For the first time since 2016, the title duel goes to the last round of the year, but will Jonathan Rea live up to expectation, or can Scott Redding make a memorable sporting storyline?
The 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is coming to a close as we come to the grand finale and the Pirelli Estoril Round. The title is on the line this weekend and whilst Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) is a clear favourite, Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) will do everything in his power to take the title race to Sunday. There’s 62 points available, 59 split the two riders and only one can be Champion. Let battle commence on WorldSBK’s much-anticipated return to racing at Estoril.
Jonathan Rea’s season has been staggering; perhaps not as dominant as we’ve seen from seasons gone-by but nonetheless, spectacularly consistent and devastatingly fast. The Northern Irishman should be able to wrap the Championship up on Saturday afternoon, barring acts of God and minor miracles elsewhere. This is motorcycle racing and it’s good to expect the unexpected, but Jonathan Rea’s form suggest he won’t be handing a 60-point swing to Scott Redding anytime soon. There’s an expectancy which brings pressure naturally, but Rea’s done this before…
For Scott Redding, the task in hand is easy to understand; win three races. The bigger, and arguably more pressing question is: will it be easy to execute? Redding has good experience with Estoril from his Grand Prix days and will at least head to the circuit without having to familiarise himself with it. However, he will have to understand a WorldSBK bike’s characteristics at the circuit. Heading to Estoril, Redding does have the experience, but it could be a disadvantage as he has that prior taste of the track and a comparison. For Rea, he knows no difference and starts from a blank canvas. An interesting dynamic, as much as the one for the title.
Away from the tussle for the title is the third-place battle between Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) and Michael van der Mark (PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team). In the last two rounds, Davies has taken a total of nine points more than van der Mark and the Dutchman now needs to overcome a gap of 19; he’s not done that all year and the last time he did do it was at Laguna Seca last year, when he scored 45 points more. Van der Mark was third overall in 2018 and he so dearly wants it back – but it was the same year that Davies was second in the title race, a place he’s not been near since. Can he hold off van der Mark for one more round?
24 points behind van der Mark, Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) leads the top five battle. He’s four points ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu (PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team) whilst Team GOELEVEN’s Michael Ruben Rinaldi is nine further back. All three riders know the importance of finishing inside the top seven overall and all three have been winners in 2020. It’s a battle that’ll go down to the wire on Sunday but who will come out on top come the close of the season?
Rinaldi is in another battle however, as he and Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) go in search of being best Independent rider of 2020. The battle is split by 31 points but that could be overcome. Three podiums in the last five races has meant that Baz is back in contention, but he’ll need a very special Estoril points haul to topple Rinaldi. The Italian in turn would need to have a difficult weekend and if he outscores Baz by seven points in Race 1, he can guarantee Independent glory.
The battle for top Honda also continues as Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) lies ninth in the Championship, eight points ahead of teammate Leon Haslam – they are on 99 and 91 points respectively. Bautista had a disastrous Magny-Cours event but hopes to bounce back at a circuit he won at three times during his GP career. For Haslam, he achieved his best 250cc Grand Prix World Championship result here and hopes this can be the circuit he cracks the podium at. If not, it’d be his first full year since 2013 where he’s missed it.
Elsewhere, Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team) will aim to pinch a top ten place in the standings from Haslam. Currently on 78 and 13 behind Haslam, Gerloff has shown before he can surprise at new circuits, like at Catalunya with a podium. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) is 12th and two points behind his arch-rival Gerloff and will take to Estoril for the first time, whilst in 13th is Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team), four points ahead of Eugene Laverty (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), who’s been to Estoril in GP.
Xavi Fores (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) lines up for the last time with Puccetti Racing, two points behind Laverty. Leandro Mercado (Motocorsa Racing) is behind the Spaniard by some margin with Sylvain Barrier, (Brixx Performance) whilst Maximilian Scheib (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) is replaced by Sheridan Morais, the former WorldSSP race winner. Takumi Takahashi’s (MIE Racing HONDA Team) hunt for points will see him bring an end to his first full season whilst stepping into WorldSBK for the first time is Belgian Loris Cresson (OUTDO Kawasaki TPR), replacing the still-recovering Sandro Cortese after his Portimao injuries. Matteo Ferrari joins the Barni Racing Team for the last round and Eric Granado joins the MIE Racing HONDA Team, which reverts back to two riders.
Finally, the Manufacturers’ Championship is up for grabs and if Kawasaki can outscore Ducati by 11 points in Race 1, then they’ve got the Championship. If Kawasaki win, Ducati must have a rider finish on the podium. However, if Ducati take points off Kawasaki in Race 1 then the title will go to Sunday regardless.
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