WHAT WE’VE LEARNT: genuine steps forward, a potential headache looming and more…

Friday, 12 April 2024 07:25 GMT

Two rounds and six races into WorldSBK in 2024, it’s time to dissect what we’ve been able to gather from the start of the season

The 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is shaping up to be one of the most memorable ever, with six thrilling races at two iconic circuits already in the history books. Four winners, seven riders on the podium from four manufacturers and three different brands winning already mean there’s a lot that we’ve learnt from this season, but also a lot still to learn. So, what have we been able to work out in the early stages of 2024?

BMW’S BIG STEP FORWARD: a consistent podium challenger?

Australia gave a glimpse of what BMW might be able to achieve in 2024, but Phillip Island is always tricky in terms of how the rest of the season will play out. A few weeks later in Barcelona, and the German manufacturer were fighting at the front once again. Two wins from Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) were the highlight but teammate Michael van der Mark was also fighting towards the podium places, taking fourth in Race 2. Next door at Bonovo Action BMW, Scott Redding and Garrett Gerloff will be hoping they can crack the top ten and podium places, but it appears there’s been a genuine step made by BMW with the M 1000 RR.

A POTENTIAL HEADACHE: Bulega takes the fight to Bautista early on…

Nicolo Bulega ( Racing - Ducati) arrived in WorldSBK as the reigning World Supersport Champion, but the expectation was he’d settle in at Ducati this year, before emerging as a contender in the future. That’s not been the case, however. A stunning Race 1 victory in Australia was backed up with second in Race 1 in Barcelona and, while poor starts and perhaps a bit of inexperience have cost him, he’s already taking the fight to teammate Alvaro Bautista. 12 points separates the pair, in the #11’s favour, after two rounds. Will Bulega continue to fight with Bautista in the early stages of 2024?

KAWASAKI’S FORM: strong in the early part of 2024

After losing Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) for 2024, the Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK have started the season strongly. Two wins in Australia for Alex Lowes were backed up with three top-six finishes in Barcelona for the #22, and the 75 points he’s collected so far makes it his strongest start to a season – points wise after two rounds – since he joined Kawasaki in 2020. Now working with Pere Riba as his crew chief, it seems the hard work and team reshuffle is paying off for Lowes. There’s also been steps made by new recruit Axel Bassani as he adapts to the ZX-10RR, taking tenth in Race 1 in Barcelona and finishing only six seconds down on his teammate.

ROOKIES CONTINUE TO SHINE: leading races, fighting for the podium, mixing it with factory teams…

Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) has been one of the standout rookies after his podium exploits in Australia, and he repeated that in Barcelona in the unforgettable Tissot Superpole Race. But he isn’t the only rookie to impress. Sam Lowes (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team) has been strong, leading in Catalunya, and while he hasn’t got a rostrum yet, it’s surely not far away. Bulega, of course, was mentioned earlier but it’s worth reiterating that he’s a rookie leading the Championship. Further down the grid and a bit under the radar, but Tarran Mackenzie (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda) has been able to fight with the factory Honda riders, beating Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) in the Barcelona Superpole Race as he re-adapts to WorldSBK machinery.

LOOKING TO FIND GAINS: Honda searching for a big step…

Honda’s new bike was announced, and the immediate reactions were positive, but 2024 has been a struggle for Lecuona and teammate Xavi Vierge. Just one top-ten finish so far between Lecuona, Vierge, Mackenzie and Adam Norrodin (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda) show the extent of Honda’s issues, and the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – a track they’ve gone well at in the past – didn’t help in 2024 with all riders outside the top ten. Everyone at Honda will be hoping they can move forward as soon as possible.

THE NEW ERA CONTINUES: follow all the WorldSBK action throughout 2024 using the WorldSBK VideoPass!