for a MotoGP™ seat but with the factory team their likewise remaining unchanged (Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli), that seems unlikely until the earliest of 2024, as stated by Lin Jarvis. Besides the reigning World Champions, 2022 WorldSBK Championship leader Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) will remain with the factory Ducati team going into 2023, meaning all five factory teams have at least one rider confirmed.
For Kawasaki, Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) signed a multi-year deal in 2021 taking him into 2023,so he’s secured, whilst Iker Lecuona confirmed exclusively to WorldSBK.com in a feature interview that he’s remaining with Team HRC for 2023. Ducati rookies Philipp Oettl (Team Goeleven) and Luca Bernardi (BARNI Spark Racing Team) are in the first of their two-year deals, with the German and Sammarinese respectively on the grid until at least 2023. Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) is also in the first of a multi-year deal.
BIG QUESTION MARKS: could we be seeing the biggest changes ever seen?
With Ducati management “very happy” and Alvaro Bautista back in Ducati red again for 2023, attention turns to the other side of the garage, where Michael Ruben Rinaldi knows that his results will need to be more consistent, aspressure from Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) mounts. Rinaldi said after his podiums at Misano that they will have “helped” things, whilst according to Motorsport.com, there’s also the potential for Danilo Petrucci, should he win the MotoAmerica championship, to be kept within Ducati’s structure in WorldSBK, although that doesn’t necessarily mean in the factory team. Team manager Serafino Foti said the plan is to continue with “both riders” before signing Bautista, so can we expect the second rider announcement soon, and will it be Rinaldi?
Six-time World Champion Jonathan Rea is also out of a contract come the close of 2022 with Kawasaki; he signed a new deal in 2020 for “multiple seasons”, which looks like it meant until the end of 2022. Having previously stated his intention to continue and about the “fairy tale” of finishing his career with Kawasaki doesn’t mean that all “fairy tales” come true, Rea also said that his manager would be coming over in the summer to see “what’s what” about his future. It’s one of the biggest talking points it has ever been and he’s both “excited and nervous” as well as eager to get “something” sorted for 2023. In his own vlog, Rea stated that there’s “nothing much” happening, but he’s “actively searching for something really good for me next year.” KRT boss Guim Roda is on record saying, “we want to continue” and with for 2023 are only just starting for Rea, will he remain with KRT or find a new home, given that he’s ‘excited’ to continue his career.
With Yamaha locked in and Honda and BMW both having one rider signed, what about their second riders? It looks certain that despite his injury, Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) will remain inside the German manufacturer’s line-up for another season, the team pleased with his work, whilst Honda remains unclear, with Leon Camier literally saying “nothing” when asked about what he could say regarding 2023. As far as factory line-ups are concerned, that’s about that.
OTHER TALKING POINTS: new additions and graduations?
With the MotoGP™ paddock rumour mill in full flow, it’s bound to impact on the WorldSBK grid. Iker Lecuona said in an interview lately that he thinks “two or three” MotoGP™ and Moto2™ riders will switch to WorldSBK in 2023, with the level “higher than ever.” Who exactly that could transpire to be is yet to be determined, but there’s plenty of contracts up in MotoGP™ at the end of the season; there’s only four factory seats to aim for in WorldSBK, of which three seem very open, so it’s going to be a tight squeeze.
Then, in the WorldSSP paddock itself, expansion plans and graduations could be on the horizon. Manuel Puccetti hasn’t shied away from the fact that he targets two Superbikes on the grid in 2023, having appointed ex-MotoGP™ paddock technical director Pietro Caprara as his team manager in 2022. This is a similar story for the Gil Motor Sport-Yamaha team, also looking at two bikes. Then, there’s GMT94 Yamaha, who have expressed a desire to move up to WorldSBK for 2023 before, which resurfaced at Misano, the intention remaining the same. There’s also the well-documented ambitions of Dominique Aegerter (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha), the reigning World Supersport Champion, who aims to be on the WorldSBK grid for 2023.
Summarised 2023 rider line-up so far with 8 riders confirmed. TBA = to be announced:
Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK: Toprak Razgatlioglu and Andrea Locatelli
Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK: Alex Lowes and TBA
Aruba.it Racing – Ducati: Alvaro Bautista and TBA
BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team: Scott Redding and TBA
Team HRC: Iker Lecuona and TBA
GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team: TBA and TBA
Motocorsa Racing: TBA
Team Goeleven: Philipp Oettl
Kawasaki Puccetti Racing: TBA
BARNI Spark Racing Team: Luca Bernardi
Bonovo Action BMW: TBA and TBA
Gil Motor Sport-Yamaha: TBA
Orelac Racing VerdNatura: TBA
TPR Team Pedercini Racing: TBA
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