We photographed the coast directly below the Phillip Island racetrack on February 29, just before the start of the first Motul WorldSBK 2020 race. Here we experienced the start of a season that has never been seen before.

When we witnessed the WSBK kick-off on site in Phillip Island

It should be the start of a World Championship season that was memorable in many ways. We flew to Melbourne via Singapore and treated ourselves to a night in the Asian city-state on the way there and back. Never before had we already booked so many trips before the season. Like everyone else, we underestimated the threat posed by the corona virus across the board. When we picked up our tickets at the accreditation office, we were warmly welcomed by the Aussies, who assured us that we were the only reporters from German-speaking countries, apparently even from all over Europe. So we could start with a season opener in Phillip Island that was hard to beat in terms of tension and drama.

Maximilian Scheib in front of Alex Lowes (both Kawasaki) and Garrett Gerloff (Yamaha) photographed by us in Superpole on March 29, 2020 in Australia. Both the Chilean and the man in the middle should cause some surprises this weekend.

The pre-season tests and the last 2 days of testing in Australia

In addition to our observation of what was happening on site, we were also interested in what all the clerks who stayed at home reported about the events. We couldn’t understand a lot of this, probably also because we saw it very differently on the track and sit on the bike a lot ourselves. If you had believed some journalists before the races, Alex Lowes and Alvaro Bautista, for example, would have had no chance. The two always held back when it came to chasing fast times. Because of their experience with bikes that were new to them, they had only focused on getting them set up well for the race. They even risked doing badly in qualifying and that’s what happened. We saw the two of them live on the track and not just their lap times on a piece of paper. We therefore warned against underestimating them on friday and should be absolutely right in the end.

A so-called merchandise stand and a somewhat less cozy refreshment station at turn 7. However, those looking for driver merchandising items were unlucky. There were only official event articles of a general nature, but nothing from pilots like Rea, Sykes and the like.
Photographed to the side of Turn 4, called Honda Corner, shortly before the start of the Superpole Race on March 1st, 2020. On Sunday the weather was much friendlier than on the last day of February. For more about our trip to Phillip Island and previous years of WorldSBK see our history.

When the lines must have run hot
During our first visit to the paddock, we walked past Alvaro Bautista and a few meters later Jonathan Rea, who nodded us friendly. The former was on the way to his motorhome and the latter in the middle of an interview with an Australian reporter. So we didn’t want to disturb you at that moment. It was interesting for us to read later how many drivers allegedly spoke to many sports news portals. Since none of the people whose articles we saw were physically there, the lines down under must have been running hot. Incidentally, this was also how it went later during the pandemic, when almost everyone could only report from home. It was definitely understandable for us that many had skipped the expensive trip to Australia before.

Tom Sykes (BMW) photographed by us on February 29, 2020 with a strong sip before the start of the Paddock Show Down Under. He was definitely the double disappointment in the opening race. First he knocked Johnny Rea off the track on the first lap and later he was passed through to 9th place as pole setter in the race.
Our picture from the start of the first race of the season with Sykes, Redding, Razgatlioglu, Rea, Haslam and behind them Baz from the left, as well as Alex Lowes, who had been completely underestimated by many before, on the far left. The twin brother of Moto2 star Sam, often decried as a broken pilot, ended up traveling back to his home country England as world championship leader.

Dining and overnight in Cowes

Unfortunately, it is no exaggeration to say that in the last 10 to 15 years we have never eaten a worse pizza than in the restaurant where we sat with a view of the bay on the first evening. The operating family spoke Italian to each other and I didn’t dare to ask what job they had done before this establishment opened. Even in terrible expensive Switzerland it is hardly more expensive than there. That’s why we didn’t go to the steak house around the corner. In other countries you can easily get the whole animal for the price of a decent piece of meat.

The view from our “breakfast bar” in Cowes, the largest town on the small island of Phillip, which we cannot warmly recommend based on our impressions. Several times we ate terribly bad, but very expensive. But from a sporting point of view, we experienced a top event this weekend and the race track is probably one of the most beautiful in the world.

A bad label fraud – alleged 4 stars with a sea view
Regarding overnight stays, we had decided on an alleged 4-star hotel due to the limited offer. Only the price matched this classification. However, some pensions in Austria are a luxury temple and cost a fraction. In addition there was the misleading name of the dubious establishment, which incorrectly suggested that it was overlooking the bay. We even left a day earlier than planned and booked. It was less bad at the Melbourne airport hotel, but similarly expensive. But at least there was a restaurant in the house with enjoyable food. Exactly this hotel right at the airport made headlines at the Australian Open almost a year later due to a corona outbreak and quarantine. From then on, the people in Melbourne also had the lockdown and from then on no more spectators were allowed to attend the Grand Slam event.

As a co-commentator, the people from the Paddock Show had invited a particularly “high-caliber” man. Our recording of a good-humored Troy Bayliss as an expert in his home country. For more about him and his earlier WSBK years see our richly illustrated history of this time.

The positive and negative surprises

For us, the good performance of Alvaro Bautista in contrast to many other viewers was no surprise. Neither was the strong performance of Alex Lowes and Leon Haslam, the two veterans, who were often prematurely written off by many hasty “reporters” before the starting lights went out. On the other hand, we were really positively surprised by the strong performances of Maximilian Scheib and Garrett Gerloff. The latter unfortunately became the victim of a somewhat overzealous action by Sandro Cortese in the warm-up on Sunday morning and then had to go to the hospital. But after the lockdown, Gerloff’s time would come.

Jostle in Corner 4 (Honda corner) photographed by us on March 1st, 2020 in Phillip Island. Here world champion Johnny Rea ahead of Toprak, Scotty, Loris, Alex and “Magic Michael”. Much more exciting and spectacular than a year ago at the World Cup kick-off is almost impossible. But this year, like all overseas events, Australia will probably remain a dream.
Taken by us at the Paddock Show on March 1st, 2020 in Phillip Island after the last race on Sunday. From left, the smiling winner Alex Lowes, his satisfied Kawasaki team-mate Jonathan Rea and a pinched-looking third-placed Ducati rider. Scott Redding is also one of the most frequently mentioned drivers in 2021 who could contest 6-time world champion Rea for the title.

The clear losers
We and most of the fans were particularly disappointed by the poor performance of the two BMW drivers Sykes and Laverty. Before the start of the season, the former in particular, like his team boss, spoke cheekily about victories and podium places. Unfortunately, even after the forced Corona break, they should prove to be the clear losers of the season. When Sykes crashed in Turn 1 at Magny-Cours in the fall and also knocked his team-mate over in the process, she hit the rock bottom. Trying to blame it on Gerloff, who was lying inside Sykes, didn’t make it any better. On the contrary, the stewards also saw it like us, who were standing in the immediate vicinity. The US boy was completely innocent of the two BMW drivers falling twice.

Circuit de Nevvers Magny-Cours on October 3, 2020 – the fall of Sykes, who will immediately clear Laverty as well. Note Gerloff following behind Leader Rea, who approaches the curve very far inside and is completely innocent of it. The BMW team and drivers, as well as journalists who weren’t there themselves, then put the blame on the US boy. Should Sykes and BMW be among the losers again in 2021, as in the previous year, then hopefully with a little more sportiness (© WorldSBK).

The World SBK season 2021 and the question mark calendar

With the postponement of Assen it was already clear that this event could be canceled without the permission of spectators. Of course, all overseas events are also at risk. This was probably not only clear to us when we saw the first version of the calendar at the end of November 2020. What is certain is that the current and provisional question mark calendar will see some changes. For the time being, the next test drives are planned on March 4th and 5th at the Autodromo do Algarve.

The next tests and expected absences
Due to group-wide travel restrictions, BMW’s waiver is already considered safe. Therefore it is unfortunately difficult to fear that it will fail again with the M-1000RR, because in the end the development time threatens to be too short. Jonathan Rea, on the other hand, assured us recently that things could start for him now. Kawasaki is around 90 percent well prepared and equipped for the coming season. Below are the next test dates according to the provisional planning and current status:
Portimao test: 4th – 5th March – 1st test originally planned by BMW
Jerez test: 9th – 10th March (Honda only)
Misano test: 15th – 16th March
Estoril test: 24th – 25th March
Barcelona test: March 31st – 1st April
MotorLand Aragon test: April 12th – 13th

Jonathan Rea (Ten Kate Honda) ahead of Gregorio Lavilla (Ducati) and Fonsi Nieto (Suzuki) – see our ever-growing history for more about the earlier years of the best WorldSBK of all time. The Northern Irishman is still the top favorite, and for 2021 again (© WorldSBK).