Toprak Razgatlioglu (BMW M-1000RR) on the way to immortality. He could soon follow in the latter’s footsteps on the home track of WorldSBK icons Troy Bayliss and Troy Corser. Corser was victorious in the Superbike World Championship on Ducati, Aprilia and Suzuki. The exceptional Turkish talent has already won on Kawasaki and Yamaha. Now the newcomer to the Bavarian brand needs a win so that he can catch up with the Australian.

Why a rookie eclipsed the WorldSBK stars

For neutral fans of the Superbike World Championship, the January tests in Jerez and Portimão presented a truly threatening picture. In principle, with the exception of the Ducatisti, this also applied to all other teams with their pilots and their supporters. Anyone who had hoped that the introduction of the minimum weight for driver and machine would ensure more balance has already been proven wrong in Andalusia and the Algarve. Although FIM and Dorna, through their leadership, had long resisted the introduction of this rule, which is completely common in two-wheel racing, they ultimately had to bow to the manufacturers of Ducati’s competitors as a result of their threats to withdraw from the WSBK. Ultimately, the minimum weight is also a rule that has been common practice in WorldSSP and MotoGP for a long time. Nevertheless, they found ways to make Alvaro Bautista’s handicap as the reigning world champion a little more bearable. This gave the Spaniard and his teammate Niccolo Bulega something of a free ticket to dominate WorldSBK at will. While Bautista, as is often the case, held back and explained his modest test times as an injury that had not yet recovered, his Italian stablemate just revealed the best times. The FIM recently provided the reason for this dominance of the factory team from Panigale (a district near Bologna).

In red letters the once again horribly higher maximum speed for the Panigale V4R, the only bike with MotoGP genes which, in contrast to the competition, was designed purely for use on racetracks. Another advantage for the Reds is the technical relationship with the machine, with which the Italians have been almost unbeatable in the premier class of prototype two-wheeled racing for two years.

Does this threaten to continue a completely one-sided World Championship?

Luckily, we have made it easy for ourselves when it comes to our season planning. All bookings can be canceled free of charge at any time and we made use of this for the first time at the season opener in Phillip Island. Because we currently see too few arguments against the boredom of the previous two years when it comes to the title decision, we with a heavy heart decided not to travel from Europe to distant Australia again after 2020. We simply remember the pictures from last year far too well, when the two Ducati factory team colleagues Alvaro Bautista and Michael Ruben Rinaldi drove up and away from the rest of the competition. At the moment, the neutral fans can only hope that Toprak can fight for the top with the BMW and that Jonathan Rea can also be at the front again on the Yamaha, in contrast to his Kawasaki years 2021 to 2023. Otherwise there is a risk of a continuation of the two most boring and one-sided WSBK years and, as in the previous year, the question of the winner rarely if ever arises.

Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) in his second year on the R1 in the Superbike World Championship. The Australian is a must-have for top placements. After a difficult start, the 2021 Moto2 World Champion (in Team Ajo on Kalex) and son of GP legend Wayne became increasingly stronger in the second half of the season.

Memories of the past came up several times in 2022 and 2023

Such one-sided races remind us too much of the early days of two-wheel racing. See also our series about the first years of the Motorcycle World Championship, which will be continued in a few weeks. We are currently working on the terrible year of 1958, when, after the factory withdrawal of almost all competition, MV Agusta dominated at will in all 4 solo classes. If the winners are almost certain before the start, there will be no excitement for the spectators and Dorna and FIM should not be surprised if this further damages visitor numbers and popularity. As predicted (not only by us), the prices of the Italian MotoGP organizers fell drastically after the retirement of the icon Valentino Rossi. There is now also a risk that the red dominance could lead to a drastic decline in audience interest.

Nicolo Bulega from Montecchio Emilia (Italy) is the future hope of the Ducati factory team after Alvaro Bautiste increasingly complains more than stepping on the throttle. Nevertheless, one should not write off the small Spanish defending champion prematurely. At least as long as he has a Ducati Panigale V4R under his belt. We saw him as a new addition at the Honda in Phillip Island in 2020 and only as a supporting actor until the end of 2021.

Is the little salt in the soup enough?

Of course, in the shadow of the feared superiority of the two factory Ducatis for WorldSBK, there is still some spice when it comes to what is happening on the racetracks. But even if BMW actually manages to catch up with Kawasaki and Yamaha thanks to Toprak and intensive further development, there is a risk of yawning boredom in the fight for victory. The Turk, with his extremely risky driving style, managed to demand the utmost from Bautista in some races last year. In principle, Razgatlioglu on the Yamaha R1 had often literally outclassed the Spaniard in the corners. But in the end he lost races like the one in Portimão, completely frustrated due to a lack of sufficient top speed and blatant disadvantages in acceleration compared to the Ducati.

Jonathan Rea (Yamaha R1) had an unfortunate start to the final tests before the race weekend in Phillip Island. With a crash in the fast turn 11 on the beautiful track in his second home Australia, it was a veritable false start and he and his new team currently have to fear that he will not be able to build on his numerous successes from previous years down under. He won five times in his first 3 years with Kawasaki, as well as once each in 2020 and 2022.

The question mark behind the best rider of all time

His successor at Pata Yamaha is also threatened with similar adversity as Toprak. There is no need to discuss the driving skills of 6-time record world champion Jonathan Rea. The Northern Irishman still doesn’t lack motivation to fight for victories and podiums. But with a maximum speed of no less than 900 rpm less than the Ducati, he has to live with less power and worse acceleration, just like before on the Kawasaki. It is therefore feared that the little salt in the soup from his and Toprak’s pit swap might not be enough to create enough excitement in the WSBK. But thanks to a few new additions, there may still be hope that there will be enough salt in the soup. In a few days we will see what the true balance of power looks like, because tests are rarely conclusive enough. However, one should not overestimate the results from Phillip Island and wait until the European season starts so as not to jump to conclusions. We will be there in Barcelona on the second to last weekend in March and will of course report on it.

Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven Ducati Panigale V4R, here in front of Domi Aegerter with his Yamaha R1) is, together with Sam Lowes (Marc VDS Ducati), one of the brightest new names in the WorldSBK paddock. Like Kawasaki ace Alex Lowes’ twin brother, “The Maniac” always provides a spectacle. Both are always good for a podium under ideal conditions, which definitely brings a fresh spice to the WSBK.

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