With the new season on the horizon, it is time to look at the title contenders ahead of the first season of a new decade of WorldSBK racing
The 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship promises to be one of the most exciting seasons and with the turn of the new decade will come new rivalries and new stories. On paper, there’s more title contenders that could have a realistic chance of scrapping it out at the front and come Argentina, there could be more than two riders in the battle for World Superbike supremacy.
Starting with the reigning five-time World Superbike Champion, you would have to think that Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) is the one to beat going into 2020. Five consecutive titles, 73 wins across those past five seasons and the ability to overcome a 61-point gap in less than six races, the Ulsterman has raised the level of WorldSBK. With strong pre-season running at Aragon, Jerez, Portimao and Catalunya, Rea is aiming for a sixth WorldSBK title in 2020 and it could be achieved.
However, there’s another new teammate for Rea – the third in as many seasons. Alex Lowes moves in and is more than ready to add to his sole WorldSBK race win from 2018 at Brno. Lowes is on the Championship-winning Kawasaki ZX-10RR and is working with Marcel Duinker, who helped Tom Sykes to 2013 WorldSBK success. If Lowes can couple his renowned consistency with more wins, then he could be a contender.
Despite never winning a WorldSBK race for the simple reason that he is a rookie, Scott Redding has already alluded to the one reason he is in WorldSBK: to take the title from Jonathan Rea. The reigning domestic British champion and former MotoGP™ podium finisher has got the Ducati Panigale V4 R at his disposal, the bike that won 17 races in 2019. Back on the world stage and with a highly competitive package, Redding is the big-name addition in 2020 and he wants title success.
Alongside Scott Redding is three-times WorldSBK runner-up Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati), who despite initially struggling in 2019, eventually took victory at Laguna Seca. Davies is one of the few riders who has been able to battle with Rea for the title over a sustained period of time and after having a year to sort out his feelings with the bike, Davies is certain to be back to his best now that he is also injury-free.
Over at the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team, three-time race winner and 2014 World Supersport Champion Michael van der Mark will be eager to fight for victory every weekend. The Dutchman showed signs of doing it after his Jerez success but a crash at Misano saw him injured for the middle part of the season. He has a new teammate in 2020 and that is Toprak Razgatlioglu, who stormed to success at Magny-Cours last season, taking two wins. On top in the final test before Phillip Island, Toprak knows that he is a title contender.
The BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team have gone for experience in 2020, with 2013 Champion Tom Sykes leading 2013 WorldSBK runner-up Eugene Laverty at the German manufacturer. Both riders have fought for titles before and both won races. Now in the second season of the all-new bike, the team will be eagerly searching for a first win. Fighting for the title is not an easy task but the riders and the team have tested well and now, will look to make the next step and fight for the leading positions in the Championship.
All-new for 2020 is Team HRC, who bring a full factory effort for their all-new motorcycle: the CBR1000RR-R. In the capable hands of 2019 WorldSBK runner-up Alvaro Bautista and 2010 WorldSBK runner-up Leon Haslam, the bike has tested well so far. Haslam put it on top of the wet Jerez test in January before finishing in the top six at Portimao, whilst Alvaro Bautista also showed good pace and is aiming to put all the right bits in the right order, so that he can utilise the best bits of the machine. Ahead of the first round, Leon Haslam is already aiming to win.
Then, there’s the Independent charge and Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) has been inside the top three for much of pre-season testing. He wants to be in the top five in every race, whilst podiums and wins are his real aim. Baz sees no reason why he and the Dutch team can’t be more than just the ‘best Independent’ in 2020. Best Independent rider in 2018 Xavi Fores also returns to WorldSBK in 2020 and does so with the best Independent team from 2019: Kawasaki Puccetti Racing. They won races last season and Fores is already aiming for top results from the season’s start.
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