With the curtain falling on the 2021 campaign, some of WorldSBK’s stars say goodbye to their team or the paddock altogether
The brand new Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit hosts the final round of the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship season and wherever you look, up and down the paddock, there will be emotional scenes. For some riders, this weekend will be their last round with their current teams before a new adventure in 2022, while there will also be a goodbye to a WorldSBK stalwart from the paddock.
The Indonesian round will be the final farewell from WorldSBK for Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven), with the Welsh rider announcing in September he would retire from WorldSBK competition at the end of the season. A constant presence at the front of the field throughout his decade in WorldSBK, Davies will be looking to go out on a high in Indonesia.
The 34-year-old has three times been a runner-up in WorldSBK, in 2015, 2017 and 2018, and claimed 32 wins over the course of his 266 races, as well as 99 podiums, achieving almost everything possible in WorldSBK without winning the coveted World Superbike title. He will, however, always be a World Champion: in his third season of WorldSSP action, Davies claimed six wins out of 12 races on his way to winning the 2011 title to cement his name in the history books. One last milestone beckons for Davies in Indonesia; a podium finish would give him his 100th in WorldSBK and, if he gets it, he’d become only the sixth rider in history to achieve a century of podiums.
Like Davies, Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) has missed a number of races since he sustained an injury in a crash at the Catalunya Round in September but returns to close out the latest chapter in his WorldSBK career. His future at the moment remains unclear but it is known he will not be with his current team in 2022 after they opted to bring in Scott Redding to compete alongside Michael van der Mark.
The 36-year-old has competed for four manufacturers in his WorldSBK career after riding for Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki and BMW, claiming the 2013 WorldSBK title when riding for Kawasaki. Alongside his title success, Sykes became known as “Mr Superpole” for his record number of pole positions in Tissot Superpole, racking up 51 in his career and at least one in every season since 2010. He could tie with Troy Corser for poles at different circuits, with 18, if he claimed pole in Indonesia, while a 90th front row start is also a possibility. Sykes currently has 34 wins and 114 podiums to his name in WorldSBK from a career that started back in 2008.
Prior to the Indonesian Round, Sykes was asked about his future and said: "Of course, I’ve been left in a little bit of a difficult situation, I did receive some news quite late. Unfortunately, a little bit outside of the potential window to find a suitable ride for myself here in WorldSBK. What can I say? Next year, I’m talking and, to be honest, there’s some very interesting options. For now, I’m just here focusing on doing a good job for myself and BMW and then we’ll look more towards 2022 on Sunday evening. Just so we’re clear, there’s no sign of retirement. My passion is racing, and, at the end of the day, we’ve got a little bit of a setback at the moment. I’ll adjust. Setbacks are always a platform for the comeback, that’s what they say. There’s no question I’ve got the capabilities and ambition to keep going. What can I say, is it a goodbye? Maybe for 2022, but we’ll look at 2023. Like I said, because of the situation and how late in the day it was, to be able to get an option to come back here next year probably sailed by. A little bit disappointed to have this information in August and, for that reason, looking at other options. I enjoy racing, that’s my passion. It will be strange, if I do leave this paddock. I’ve been here 13 years and it’s like a second home but, for now, nothing is certain.”
Another rider whose future is unknown but will not be at his current team next season is Leon Haslam, with Team HRC bringing in an all-new line-up for 2022. A long-standing career since his WorldSBK debut in 2003, Haslam has spent two years helping to develop the CBR1000RR-R although had not, to date, stood on the rostrum for Team HRC. His WorldSBK career started in 2003 and he has raced for six manufacturers: Honda, Kawasaki, Aprilia, BMW, Suzuki and Ducati, finishing as runner-up in the Championship in 2010 for Suzuki. Discussing his future ahead of the Indonesian Round, Haslam said: “Obviously, I’m still not 100% confirmed what I’ll be doing next year. I’ll definitely be racing. I’ve a lot of aspiration to do maybe some endurance racing, maybe back to BSB. I’m still open to a lot of things. I still feel that I’m competitive enough. I challenged for the podium in Portugal, that really gave me that fighting spirit again. It’s been difficult with the results we’ve had of late, but we’ll wait and see. It’s kind of ‘watch this space’ on that one, but we’ve got a job to do here at the last round in Indonesia.”
Haslam’s teammate, Alvaro Bautista, has his last round with Honda after a two-year stint before the Spanish rider returns to Ducati. Bautista scored three podiums for Honda in his two-year stint, with two in his final season with the CBR1000RR-R. Bautista’s next challenge is a return to the outfit where he made his WorldSBK debut in 2019, Ducati, as he looks to get back to the top step of the podium on a regular basis.
Bautista returns to Ducati following the departure of Scott Redding, with the British rider taking a new adventure at the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team alongside van der Mark. 12 wins and 35 podiums were earned by Redding at Ducati in his two campaigns but there is still one task at hand for Redding: Ducati still have a chance of securing the 2021 Manufacturers’ Championship and Redding will be hoping he can help the Bologna manufacturer overhaul Yamaha.
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