The 2023 World Superbike season is heading to Italy, where passion oozes from the grandstands, and for good reason
We head to one of the most passionate and atmospheric rounds on the whole 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship calendar, as the Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” gets ready to host the Pirelli Emilia-Romagna Round. With the Ducatisti set to be out in full force, Championship leader Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) will hope to dazzle in front of the partisan Ducati crowd, whilst his rivals and a strong Italian contingency themselves will look to knock the #1 off his perch. It’s also a special round for Event Main Sponsor Pirelli, who celebrate 20 seasons of being WorldSBK’s Official Sole Tyre supplier at this very round.
RACE PACE BATTLES: Bautista and Razgatlioglu set for head-to-head classic?
During the recent test at Misano Test, Bautista and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) were seemingly in their own league. You can get a full analysis of their race pace here, but to put it simply, they’re looking like the favourites. Last year at Misano, Bautista was able to win the two full length races, whilst Razgatlioglu was relentless in the Superpole Race to take a first win of the 2022 season. Toprak also won in 2021’s Race 2, denying Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) a triple at home. Bautista leads Razgatlioglu by 69 points: can the Turk take advantage of Misano not requiring big top speeds and reel in the #1? He comes into the round with his future secure, leaving Yamaha at the end of the year and chasing a new challenge with BMW for 2024.
HOME HEROES AT ODDS: sparks to fly with Rinaldi vs Bassani at Misano
It was a major talking point last time out in Barcelona, when Michael Ruben Rinaldi and Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) clashed not once but twice, with the second occasions leaving Rinaldi in the gravel and not best pleased with his fellow countryman and Ducati rider. Now, both head to Misano and there’s reason to believe both will be in close proximity to each other once more. Rinaldi is a double race winner at Misano from 2021, whilst in that same season, it was Bassani’s breakthrough round as he stormed to a career-first top six in just his eighth race in World Superbike. A fourth and two seventh place finishes last year at Misano, Bassani will be eager to shine through for a podium, or perhaps more, and show that he’s the rider who deserves Rinaldi’s seat for next year. Rinaldi has the aim of repeating his 2021 success and leapfrogging Bassani in the title race; he’s currently 19 points behind the #47. In between both in the standings, Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), who had arm pump surgery before the Emilia-Romagna Round, has been in the top eight in all of the last six races, can he continue that form?
LOCATELLI VS REA: can Misano be their biggest round?
It’s the battle for third in the Championship at the moment and so far, it’s going the way of Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK), who is 33 points ahead of Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and arrives to Misano with a new two-year deal in his pocket with Yamaha. However, Locatelli has yet to take a podium at Misano and usually, his form dips at this track, with three sixth places from 2022 and three ninth places from 2021. By that form, he should find himself on the rostrum if his previous improvement is anything to go by, but that’ll be tough. Not at the Misano Test but completing a private test at Jerez in hotter conditions and thus more beneficial for the Kawasaki ZX-10RR, Rea arrives at Misano with eight wins there and podiums in every Kawasaki year. Despite difficulties at the start of 2023, he’ll be there again and perhaps it’ll serve as a good opportunity to close down Locatelli in the Championship. Rea won his first race at Misano back in 2009 for Honda, so there’re always fond memories for him.
TOP 10 BATTLE: who will make hay at Misano?
Currently in eighth place, it’s been a consistent start to 2023 for Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) and he relished a new overslung swingarm in the recent Misano Test, whilst his teammate Iker Lecuona was left wanting more. In between both in the standings is Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), and with a fifth and fourth in the last two races, could he be destined for a podium battle at a circuit he’s yet to take a rostrum at aboard Kawasaki machinery? Last year for Honda, it was one of Vierge’s strongest rounds, with a fine Superpole Race of fourth seeing him push Jonathan Rea for the final podium position, whilst a fast Race 2 crash saw him pick up a hand injury. Lecuona was a double top five man on Sunday last year, so is a podium within reach? Misano is a circuit which offers high grip, something that Vierge will relish. Perhaps, with it being his first WorldSBK round on home-soil, Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) can shine at the track where he was on the podium at in MotoGP™ back in 2017. He’s completed a recent test at Mugello, where a new swingarm and setup options seemed to help him with feeling and continue his adaptation to Pirelli tyres.
BMW BOUNCING BACK? Redding lines up a fight back as Sykes returns to factory team
After a first weekend without scoring points in Barcelona, Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) will be hungrier than ever to get BMW back to the pointy end of race action. Last year at Misano, the 30-year-old Brit was battling for the top ten, with two top ten results in the full races but only 11th in the Superpole Race. It’s a track where he’s tested at before, including just a couple of weeks ago, when he was partnered up with the rider he replaced within the team in 2022, Tom Sykes. The Yorkshireman and 2013 World Champion is back in the factory BMW outfitfor Misano and until Michael van der Mark is back from injury, where he took them to a podium in 2019. Whilst Sykes said that “it would be great to repeat” such a result, it’s a good chance to see if he can still pull a lap out of the bag and put himself within top ten contention in the races.
COMPLETING THE ORDER: expect surprises from big names and rookies
12th in the Championship standings and eager to put on a strong display, Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) will hunt down a return to the top ten in the Championship standings come the close of the round, whilst Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) is right in behind him, just seven points adrift of the Australian. Gerloff comes to Misano off the back of three top ten finishes in Barcelona and is keen to continue his form and consolidate his status as top BMW rider in the standings. Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) aims for a first top ten since Phillip Island as he races for Ducati on Italian soil, as Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) chases a first top ten of 2023. With Sykes returning to BMW on a temporary basis, Tito Rabat has been called up to replace him at Kawasaki Puccetti Racing for the remainder of the 2023 campaign.
Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) was very quick at the Misano Test and up inside the top five and looks on for a good results, whilst Hafizh Syahrin (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) and teammate Eric Granado will need to pass a medical check before returning to action after being declared unfit in Barcelona. Brad Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) is likewise keen to shine and get more good points on the board for his third event of the season after a best result of 12th last time out. Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing MOVISIO), Isaac Vinales (TPR by Vinales Racing) and Gabriele Ruiu (Bmax Racing) all seek their first points of the 2023 season.