2020 in a nutshell… what did we learn from this unique season: Part 1

Tuesday, 27 October 2020 09:37 GMT

Big questions, strong answers: World Superbike in 2020 taught us all lessons but will we need to learn more ahead of next season?

With the off-season in full flow for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, it is time to continue digesting the season which we have enjoyed. After each round, there was plenty to recap but now, with the dust settling on 2020, the whole season has a whole load of patterns that paint the picture of the year gone-by. In Part 1, we have the ruthlessness of the rider market, the Honda’s potential and the technology of tyres and why they were a huge part of the title fight.

Experience counts, and youth doesn’t prevail

After round one of the season, Toprak Razgatlioglu (PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team) was right in contention for the Championship and even after Portimao, the young Turkish star had a good chance to fight for the title but a disastrous pair of Aragon meetings and a Warm-Up injury at Catalunya meant his charge was halted. The answer to the question of whether or not he could become the youngest ever WorldSBK Champion, replacing James Toseland, was no. Toprak’s second season on a Yamaha though, if this year was anything to go by, is going to be thrilling.

Honda’s potential knows no boundaries…

In its first year back as a factory manufacturer in 18 years, Honda and HRC impressed many in the WorldSBK fraternity and were serious contenders for the podium from round four onwards. Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) came home in third place in Race 2 at Aragon having been in the leading battle for much of the encounter, whilst more strong performances and leading a race for the first time came at Catalunya. With both he and Haslam level on 113 points at the end of the year and both retained for another season, Honda’s ambitions to be race winners aren’t unrealistic at all.

The SCX tyre becomes an unlikely realistic option…

In the most extraordinary of circumstances, Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team GOELEVEN) took his first, and so-far only, career victory at Aragon in Race 2. The Italian did that on the SCX tyre, an option only used in the shorter 10-lap Tissot Superpole Race. However, Alvaro Bautista had used that tyre the week before for his podium, whilst Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) couldn’t use the tyre at Catalunya due to his size and weight, a disadvantage as his rivals could use it. In short, the hotter temperatures in the height of a European summer favoured the SCX tyre and was a detrimental dynamic in the title race. Will that continue in 2021?

The rider market has been ruthless…

Coming into 2020, every factory team changed its line-up to a certain degree however, perhaps lacking the major shake-up and bombshell decisions. For 2021, that is out of the window. Chaz Davies will be replaced at the ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati team by Michael Ruben Rinaldi, despite Davies’ third in the Championship versus just three rostrums for Rinaldi. Michael van der Mark was the chosen one at BMW over Eugene Laverty, meaning Andrea Locatelli comes into the PATA Yamaha team. In any other season, Federico Caricasulo’s season wouldn’t have been too bad but out-performed hugely by fellow rookie teammate Garrett Gerloff has left the Italian vulnerable and he’s been replaced by Kohta Nozane. Even at ORELAC Racing, Max Scheib’s seventh place and top Independent in just his third race of the year wasn’t enough and Isaac Viñales replaces him in 2021. It’s as competitive for rides as it is competitive on the race track…

From what would make the BMWs click to why didn’t they click at all?

BMW’s season in 2020 was like a jigsaw; all the pieces were there but fitting them together proved to be difficult. A best result of fifth meant that for the first time since 2010, Tom Sykes failed to achieve a podium in WorldSBK. A pole position at Phillip Island and a first ever 1-2 on the grid at Magny-Cours were the highlights. However, despite the 1-2 on the grid in the wet, the pace wasn’t transferred to the races, which was the strange point about the whole round. Already testing for 2021 and with wings being experimented with, surely BMW will return to the podium – even if it is with their now confirmed satellite team.

Want more? Read all about the other chronicles of 2020 in Part 2, here!