STORIES SO FAR: 2023’s key themes as round five approaches
From the start of the season to the chequered flag of Race 2 last time out, patterns are emerging, changing and giving plenty of insight into what we can expect throughout the remainder of 2023
The 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is four rounds down but there remains plenty of stories to come in a fascinating season of action. So far, we’ve seen it all and the next round at the Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” will be no exception to delivering the unexpected. We look back at the key themes so far in 2023, what to expect going forward and more.
BOWLING THEM OVER: Bautista’s dominant start to 2023
There was never a doubt that Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) would struggle as he goes to defend his #1 on the front of the Ducati, however few would’ve predicted the sheer dominance of the Spaniard. 11 wins out of 12 so far in 2023, the only race he didn’t win was when he crashed in the Superpole Race at Mandalika, giving Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) a first win of the year. Not just the fact he’s dominated, he’s looked comfortable and in stark contrast to his 2019 display, he now knows why he’s able to ride with such ease and he understands where the limit is a lot more. Add on to that the stunning spectacle he put on in Barcelona last time out, Bautista could be poised for more great things if he keeps up his current form.
RAZGATLIOGLU NEEDING WINS: can the #54 strike gold at Misano?
Toprak Razgatlioglu’s consistency in 2023 so far has been nothing short of outstanding; second in six races this season, including four of the last six, whilst every other race has seen him (besides Phillip Island Race 2 when he was taken out) finish on the podium. 167 points after four rounds, it’s 16 less than his Championship season and a whopping 26 more than last year at the same stage, but Bautista’s been doing all the winning. With only one win so far coming in Indonesia, Razgatlioglu needs to be back on the top step and capitalise at circuits where he’s won multiple races before. Misano, Donington Park and Most are all circuits he’s done just that, whilst Imola has a lottery-feel about it. Can he get the gap down before the summer break ensues? One thing to note about Toprak: he’ll hope to win as many races for Yamaha as possible before leaves the manufacturer at the end of 2023, in search of a new challenge with BMW for 2024.
CHASING DOWN THE TOP 3: Rea’s quest to catch ‘Loka’
Missing from the recent Supported Test at Misano, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and teammate Alex Lowes. Both riders opted not to make part in cool temperature testing, with Lowes stating that testing needs to take place when the track is hot. So, they went to Jerez instead and carried out a two-day test there. So far, Kawasaki are experiencing their worst start to a World Superbike season in over a decade, without victory in the opening four rounds and with Jonathan Rea 33 points adrift of a top three slot. For Lowes, he’s on 62 points, his worst tally after four rounds since joining Kawasaki. Whilst the package is still challenging for podiums, wins are not as guaranteed, and the domination of just a few years ago is in the past. Can they turn it around in the upcoming European leg?
RINALDI VS BASSANI: next level in their rivalry
It’s a well-documented rivalry which had been relatively quiet, but with Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) holding the factory seat for 2023, Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) has never been clearer in his quest to take his place, even if Rinaldi has made a step in performance. In Barcelona, after a hard move by Rinaldi at Turn 3 in Race 1 in Barcelona, Bassani wasn’t having any of it and got back under Rinaldi at Turn 11, only for a collision to come out of it and Rinaldi’s race ending in the gravel trap. Rinaldi slammed his fellow countryman and branded that it was a “deliberate” act to take him out. Bassani was given a Long Lap Penalty but maintained it was a “normal” move. With Misano up next, both will be keen to shine at home, but could they be up against each other once more?
BMW’S STRUGGLES: not the 2023 Redding would have wanted, van der Mark injured
It’s been an uphill struggle for the ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team in 2023 and whilst Toprak Razgatlioglu’s signing will boost morale and bring excitement to the team, the #54 isn’t arriving until next year. Michael van der Mark has the brand’s best result of sixth at Mandalika in Race 1, whilst Scott Redding had five top ten results on the bounce before a zero-point round in Barcelona. A new aero package has helped with feeling in the corners, but as van der Mark is out injured and Redding’s struggles continue, Donington Park at the start of July could offer the next podium potential.
FINDING STEPS: Honda’s potential and Vierge’s improvements
Honda have been a consistent force in and around the top six in 2023, but there’s been a marked improvement by Xavi Vierge (Team HRC), who was able to take a first podium of his WorldSBK career earlier in the year at Mandalika. Since then, Vierge four top ten results and a best of sixth place, whilst Lecuona has struggled to match his teammates consistency, even if his outright pace remains a little bit better. Lecuona took a fourth place in the Superpole Race in Barcelona after a late rain shower changed things up and it came after a sixth place in Race 1. However, prior to that, Lecuona failed to score any points at all at Assen and since Barcelona, he lamented the Misano Test where a new swingarm left the Valencian “expecting more”, even if teammate Vierge was overjoyed.
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