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2023 WorldSBK silly season and rumour mill: all the gossip on next year’s line-up

Tuesday, 19 July 2022 11:21 GMT

The annual game of musical chairs is starting, with big-name riders’ contracts up at the end of this year and the potential for more stars to join the WorldSBK paddock

It’s that time of year again; despite being only five rounds into the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, the music has sounded on the 2023 rider line-up. Right now, there’s still plenty of seats available, but some have been snatched already. With big names not signed up for next year, one seat at the factory Ducati team up for grabs and the potential for new additions from MotoGP™ and graduations from WorldSSP, we put the gossip, rumours and hard facts in one place.

DONE DEALS: the future is secured in 2023 for…

As the usual jockeying for a seat in WorldSBK gets underway, others have grabbed the holeshot into next year; starting with reigning World Champions Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK, their line-up will remain unchanged for a third season with Toprak Razgatlioglu and Andrea Locatelli inking new deals. Razgatlioglu had been rumoured for a MotoGP™ seat but with the factory team their likewise remaining unchanged (Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli), that seems unlikely until the earliest of 2024, as stated by Lin Jarvis. Besides the reigning World Champions, 2022 WorldSBK Championship leader Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) will remain with the factory Ducati team going into 2023, meaning all five factory teams have at least one rider confirmed.

For Kawasaki, Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) signed a multi-year deal in 2021 taking him into 2023,so he’s secured, and Jonathan Rea will remain in green until the end of 2024 following an announcement after Donington Park. Iker Lecuona confirmed exclusively to WorldSBK.com in a feature interview that he’s remaining with Team HRC for 2023. Ducati rookies Philipp Oettl (Team Goeleven) and Luca Bernardi (BARNI Spark Racing Team)are in the first of their two-year deals, with the German and Sammarinese respectively on the grid until at least 2023. Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) is also in the first of a multi-year deal and he’ll be joined by Michael van der Mark who goes into his third season in BMW white.

BIG QUESTION MARKS: could we be seeing the biggest changes ever seen?

With Ducati management “very happy” and Alvaro Bautista back in Ducati red again for 2023, attention turns to the other side of the garage, where Michael Ruben Rinaldi knows that his results will need to be more consistent, as pressure from Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) mounts. Rinaldi said after his podiums at Misano that they will have “helped” things although during Donington Park, Bassani expressed the ‘importance’ of beating RinaldiAdditionally, according to Motorsport.com, there’s also the potential for Danilo Petrucci, should he win the MotoAmerica championship, to be kept within Ducati’s structure in WorldSBK, although that doesn’t necessarily mean in the factory team. Team manager Serafino Foti said the plan is to continue with “both riders” before signing Bautista, so can we expect the second rider announcement soon, and will it be Rinaldi?

With Yamaha, Kawasaki and BMW locked in and Ducati’s second rider still to be announced, Honda remains unclear, with Leon Camier saying “nothing” when asked about what he could say regarding 2023. As far as factory line-ups are concerned, that’s about that, with just two spots left to fill the 2023 factory teams.

OTHER TALKING POINTS: new additions and graduations?

With the MotoGP™ paddock rumour mill in full flow, it’s bound to impact on the WorldSBK grid. Iker Lecuona said in an interview lately that he thinks “two or three” MotoGP™ and Moto2™ riders will switch to WorldSBK in 2023, with the level “higher than ever.” Who exactly that could transpire to be is yet to be determined, but there’s plenty of contracts up in MotoGP™ at the end of the season; there’s only four factory seats to aim for in WorldSBK, of which three seem very open, so it’s going to be a tight squeeze. 

Then, in the WorldSSP paddock itself, expansion plans and graduations could be on the horizon. Manuel Puccetti hasn’t shied away from the fact that he targets two Superbikes on the grid in 2023, having appointed ex-MotoGP™ paddock technical director Pietro Caprara as his team manager in 2022. This is a similar story for the Gil Motor Sport-Yamaha team, also looking at two bikes. Then, there’s GMT94 Yamaha, who have expressed a desire to move up to WorldSBK for 2023 before, which resurfaced at Misano, the intention remaining the same. There’s also the well-documented ambitions of Dominique Aegerter (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha), the reigning World Supersport Champion, who aims to be on the WorldSBK grid for 2023.

Summarised 2023 rider line-up so far with 10 riders confirmed. TBA = to be announced: 

Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK: Toprak Razgatlioglu and Andrea Locatelli

Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK: Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes

Aruba.it Racing – Ducati: Alvaro Bautista and TBA

BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team: Scott Redding and Michael van der Mark

Team HRC: Iker Lecuona and TBA

GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team: TBA and TBA

Motocorsa Racing: TBA

Team Goeleven: Philipp Oettl

Kawasaki Puccetti Racing: TBA

BARNI Spark Racing Team: Luca Bernardi

Bonovo Action BMW: TBA and TBA

Gil Motor Sport-Yamaha: TBA

Orelac Racing VerdNatura: TBA

TPR Team Pedercini Racing: TBA

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