OPINION: "This is the golden age of WorldSBK, witnessing history week in, week out"

Friday, 16 September 2022 05:45 GMT

WorldSBK commentator Steve English gives his thoughts on a stunning 2022 season and confirms that in fact, this is the era where World Superbike is at its absolute best

This is the golden age of Superbike racing; there has never been this much depth in the WorldSBK paddock. To have more than a dozen world class riders all capable of winning races creates an amazing spectacle. To have five manufacturers that have all been competitive this season is an incredible achievement from the FIM and the Superbike Commission. We are in a golden age and witnessing history week in, week out.

After Magny-Cours, we also had the controversy that any Championship campaign needs to capture the attention of the masses. Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) versus Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) versus Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK). Ducati versus Yamaha versus Kawasaki. What more could you possibly want? The three bikes that are as different as the three riders but one thing is clear; there is precious little to choose between them.

DUCATI: undeniable strengths, but Bautista makes the difference

The Ducati is the strongest all-round package; in a blind taste test, every rider on the grid would choose the V4 R. However, the advantage isn’t significant enough to make it a sure thing for Bautista. The Spaniard has been almost perfect all season and only the most blind Ducatisti would fail to see the advantages that the red bike has. That being said, Bautista is the only rider that week in and week out can make that advantage hold. He has been in great form all year and clearly knows this is his chance to win a title. 

YAMAHA: Razgatlioglu’s relentless style and superb race craft

Yamaha and Razgatlioglu got their title defence off to a slow start. The pressure of being the reigning Champion took time to adjust to. Since Misano, he has been in stunning form with eight wins from the last four rounds. The Turkish star has been arguably the best pound for pound racer in the world over the last 18 months and he has shown again this year why he is regarded so highly. Race craft, notwithstanding his unforced error in France, has been Toprak’s greatest strength. The showman is flamboyant on the track but never reckless and more than a one trick pony. He has struck fear into his rivals with his relentless style and this will continue for the rest of the season.

The Yamaha R1 is a strong all-round package and with clear track in front of him, Toprak is very capable of opening a gap. He has to be at his best every time he hits the track to make sure he has a chance of winning the title. Two crashes and a mechanical failure have cost him points this year but sitting just 30 points behind Bautista, he’ll certainly view it as ‘game on’ for the rest of the campaign.

KAWASAKI: on the backfoot, but Rea’s a six-time World Champion for a reason

Kawasaki and Jonathan Rea are the wildcard in the mix. France was one of the messiest weekend’s of Rea’s WorldSBK career in green. He was a man on the limit in every session as he tries to overcome the shortcomings of his Ninja ZX-10RR. Top speed is an issue that will blight him for the remainder of the season and is likely to be the biggest challenge he’ll have to overcome in 2022. Against the Ducati, and the Yamaha, the green machine is outgunned so Rea has to find other ways to get to the front.

Magny-Cours and the bundled move on Bautista was a great example of what can happen in this situation. With his rivals in front, Rea knew that on the long straights his race would be run. He needed to get through. He tried to make the move but bounced Bautista out of the race. A long lap penalty was well deserved, and Rea would’ve struggled to complain if a harsher penalty was issued. 

IN SUMMARY: the best era ever

WorldSBK in 2022 is about finding a way to win. The three bikes battling it out for the title are as different as the riders sitting atop them. They can all set similar lap times but the way they can achieve the times are very different. A hard charging, devil may care attitude is what Rea brings to the table. Toprak aims to get his Yamaha to the front as quickly as possible so he can dictate the race. In 2022, Bautista is the calculating racer trying to take advantage of his bike and minimise mistakes, whilst picking up crumbs when his other two rivals battle and, like at Assen, crash out.

In case that wasn’t enough, you’ve got emerging on-track stars such as the down-to-earth Iker Lecuona (Team HRC), charismatic and humorous Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) and the working class hero of Michael Ruben Rinaldi ( Racing – Ducati), not to mention WorldSBK’s straightest of straight talkers, Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team). And just like that, five brands, multiple nationalities and a battle that may see the titanic trio expand with the hardest World Championship motorcycle racing you’re likely to see. Three riders, three bikes and five rounds to determine the outcome. No matter which style comes out on top, the golden age of WorldSBK is upon us because when the lights go out you can’t take your eyes off the battle of the front.

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