WorldSBK Nürburgring 2008 with from left Troy Corser (P2), winner Nori Haga (both Yamaha) and Max Neukirchner (Suzuki). The man on the right in the picture made the series world championship very popular in his country with world championship rank 5 and victories this year (© WorldSBK).

Our interview with Saxony about the WSBK season 2021

When we were allowed to interview the best German driver in WorldSBK history about his active career, we took the opportunity to look into the current situation. Who else, if not Jonathan Rea’s former team-mate, we thought, would be more interested in this. The interview during his active time see on this page under “Interviews + TV” and more about the earlier years of the WorldSBK see under “History”. What many do not know is that shortly before the end of his active career, he was still very successful in the FIM-EWC Endurance World Endurance Championship. While his greatest successes in the WSBK were achieved with Suzuki, Max had been very successful again with Yamaha in the last active years.

Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Alstare) – the only German who was victorious in a top category of a world championship. Neither Toni Mang succeeded in this in the 500 class, nor Bradl or Cortese later. Will Jonas Folger be the first to repeat this in the WSBK? (© WorldSBK).

Max Neukirchner today
The Saxon has remained connected to racing to this day and has often been invited to live broadcasts as a guest commentator. In addition, together with an extremely competent team, he leads what is probably the most important racing driver’s school in Central Europe, which also offers interesting tours. For more details see below:

We will report on this in more detail in a separate article. After “Rocket Ron” Haslam unfortunately had to close his school in Donington due to the pandemic, Neukirchner’s offer is the last one we know of really high quality. At least with a really serious and comprehensive program, which is run by a world-class pilot as a permanent company with competent specialists. So-called “track days” of individual providers may sound interesting, but never offer such a well-founded and modular structured offer.

In Phillip Island 2009 – Biaggi in front of Fabrizio, Haslam, Haga, Checa, Rea, and above left with the number 76 Neukirchner on his favorite route. It should have been the German’s year when, after the season opener from Down Under, he finished second behind “Nitro Nori” Haga. But while in the lead, he was hit hard in Monza by a fallen rider and his bike and cleared away. With serious injuries, the World Cup fifth last year had to do without the rest of the season (© WorldSBK).

The interview with Max Neukirchner about the coming season

Who will be world champion in 2021 and why?
Neukirchner: “Johnny Rea. A super ambitious, determined, so-called straight ahead pilot. With a strong background from his family and the so important environment. Team and motorcycle, as well as talent – everything just fits harmoniously“.

Jonathan Rea (links) and Ten Kate Honda teammate Max Neukirchner – 2010 in the same team. While the trees did not grow into the sky for the Northern Irishman in his Honda years, the German was too often thrown back from injuries caused by mostly involuntary falls (© WorldSBK).

Will Chaz Davies make it into the top 5 in the coming season?
Max: “Yes absolutely. Chaz is also very strong in a private team and will be in the top five there too.”

What do you think is the main key to former teammate Johnny Rea’s success?
Neukirchner: “He dreams his big dream and can clearly implement it through certain important factors such as the family environment, team and motorcycle.”

A beaming Johnny Rea photographed by us before the interview after his first win of the season in Imola 2019. Fifteen minutes later he handed us his helmet visor as a souvenir. “Dream-achieve-beliefe” is his motto, in other words, with unconditional will and determination, dreams can be fulfilled.

Will Jonas Folger be more successful than Sandro Cortese in his rookie season?
Max: “That’s really difficult to answer because I can’t yet estimate how strong the BMW will be. Sandro had a good bike with a good team.”

Many people doubt whether BMW will really be right at the front after the test waiver until the beginning of March. Still make it onto the podium a few times in 2021 or even better?
Neukirchner: “I would be very happy for BMW if they were successful again in the WSBK, but I think a lot of energy has to be put into this project in order to compete successfully.

Sandro Cortese photographed by us in the starting grid of BuriRam 2019. The “Italo-Swabian” impressed several times with sensationally strong training and qualifying results, but unfortunately it was never enough for a podium in the race. The hopes of the German fans are now on the shoulders of Jonas Folger. This one is undisputedly world-class, but what about the new BMW M-1000RR?

Do you find the driver choice at BMW fits, or would you have preferred to have seen other drivers there?
Max: “No, the driver choice is very good, I don’t think there are any better drivers who could move the BMW faster.”

Which racetrack are you missing the most in the current, provisional WSBK calendar (except for Oschersleben, of course)?
Neukirchner: “Definitely Brno.” (The editors: In contrast to MotoGP, we definitely experienced the last event on site on this track as one of the best of the entire 2018 season. Therefore, of course, our full approval, but unfortunately the signs for this in the Czech Republic are terrible).

MotoRacers Zippy on the roof of the main building with the pit systems in Brno in June 2018. A very friendly motorcycle policeman even escorted us to our bike parking space inside the track. The Masaryk ring seems out of the question for MotoGP, but a return would be more than gratifying for WorldSBK.

Do you agree with us that Garrett Gerloff will soon be at least at the level of “Magic Michael” van der Mark (constant, not just as before in the last 2-3 rounds)?
Max: “Yes, I fully agree, Garrett Gerloff is a very good driver, he learns quickly and is becoming more and more consistent.

From your point of view, where will Alex Lowes end up in 2021 (German Eurosport commentator Lenz Leberkern said: As before, probably too often in the gravel trap)?
Neukirchner: “Alex improved his consistency last year and I hope for him that he keeps making progress. But I don’t see him as a top candidate for 2021 myself.

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki) and Garrett Gerloff (Yamaha) photographed by us chasing Chilean Maximilian Scheib (Kawasaki) on February 29, 2020, in Phillip Island (Australia). While the man with the 77 unfortunately couldn’t find a place for the coming season, Neukirchner thinks very much about the numbers 22 and 31.

If someone came tomorrow who seriously and with sufficient budget would like to enter WorldSBK with Suzuki and ask you to lead the team – what was the answer?
Max: “I would be very interested in successfully leading a team in WSBK. I can bring in for sure a lot of experience, motivation and good humanity.” (The editorial team: We’ll make a note of that, should we ever get into WorldSBK ourselves, regardless of the material, then he’s our man!).

Max Neukirchner on the Suzuki GSX-R1000 in front of “Nitro Nori” Haga on the Yamaha YZF-R1, the German knows both bikes and has already been very successful on both makes. For more information, see our page under “History” (© WorldSBK).

The WorldSBK 2021 provisional calendar

There are still many changes to be expected, especially in terms of overseas races and the first half of the season. At least it is almost certain that the second to last weekend in May for the near-series world championship will finally start. Our hotel in Aragon has already been booked and this time the drivers and spectators are probably less cold than they were two years ago at the beginning of April. The Circuito de Navarra is a completely new route on the calendar. This is located in the famous Rioja area for travelers from Central Europe on two or four wheels even better than the Circuito de Cataluña near Barcelona.