PREVIEW: WorldSBK bursts back into action at magnificent Misano with title race set to ignite

Monday, 10 June 2024 07:14 GMT

Misano has played host to countless classics over the years, with 2024 set to be the next installment of this annual, Adriatic epic

The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship makes its return to Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli”, the sun-soaked jewel in the crown of the Adriatic coast. Following the high drama already witnessed in the 2024 season so far, one can expect that the Italian coast is set to deliver yet more drama as the Pirelli Emilia-Romagna Round swings into town and WorldSBK action returns in style. With 24 winners at the iconic circuit already, will anyone be able to add their name to an illustrious list?

A BIG ROUND IN THE TITLE FIGHT? Six points between first and second…

Alvaro Bautista ( Racing - Ducati) leads the standings by six points ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) and he’d like nothing more than to extend that lead in front of the passionate Ducatisti. However, he’ll face fierce competition: first, from Razgatlioglu, who showed frankly ridiculous SCQ pace during the Misano test, and then teammate Nicolo Bulega who sits third in the standings. Bautista has won the last four races at Misano, and between the #1 and #54, they’ve won the last seven. Can Bulega, a four-time podium finisher and one-time winner here in WorldSSP, spoil their party? It’s set to be a fascinating contest with three fortunes between the trio in the test: Razgatlioglu rapid, Bautista falling four times and Bulega almost matching the 2021 Champion’s speed.

THE CHARGING ITALIANS: could another home hero be in the mix?

Home heroes tend to do well and Misano is no exception. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) goes in search of a first WorldSBK win and what better place to do it than on home soil in front of his adoring fan club? Tied on points with ‘Loka’ is Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven), both on 64, with ‘The Maniac’ also looking for a maiden win. A regular fixture in the top ten in MotoGP™ on the Adriatic coast, and a podium finisher in Moto2™, can the #29 return to the WorldSBK rostrum at Misano? For Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) – currently ninth in the standings – it’ll be his comeback round after missing Assen through injury. He’ll need to be declared fit ahead of the round, but he was on track at the Misano test recently. Elsewhere, Axel Bassani (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) has often gone well at the historic circuit and been a podium contender, as has Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team Motocorsa Racing). The pair are currently languishing 16th and 17th in the standings, so will their home round kickstart their 2024 style?

A POTENTIAL RETURN TO THE ROSTRUM: riders looking strong in 2024…

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) sits fourth in the standings after a strong start to the season, only failing to finish in the top six once this season – when he crashed out of Assen Race 2 – and he’ll be aiming to repeat that consistency at Misano. Strong in testing, and a podium finisher in the past here, the #22 will be hoping to keep his rich vein of form going. It’s been similar for Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) too, although without the wins and podiums. He’s been close, though, and getting closer to the front. He’s not raced here since 2021 but, when finishing, he’s not been outside the top ten for Honda, Yamaha, or BMW. Perhaps Misano is the circuit where the Dutchman makes a rostrum return. And what about Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha)? Eight times a winner at Misano, the most of any rider, but a 2024 that’s been difficult so far for the #65 means he’s still searching for a Yamaha podium. Team boss Paul Denning described Day 1 of the Misano test as Rea’s best test day, while Rea revealed the changes made to the R1 are to help him ride the way he wants. With more progress and more mileage under his belt, the six-time Champion will be aiming for a return to the front.

A STEP FORWARD: Gardner to fight for the podium again, Honda’s upgrades to pay dividends?

GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team’s Remy Gardner claimed a maiden podium last time out and will be keen to repeat that, while teammate Dominique Aegerter will be looking to end his rostrum drought that stretches back to the 2023 season finale. After bringing plenty of upgrades to the Cremona and Misano tests, including different swingarms and exhaust pipes, Team HRC’s Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge will be hoping to find progress after what’s been a 2024 to forget so far. Lecuona showed good pace here last year to fight in the top ten until he was taken out in the Tissot Superpole Race, which forced him to miss Race 2, and it was the same (in terms of pace) for Vierge who claimed fifth in Race 2. Lecuona will need to pass a medical check on Thursday after he was declared unfit at Assen.

STRONG TESTS, NO TESTS: a spanner in the works?

One rider who stood out in testing was Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing). The Spaniard was racking up laps like they were valuable collectables across the Cremona and Misano tests, and he also showed good speed. Will Misano be a breakthrough weekend for the Puccetti Kawasaki squad? Elsewhere, the PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda duo of Tarran Mackenzie and Adam Norrodin enjoyed a productive test, even if the #95 did lose time with a technical issue, as did Sam Lowes (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team) who once again showed his outright speed. But, in contrast, Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) and teammate Scott Redding didn’t test at Misano, although did at Cremona, and nor did Bradley Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) and Philipp Oettl (GMT94 Yamaha) crashed heavily during the test. Will this impact them during the Emilia-Romagna Round?

RIDER LINE-UP AND WILDCARDS: a return to WorldSBK action for Pirro

Michele Pirro ( Racing - Ducati) has been a key member of Ducati’s recent success as a test rider in both MotoGP™ and WorldSBK and he’s been rewarded for his efforts with a wildcard appearance at Misano. The #51 has nine WorldSBK races under his belt already, with five of them at Misano. He’s been a model of consistency, too, finishing four of those five races in eighth. His WorldSBK best is sixth – at Jerez in 2015 and Magny-Cours in 2013 – but he's not raced in the Championship since 2019. Will he be in the mix come race day at Misano?

Read the Official Programme for Misano HERE, catch up on all the action from Assen in the 46-minute highlight show HERE and watch every moment from Misano using the WorldSBK VideoPass!