Our photo from the main stand, about half an hour before a memorable race on Sunday morning, in which observers were given the impression that a MotoGP rider had accidentally strayed into WorldSBK.

Strange observations in the bitter cold of winter

The first WorldSBK race in the Netherlands saw a man in pole position who, despite an incredible 17 wins, was considered an outsider. On the Yamaha R1, which was still unfamiliar to him, Jonathan Rea took advantage of the wet conditions on Saturday morning to secure the best time in the Superpole for the first time in this young season as a sensationally strong rain rider. In the afternoon race, the Northern Irishman did very well and still only finished sixth in difficult conditions on a track that was initially wet and then dried out. But the next day, it wasn’t just Johnny who made extremely strange observations in the Tissot Sprint Race on Sunday morning. Even some viewers on site and on TV or streaming could hardly believe their eyes after a few rounds. Rookie Nicolo Bulega on the Aruba.it factory Ducati initially flew up and away from Rea and the rest of the field within a very short time by around 2 seconds. His teammate Bautista was already almost 4 seconds behind the Italian at the halfway point of the race in P6. Then the unbelievable happened.

Completion of the pit walk on Sunday morning in bitter cold of less than 10 degrees Celsius. An experience that is generally not worth the money invested for visitors, as we can tell from many years of experience. Most of the time, visitors hardly see any of the better-known drivers, as they quite rightly have to prepare first and foremost for their upcoming race.

Scenes that have never been experienced before raise questions

All drivers were on the same SC-Q tires, which is extremely important to mention at this point. From the middle of the sprint race, it seemed to the competition and the spectators as if Bautista had flipped an imaginary switch that turned his Ducati Panigale V4R into a MotoGP machine. Within just five laps, the little Spaniard literally flew past all his opponents and not only caught up with his teammate, but also distanced Bulega to the finish by an incredible 2,686 seconds! This meant that Alvaro drove more than 1.5 seconds faster per lap than the previous leader and in the final lap he was around two seconds faster than most of the remaining competitors. They had to feel like extras and now had to experience a foretaste of what they and the spectators could expect at Ducati’s home race in the fourth round of the World Championship in Misano. The monotony of the previous two years, when Bautista won practically at will, especially in 2023, seems to have become a fact. The fact that the reigning world champion lost to BMW newcomer Toprak in the last race at Assen was obviously solely due to the Turk’s much greater willingness to take risks on a partly wet track.

Serial winner Alvaro Bautista photographed by us after his strangest victory of his career in the Tissot Sprint Race in Assen on Saturday morning. As in the previous year, in 2024 too often the Spaniard seems to not have to take too many risks in order to make his opponents look like extras. This is unlikely to change for the rest of this season.
Despite a botched start to the season and some more difficult races, defending champion Alvaro Bautista is already in the lead again in the intermediate classification of the Superbike World Championship. Only a small miracle or serious mistakes can change the fact that he will be able to extend his lead significantly further from mid-June 2024 onwards for the coming round in Misano.

Kawasaki’s reaction – a pure racing motorcycle for the WSBK

After Yamaha recently announced that it would no longer produce its R1 Superbike as a machine homologated for road traffic, their objective has already become clear. Meanwhile, as the example of Honda shows, the Japanese manufacturers no longer have the slightest chance against the MotoGP Replica, which is preferred over the competition by FIM and Dorna. Because the maximum speed of the Panigale V4R from the end of 2023 was not maintained, neither the newly introduced minimum weight for the driver and machine are of any use, nor the highest efforts like those shown by BMW this season, which were nevertheless relegated to the role of extras in the sprint race from Assen, like them If the conditions are dry, it will probably also be in Misano in mid-June. That’s why Kawasaki has now reacted and made the most rigorous announcement of all Ducati competitors. Without retaining the ZX-10RR series motorcycle, the Bimota brand, which belongs to the group, will be revived for the WorldSBK for the Superbike World Championship for the 2025 season. The price of the homologation model should then be just under 40 thousand euros, like the Ducati.

Fabrizio Pirovano on the Bimota in the inaugural year of the Superbike World Championship in 1988 – for more about the earlier years of WorldSBK see History, with our highly detailed and richly illustrated summary on this page.

The consequence of the development that began in 2019

Marco Melandri, himself a former Ducati rider and 2011 WSBK vice world champion on Yamaha, summed it up with his opinion at the time. When it became clear that the Italian brand was entering WorldSBK with a new model derived directly from MotoGP, which, unlike all competitors, was developed purely for the racetrack, the Italian was very critical. His statement “Ducati is destroying the spirit of the Superbike World Championship with this motorcycle” left nothing to be desired in terms of clarity in the 2019 season. Anyone who looks at our extensive summary of the earlier years and decades on this page has to agree with the man from Ravenna. Except for Petronas’ failed approach with their 899 cc in-line three-cylinder motorcycle, with which the Malaysian oil multinational originally wanted to enter MotoGP, there had never been such a radical approach to getting started in the WSBK before the Ducati Panigale V4R. However, with their years of MotoGP experience, the Italians have completely different options and can continually incorporate experiences from the Prototype World Championship into their racing machines. The extent of their contribution to Bautista’s success is clearly shown by his Honda years in 2020 and 2021, when third place each season was the highest of feelings for the Spaniard.

WorldSBK icon “King Carl” Fogarty (left) at the presentation of the Petronas FP1, which was specially developed for the race track, but which was crowned with only modest success with the “Foggy FP1” team. Top driver Troy Corser might have won more than two world championship titles without the three years of career he sacrificed for this project. Far too often the pilots stopped with this machine.
Our calendar for the 2024 season with the race in Hungary at the Balaton Circuit, which is currently still in question, while Cremona is considered to be held. However, the prices there are so high that it is better to think carefully about your arrival as a paying spectator in advance. With Misano, Donington, Portimão, Aragon and Jerez, there are still at least 5 tracks ahead where the factory Ducati will be hard to beat. Their advantages in acceleration and top speed can often make the difference on the other courses too.

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