The amazing first half of the WorldSBK season in review
Apart from the fact that Toprak Razgatlioglu had an incredibly strong start to the season, there were various other surprises. There was already a negative one before the first race. Incredibly, shortly before the first lap, the FIM announced the speed limits for the new BMW M-1000RR and the Kawasaki ZX-10RR. As is so often the case with this questionable authority in earlier years and decades, they caused a veritable scandal. The neutral observers rubbed their eyes in amazement, and the Greens hardly had a chance for a reaction just before the first race. But Jonathan Rea, Alex Lowes and their team didn’t let that get them down.
The strong reaction to the clear disadvantage
They started the season in Aragon with anger in their stomach and drove the competition to the ground. But then the first problems came, and not entirely unexpected. Not entirely unexpected, Kawasaki is still there as the most successful team in the first third of the season. The second place in the team classification is a big surprise and only thanks to their top riders. Below is the intermediate result in the team standings after four rounds, and below that the situation after the event in Navarre.
The fourth force is still fighting to catch up with the top
After BMW was the last to test, the drivers initially sounded very positive. But then there were more setbacks and after Estoril, except for Donington and Assen, things didn’t look good for the blue-whites for a while. But at least there were some bright spots in the factory team in between, whereby the necessary consistency was simply missing. With practically no preparation, Eugene Laverty had to start his adventure as one of the two private drivers and even kept himself quite respectable in some cases. But suddenly his team withdrew from Assen with dubious reasons and has never been seen in the paddock since then. With Jonas Folger after an eighth place thanks to tire poker in the second run of Aragon, the air was completely out. Only in Navarra did the German get his next points, which hopefully heralds an upward trend for him. With the commitment of Scott Redding, the redemption should come for BMW. But this can also turn into a boomerang. Should he also fail to achieve constant top results, the blame must clearly be found in the material.
The fifth force at the crossroads
The year began to be difficult for HRC Honda, too, but the first rays of hope began to emerge from Estoril, albeit followed by setbacks again and again. While BMW has taken a step forward with their new M-1000RR, the world’s largest manufacturer is in its second year with the new Fireblade. After some respectable successes in the first season with the performance staged by HRC themselves, there were even podium places, but they can only dream of that with their two drivers at the moment. Alvaro Bautista falls too often, and Leon Haslam seems to lack the pace to catch up with the best. At Honda, it is therefore even conceivable that they will, like BMW, launch an even sportier CBR-1000RR-R with the M. Of course, the pilots are also being put to the test and there are even top drivers on the market with Locatelli and Sykes, while the WSSP 600 Dominator Aegerter is apparently not an option.
Seasonal trend with some unexpected ups and downs
Not only, Ducati factory rider Scott Redding was unable to meet the expectations placed on him in the first few laps. His former team-mate Chaz Davies and his successor Michael Ruben Rinaldi also provided only a few bright spots in the first 12 races. A podium and two finishings in the top six were the best results for the Welshman. The Italian, on the other hand, only fully convinced in Estoril and at his home race in Misano. His compatriot Andrea Locatelli was in an even worse position at the beginning, but from Assen onwards a real high flight began for him. In comparison, his Yamaha brand colleague Garrett Gerloff has been stumbling too tight lately. The Texan can only hope that things will improve in Nevers, and that he will be able to build on the good results of the previous year there. Since Most things have been going according to plan, especially at Scott Redding, and since Navarra he has returned to the fight for the title as the overall winner. This cannot be said of Kawasaki man Alex Lowes, but the man from Lincoln is literally thriving at Kawasaki. Fourth place in the World Championship is the best evidence of this for the former crash pilot on duty.
The new Toprak Razgatlioglu – will he stay constant or will there be a setback?
Immediately after extending his WSBK contract with the Yamaha works team, the Turk delivered what is perhaps the most impressive piece of work of his entire racing career. Ironically, in the British home race in Donington Park, he achieved the sensation of the day in the first race on Saturday, despite a miserable thirteenth starting position. During the first lap he stormed forward to second position and one lap later he took command, after which he drove towards a safe victory. On Sunday morning, however, when the track was wet, most of the riders started the race with slicks and this is where the Yamaha rider’s currently the greatest weakness became apparent. While Rea struck back with a sovereign victory, Razgatlioglu had to be content with sixth place. He was particularly happy that there are only half points to be won in the sprint race. According to the forecast, rain was forecast for the afternoon too, but the weather gods meant well with the Yamaha Hope. While his opponent fell while in the lead with his Kawasaki, Toprak drove to a safe victory in the dry in the afternoon and was world championship leader for only the second time in his career since race 1 at Phillip Island (Australia). For the next few laps, a lot depends on the weather for him. As soon as it gets wet, he is considered to have no chance, as the round in France 2020 proved not for the first time in his case.
The current World Cup stand in the WorldSBK in front of Magny-Cours
While Chaz Davies experienced only a few bright spots except for a few races such as Aragon 1, Estoril 1 and 2, and Assen 2, Alex Lowes and rookie Andrea Locatelli in particular, along with the best three, were able to convince in the majority of the World Cup. Rinaldi even won his home race, but apart from the first run in Most, the Italian often owed a lot. At BMW, the final breakthrough for the works team is still missing, while for the two private riders it looks simply catastrophic. It looks just as bad at HRC Honda with Bautista and Haslam. The same goes for Tito Rabat, from whom not only his compatriot Alvaro Bautista had expected significantly more. On the other hand, newcomers like Axel Bassani and Lucas Mahias provided pleasantly positive results that you couldn’t ask for, especially from the French, due to a lack of preparation. As the reigning Superbike champion of Japan, Kohta Nozane also showed his potential a few times, he will have to be given a little more time. Of the wildcard riders, Marvin Fritz was able to convince the most with his top ten result in Most. It would be a shame if this talented man didn’t get a chance in WorldSBK in 2022.
The 2020 numbers as a reference for the next four rounds
We understand perfectly when the opponents of Jonathan Rea in the title fight frown as soon as they remember these values. In Nevers, on the Magny-Cours circuit it was raining, which is why the numbers below are highlighted in blue. Toprak therefore crashed completely last year and took a sixth and then two ninth places in the first run. Scott Redding, on the other hand, was almost on a par with the six-time world champion, but weakened in Portugal, but was the best in Jerez in the great heat before. In Barcelona, on the other hand, like Razgatlioglu, he scored significantly fewer points than the Kawasaki ace. In Summer, the reigning champion had more than twice as many points as Toprak in these four rounds. This probably explains the smile on his face when, after finishing third in the last race in Navarra, he spoke full of anticipation and confidence about the next laps and the following races in France in the podium interview.
How to proceed in the provisional calendar
According to the plan, the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours will be the next stop two weeks after the Navarra premiere, and another 14 days later a so-called three-man block will begin. Just like in the first year of the WSBK in 1988, when lap 5 was driven in Sugo, with only one week apart (on August 28), it went on to Le Mans and 7 days later it was driven in Estoril. Back then, of course, both races on Sunday and there were fewer points than today and no Superpole Race. Four-cylinder engines were limited to 750 cc and only 9 laps were held. For more information, see our richly illustrated history. This season it is only the second time Barcelona with the Circuito de Cataluña, Jerez and Portimão. What comes next, however, is still questionable because many rightly doubted the races in Argentina and Indonesia when the first calendar was published. Either replacement laps on other routes or a shortening of the calendar can be expected. At least in MotoGP, the events in Australia, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia have already been cancelled one after the other.
Unless otherwise mentioned, applies to all images (© WorldSBK).
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