Shortly before the first race on the circuit around the track, a slightly different view of the “Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli”, photographed by us on site in 2023. In terms of sport, there were not only some bright spots but also a lot of shadows in the fifth round of WorldSBK this year.

Continuation of the two-class society also in round 5

Unfortunately, our forecast from the preview came true and the monotony from the first third of the season continued in Misano. Without saving rain, the competition from Ducati had absolutely no chance and the world championship leader, with the exception of the sprint race, drove in three more victories without any danger. For a neutral observer in the first race, it must have felt as if the two Ducatis and their riders, who were painted yellow this time instead of the usual red, were doped. For true racing fans as well as fans of BMW, Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha riders, it was hard to see how absolute top riders on these bikes had no sting even against the fastest Ducati privateers like Axel Bassani and Danilo Petrucci. The incidents, which are more than questionable from a sporting point of view, already bore fruit on Saturday morning in the Superpole.

View from the main grandstand before the start of the WSSP 300 race on Saturday photographed by us in postcard weather. In contrast to WorldSBK, there was exciting fights in the fight for victory and until just before the end it was almost impossible to be able to guess the winner. Unfortunately, this was exactly the opposite in the king class of the near-series world championship in the following race.

The first scandal happened on Saturday morning

Actually, the Superpole should last a full twenty minutes and, in the event of a red flag being aborted, it should be continued after the route has been cleared. But when Alvaro Bautista crashed while in the lead on his Ducati Panigale V4R while attempting to improve, the race organizers decided to stop the race after just 13 minutes, to the incomprehension of numerous competitors and experts. Shortly before the crash of the little Spaniard, Toprak Razgatlioglu was chasing a new personal best with two red sectors. However, one could not shake the impression that the FIM stewards wanted to use all available means to prevent the Turk from snatching pole from the Ducati pilot in the end. Record world champion Jonathan Rea, like many other drivers, was robbed of any chance of improving from P6, which the Northern Irishman with the second row on the grid had to make do with. In terms of the schedule, it would have been no problem at all to continue the qualification, as is usually the case, in accordance with the regulations.

Start of the WorldSBK race with the favorites from Dorna and FIM, as well as the Tifosi present, already clearly in the lead. The man with the number 1 on the right in the picture won again in the end with an overwhelming superiority, which was primarily due to the additional performance of his wheels. It would be difficult to explain otherwise why the Spaniard managed only two third places in 2020 and 2021 on the anything but slow Honda CBR-1000RR-R.

The causes of the current problem are quickly explained

As early as spring 2019, we had clearly established that the then newly introduced Ducati Panigale V4R was in a league of its own. On site in BuriRam (Thailand), we were able to see with our own eyes how Bautista was vastly superior to his opponents in terms of acceleration and top speed on the relatively short start-finish straight. With a speed excess of around 15 km/h, he literally flew past world champion Jonathan Rea on his Kawasaki ZX-10RR several times. Taking advantage of the regulations, Ducati entered WorldSBK with a MotoGP replica and they immediately received a huge boost from the FIM stewards. According to former runner-up Marco Melandri, however, the brand from his home country destroyed the spirit of WorldSBK. What the five-time MotoGP Grand Prix winner meant by that makes double sense. On the one hand, the Panigale V4R, as a motorcycle designed purely for the racetrack, is not a superbike in the strict sense. In addition, according to the regulations, the price of just under 40 thousand euros, which is almost twice as high as the competing brands, is used to the limit. Most serious, however, is the fact that, as happened in the 2023 season, Ducati can incorporate all the knowledge from the MotoGP machine undisturbed with a new model. Neither BMW nor Honda, Kawasaki nor Yamaha have this advantage with their motorcycles based on the R1 series model.

The situation regarding the permitted maximum speeds with the 2021 Kawasaki ZX-10RR, which was formally castrated by the FIM compared to the competition, highlighted in yellow. With 1500 rpm more, the Ducati Panigale V4R was drastically advantaged from the start, which offers enormous advantages in terms of acceleration and top speed, as well as engine performance. With the small and light Alvaro Bautista, there is an additional plus in terms of power-to-weight ratio, which means that all competing brands basically have no chance against it.

The experiences of the Misano visit away from the “sporting” events

With a first stopover in Meran, the tour actually started very promisingly with a 20-year-old motorcycle. With a blue Yamaha Fazer FZX-1000 and Hepco Becker cases and top case, finally on the road again on a pure driving machine. No heated grips, cruise control and driving modes and other technical gimmicks that are actually unnecessary for drivers like me, but with analog instruments that are much easier to read than on my Tracer 900 GT. With a Bose silencer and a Hyperpro chassis it was an absolute dream and from South Tyrol we continued to Cesenatico, not far from the racetrack. What a difference to the quiet and idyllic Meran! Loud and completely congested on the Italian National Day for the last 100 kilometers, I weaved past numerous traffic jams behind the Italians on their scooters and motorbikes. A pre-advertisement at the fuel stop for the Esso gas station south of Trentino had led me to believe 179 cents per liter of premium petrol, but in reality it was exactly 50 cents more. Welcome to the land of the mafia!

A boundlessly frustrated Kawasaki hero Jonathan Rea – photographed by us in Parc Ferme after the first run in Misano 2023. His former team-mate Tom Sykes (BMW) can be seen in the back left of the picture. He even missed out on the points with P16 as a substitute for the injured Michael van der Mark. If an absolutely exceptional driver like the record world champion from his ZX-10RR has no chance even against Ducati privateers, something can no longer be right. That’s how the majority of his fans see it, as well as all real sports enthusiasts.

The return trip from Italy with a song on the lips

An overnight stay in Cattolica followed from Saturday to Sunday, combined with the usual visit to the restaurants that have been popular with us there for years. But unfortunately the pizzeria, where we were often guests before, only opened at 6 p.m., which is why we chose the bar across the street for dinner. Cold beer did you good and the food was decent, but unfortunately the payment was followed by a bad disappointment. In impeccable Italian, I offered the waiter a 3-euro tip on handing over the bill in cash. When I received the change, I unfortunately found that the lady, who looked almost like a mummy, had doubled the sum on her own accord. I refrained from discussion or argument and accepted it with a clear hand movement when leaving the bar. At least the ice cream in the next hall was excellent, but unfortunately, like in Cesenatico, the night turned into horror. Some idiots with no exhaust in this area always pick the time between 3 and 4 am to wake you up. But no matter, the Yamah Fazer brought us back quickly and safely and the few traffic jams on the way back were hardly a handicap with her. It’s almost unbelievable how great a motorcycle like this was 20 years ago, with a poem from an engine and with a dry weight of just over 200 kg it was much lighter than most of today’s touring bikes! By the way, the song on my lips when leaving Italy was written by Austrian Reinhard Fendrich and ended with “..I don’t give a damn about Italy”.

Bradley Ray in lively conversation with Kawasaki ace Alex Lowes – photographed by us after the first race in Parc Ferme. The reigning British Superbike (BSB) champion is currently eating hard bread on the clearly inferior Motoxracing Yamaha R1. Nevertheless, the Englishman shines with remarkable results in his rookie season.

Unless otherwise stated, this applies to all images (© WorldSBK).