Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki ZX-10RR) – the defending champion is seriously and highly motivated preparing for the new season together with his team on the new 2021 Kawasaki ZX-10RR. The question is: Will his opponents be able to overthrow him from the throne throne? (© Kawasaki Racing Team).

It starts – soon the motors in the WSBK will be roaring again

For the past few weeks, many have wondered about the WorldSBK preseason tests, when and where they are and who is taking part. All important dates, venues and preliminary lists of participants for the test plan for the preseason before 2021 have just been published by Dorna. It starts with the Jerez test, which starts on January 20th and 21st. A number of private tests are also planned before the season begins at the end of April. With new drivers in the championship and a whole range of new machines and even new teams.

The provisional and hopefully still incomplete list of previous entries. Unfortunately, Loris Baz and his previous team Ten Kate from the Netherlands have not yet been confirmed and it currently looks bad for Cortese and Reiterberger to find a place for 2021. There has also been no sign of life from MIE Honda for months. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they slipped away quietly in the end.

The great importance of extensive test drives
We have already published many stories about previous drivers in our history. Among other things, you will probably find the most detailed article there is about the “racing tiger” H. P. Müller. Or Horst Fügner from Chemnitz, the ace from the former GDR and many more are planned. Even then, many of these pilots were employed as so-called test drivers. NSU also did a lot of testing back in the 1950s and even practiced with its drivers on the TT course, which was new to them, before the World Cup. But testing is also particularly important in the tough times of the corona pandemic. The first test was organized by the Kawasaki Racing Team.

Pere Riba (on the right with world champion Johnny Rea) – as a former WorldSBK and WSSP driver (for more on this see our constantly growing WSBK History) as crew chief an indispensable figure in the Provec Kawasaki Racing Team based near Barcelona (© Kawasaki Racing Team).

Who will participate?

Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes are of course at the Circuito de Jerez this week. Plus the ARUBA.IT Ducati works team, which will be in action for the first time since the Estoril test with Vice World Champion Scott Redding and rookie Michael Ruben Rinaldi. The HRC team is also there and is being looked after on site by the new team manager Leon Camier (see our report on January 18) with Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam. The private riders and teams include MotoGP switchers Tito Rabat (Team Barni Racing Ducati), Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven Ducati), Isaac Viñales (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) and Loris Cresson (OUTDO TPR Kawasaki).

Esteve “Tito” Rabat – auf der Esponsorama Racing Ducati in der MotoGP Saison 2020 – den Mann sollte man für kommende Saison auf keinen Fall unterschätzen. Dass er im Vergleich zu Johann Zarco im Vorjahr deutlich im Schatten stand, ändert nichts daran, dass der Katalane ein definitiv schneller Pilot ist (© MotoGP).

The big absentee – BMW and Yamaha

No tests are planned for February, which means that the BMW works team has already missed the 2nd winter test! They won’t be there with the two new customer teams until March 4th and 5th at the Autodromo do Algave near Portimão. KRT (the Kawasaki Racing Team) is once again the organizer for the Portugal test. Only then will the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team return to Estoril in October 2020 with the new M 1000 RR. A really long break for 2013 World Champion Tom Sykes and newcomer Michael van der Mark! The BMW satellite teams from RC Squadra Corse and Bonovo Action with Eugene Laverty and Jonas Folger will then go to work for the first time with the new development. It will also be the first test of the year for Christophe Ponsson and Gil Motorsport Yamaha.

Eugene Laverty (right, RC Squadra Corse) and Jonas Folger (Bonovo Action MGM) – the two new BMW independent riders for the 2021 season will start the race with a test deficit. Hopefully the BMW drivers won’t need this as an excuse later if the results are as bad as the works team’s performance in the previous year (© WorldSBK).

Yamaha surprised – Toprak and his colleagues won’t start until mid-March!
On March 9th and 10th, a private test by the HRC factory team will take place in Jerez. Only then will the Yamaha riders return. Further tests will take place on March 15th and 16th in Misano, where the official PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK team will be in action with Toprak Razgatlioglu and Andrea Locatelli. In addition, the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK junior team with Garrett Gerloff and the Japanese rookie Kohta Nozane has its first roll-out. With Redding, Rinaldi, Davies and Rabat, 4 Ducati riders will be present again. Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) will also contest his first test on the Adriatic coast in 2021.

Toprak Razgatlioglu on Pata Yamaha – photographed by us in Phillip Island at the season opener on February 29, 2020. Together with his former teammates Michael van der Mark and Tom Sykes, the Turk has been given an extended winter break and is one of the prominent absentee in Jerez and Portimão.

Another test on the Circuito do Estoril

One of the main tests has been scheduled for March 24th and 25th in Estoril, where the second station after Assen is planned for May in the provisional calendar. Apart from the Ducati factory team, all other manufacturing teams will be present in Portugal. The private teams on site are GRT Yamaha with Gerloff and Nozane, ORELAC Racing VerdNatura with Viñales, Bonovo Action with Folger, RC Squadra Corse with Laverty, Christophe Ponsson and Gil Motorsport and GMT94 Yamahas World Supersport with Jules Cluzel and Federico Caricasulo.

Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK junior team) in front of his former brand colleague “Magic Michael” van der Mark in Nevers – the US boy is considered one of the greatest hopes that have come across the pond into the World Cup in recent years (© WorldSBK

Barcelona in the program as well
A test supported by Dorna will take place at the Circuito de Barcelona-Catalunya. The majority of the teams are registered on the two days, including the drivers of WorldSSP and WorldSSP300. Some teams will then travel to MotorLand Aragon for the final test in the preseason. The lists of participants mentioned are currently only provisional and some teams can also add to their currently planned test program.

At the ghost race in Barcelona in September 2020 – many are currently hoping that visitors will still be allowed on the tracks during the course of the year. If not, many events can still be canceled (© WorldSBK).

Testschedule WorldSBK 2021

Jerez test: 20th – 21st January
Portimao test: 4th – 5th March
Jerez test: 9th – 10th March (Honda only)
Misano test: 15th – 16th March
Estoril test: 24th – 25th March
Barcelona test: March 31st – 1st April
MotorLand Aragon test: April 12th – 13th

Gregorio Lavilla – Sporting Director of Dorna for WorldSBK. As a former driver (for more on this see our history and last week’s interview with him) he also cuts a fine figure as an organizer. His planning for the near-series World Championship for the coming season looks much more credible than that of MotoGP from November 2020. In addition, almost everything went smoothly in the Corona season (© WorldSBK).

WorldSBK’s provisional calendar for 2021

As Phillip Öttl recently revealed (see our interview with the Kawasaki Puccetti driver on this page), he expects various changes in the current provisional plan. The round in Australia and a 13th event for which the venue is still open is still open. In any case, many observers are convinced that the planning of the WorldSBK is much more realistic than the MotoGP calendar with races in Argentina and the USA in April. However, it is not yet certain which of the planned events will actually take place in the Superbike World Championship.