Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki ZX-10RR Ninja) at the Jerez test in December 2021 – the Northern Irishman and his team are preparing for a mission in the coming year. The clear goal is to win back the unfortunate world title to Toprak and Yamaha (© Kawasaki Racing Team).

Who will be WorldSBK Champion next year?

It is actually strange that this question has to be formulated completely differently for the first time in many years. So far, it has usually only been open when the old new world champion will be determined this time. Neither a Tom Sykes, nor Chaz Davies, Alvaro Bautista or Scott Redding could change that in the last six years. However, Jonathan Rea had already announced two years ago that he would consider Razgatlioglu to be one of his perhaps fiercest competitors for the near future. A little later the Turk agreed with him and showed an impressively strong season in which he was able to fight the Kawasaki ace over several weekends for the first time. He fought a few days before the start of the season with a new bike that was formally castrated by the unsportsmanlike FIM commissioners with the knife between his teeth, sometimes at a losing position. The consequence of this was too many falls, which one was only used to from his team-mate Alex Lowes, and in the end he lost the title. Many are now wondering whether he is the only one who can seriously stand up to the Turks in the coming year.

Scott Redding (BMW M-1000RR) was Johnny Rea’s strongest challenger in the first Corona season – can he build on the successes of his first two WorldSBK years alongside Michael van der Mark? (© BMW Motorrad WorldSBK).

The number of podium contenders rose considerably

In addition to “Magic” Michael van der Mark and Scott Redding, BMW has two other drivers under contract for the coming season, who are always good for a podium place. Even if it was a while ago, Eugene Laverty was on the podium 13 times in his career. But his Bonovo Action BMW team-mate for the coming year doesn’t have to hide in the paddock either. With Loris Baz, the blue and white people have found a man who will not only be able to put worry lines on a Toprak’s forehead in the rain. With Alvaro Bautista, the Ducati works team has signed a successor for Redding, who inflicted the longest winless series in his Kawasaki era on Jonathan Rea. At the side of Michael Ruben Rinaldi, the little Spaniard is anything but a secret weapon in the battle of the Reds to regain the World Cup title. In addition to the record world champion, Kawasaki himself has a driver under contract in Alex Lowes, who is always good for a podium. For him, however, it’s primarily about whether he will be fit enough after his sore shoulder had ruined him for most of the season.

Alvaro Bautista (Aruba Ducati) photographed by us in Aragon 2019 in a celebratory mood – as a three-time winner in his home country before Rea, he was the celebrated man at temperatures of just over 10 degrees Celsius at the beginning of April. For the coming season he is returning to the team for which he had a total of 16 victories two years ago.

The many co-favorites on the podium
Actually, Garrett Gerloff and Yamaha colleague Andrea Locatelli are not part of it. But for the sake of completeness, you shouldn’t overlook the two when it comes to the other contenders for podium places. The Texan already proved in the second half of the season that he can fight at the very front, and the Italian followed suit a year later in the Blue Factory team. While not only his fans tremble about the continuation of Tom Sykes’ career, this unfortunately went empty-handed at HRC Honda. Instead of the joker from Huddersfield and compatriot Leon Haslam, they signed two promising young talents from Moto2 and MotoGP. With the two Spaniards Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge, the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer should definitely cause a sensation in the coming year.

Iker Lecuona (Honda CBR-1000RR-R Fireblade) is one of two very hot irons that HRC team boss Leon Camier signed with Honda for the coming year. Last season, he was to be found several times in the race in front of all KTM MotoGP team-mates (© HRC Honda).

More candidates – at least for some positive surprises
With Axel Bassani, a young Italian drove himself to the top of the world in 2021, which very few had expected. The 22-year-old from Feltre on the southern foothills of the Dolomites on the Circuito de Cataluña made his final breakthrough when he finished second in the first run, and only Redding had to admit defeat. In addition to him, Philipp Öttl is another young talent who has what it takes to have a say at least in the upper midfield after his promotion from the WorldSSP 600. In the end, you should by no means forget Lucas Mahias, who unfortunately missed the last four rounds of the second Corona season due to injuries. Despite the lack of a test opportunity on the Kawasaki ZX-10RR Ninja, the fast Frenchman proved that he always has what it takes for top ten results.

Brother Mahias before the start in Misano – this man did not play in the movie “The Name of the Rose”, but a not insignificant role for Kawasaki Puccetti Racing in his first full WorldSBK season, which unfortunately ended prematurely due to injury (© Kawasaki Racing Team).

The 2021 season in review

Despite too many crashes, Jonathan Rea had another sensational season when, like Toprak, he took 13 wins. With a total of 112, the Northern Irishman is a brand that no pilot will likely be able to achieve in the future. Carl Fogarty’s 59 triumphs should already double the Kawasaki ace in the coming year. Behind the third place in the World Cup, Scott Redding, Andrea Locatelli won the battle for the best position for an Italian in 2021 at the season finale in Indonesia. Michael van der Mark’s strong last third of the season gives BMW fans hope that the man from Gouda and his new team-mate Redding will be able to fight at the very front in the coming season.

The rain races are highlighted in blue, of which, according to the weather forecast, there should have been a few more. Many observers are convinced that this circumstance in particular tipped the scales in the title fight in the 2021 World Cup. As a bad rain driver, Toprak would definitely have lost a lot of points on a wet track, so this thesis is not completely out of thin air.

The disappointments of the past season

Alongside Chaz Davies, Tito Rabat and Jonas Folger were clearly among the biggest disappointments. The latter two were pushed out of the top 15 by Loris Baz after only 5 races for the French as a substitute driver. Unlucky fellow of the year was not for the first time Eugene Laverty, whose team disappeared completely from the scene from Assen. Unfortunately, even before the first race, we had to point out that the likeable Northern Irishman would become a victim of unclean machinations. Fortunately, he got another chance with the BMW customer team with Bonovo Action for 2022. Jonas Folger, the only German hope of the past season, will no longer be at the start. In his place, Philipp Öttl will try to hold up the flags of his country and the state of Bavaria on a Ducati Panigale V4R. The son of Moto3 team boss Peter is not granted a home race for the next season, as Oschersleben was forced to withdraw as early as 2020 due to the pandemic and after this waiver did not get a new chance.

Eugene Laverty photographed by us at the 2018 WorldSBK event in BuriRam (Thailand) at the paddock autograph session. Like his compatriot Johnny Rea, he is one of the most popular pilots in the field who is always happy to devote a free minute to his fans. In the 2013 season, he drove a total of 9 wins on an Aprilia RSV4 Factory and was runner-up behind Tom Sykes (Kawasaki ZX-10R). For more about the earlier years of WorldSBK, see our richly illustrated history.

The provisional calendar for 2022

As in MotoGP, the FIM and Dorna plan is anything but certain, which has been painful for the past two years. After all, thanks to European rounds at the beginning, there is a chance for a few rejections at the beginning. The start in Aragon and the continuation in Assen are anything but guaranteed. Without a German round and without Jerez de la Frontera, there are sensitive gaps in the planning for 2022. Above all, only 11 rounds are currently dated instead of the usual 13. Due to the pandemic, there is again a strong question mark behind Australia, but this also applies to the other events if no spectators are allowed to attend the races. In addition, the current regional developments of the pandemic are of course decisive. In this respect, the Covid virus with its dangerous mutations could take over the direction of the calendar for the third time.

In the meantime, calendars with question marks have become a tradition at FIM and Dorna, which this time again applies to the round in Australia, which is currently still highly questionable. However, it would not be a surprise if further postponements or changes have to be communicated in the future.

Finding the real culprits in “the return of the pandemic”
For athletes, proper planning is a very important factor in preparing for a season. At the moment, however, it again seems almost impossible to estimate how the pandemic will develop in the near future. The fans, teams and drivers owe this to idiots who pretend to be experts and still provide the public with misinformation. Even so-called virologists still claim that a vaccination protects against infection with the dangerous Covid-19 virus. For many true connoisseurs of the pandemic problem, they are considered complicit in the often irresponsible handling of supposedly well-protected people with the high risk. Sometimes because of this and because people travel a lot, setbacks are to be expected again and again and so the current calendar is more of a dream program than realistic planning. At least the figures from Singapore and Portugal with a high 7-day incidence despite an excellent vaccination rate of over 90 percent show that the “unvaccinated” can be completely wrongly blamed by countless politicians and other idiots for the dramatic increase in the numbers.

Tom Sykes After his first victory in the wet race at the Nürburgring in 2021 for Kawasaki – we are trembling with the fans of the original from Huddersfield and all real WorldSBK supporters about its future. In an environment with falling sponsorship money as a result of the pandemic, his future is anything but secure. It would be a shame if the 34-time winner of the Superbike World Championship could no longer find a place in a good team for the coming season, despite undisputedly still strong form!

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