PREVIEW: the stories reigning over WorldSBK’s arrival to Mandalika in 2023

Wednesday, 1 March 2023 05:16 GMT

A colossal season-opener followed by a passionate Round 2 fanbase, what are the headlines to watch out for on the picturesque island of Lombok?

We’ve gone green Down Under but now it’s time for Asia to host the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship and what a battle it is too. After all of 2022 was about the titanic trio, they were split up at Phillip Island. However, never a circuit to read too much into, can we actually be sure of anything as we land on Lombok and the Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit? From what we do know after Round 1, these are the stories that shape chapter two of 2023.

BAUTISTA AND DUCATI: the favourites, or their turn to come unstuck?

Cruising to a triple in three very different races at Phillip Island, Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) heads to Indonesia as Championship leader with a perfect 62 points. Happy memories in Indonesia for the #1, who clinched the title there last year in Race 2. However, this year’s different – a new slot on the calendar, with a new bike and – after the first round at least – an additional rival. Teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi stated that 2023 will be the “best version of Michael” after Phillip Island and hopes to continue a strong start to the year with more podiums. One would have to think that if he’s once again Bautista’s main rival, then perhaps when we get to Europe, Rinaldi will flourish. But Ducati haven’t won at Mandalika, although there’s a first time for everything.

BOUNCING BACK: Rea and Razgatlioglu struggled Down Under, Locatelli podium again?

It’s way too early to have a clear-cut answer with regards to whether or not the titanic trio of 2022 have been conquered, but one thing is certain: both Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) will be eager to make up on what was a pretty disastrous first round. For Rea, it was a wet weather P2 in Race 1 that was a highlight before an uncharacteristic P7 and P8 in Sunday’s races. In the blue corner, Razgatlioglu took a first ever wet weather podium in Race 1 and was P3 again in the Superpole Race, before being caught up in a crash at Turn 4 in Race 2 with Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK). At a circuit where he completed a hat-trick, Razgatlioglu will hope to return to form, whilst Rea is the only other winner, with a double in 2021. Perhaps Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) will have a say though, with a podium there last year and with him currently second in the title race after a stellar start in Australia. Mandalika is a bit of a Yamaha circuit after all…

CHASING PACK: the big battle rages

The fight for fourth place in Australia was box office and sitting fifth in the Championship standings, Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) enjoyed his best-ever start to a season. If his Superpole improved, perhaps he’d have a podium already? He wants to find a fix for Indonesia. Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) was one of the stand-out revelations of Phillip Island as he took a first-ever top five but can the form continue at Mandalika, where he suffered a big crash in Race 1 last year? Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) started 2023 with two full-race top six finishes and goes to Mandalika, where he’ll hope for better luck than 2022, when he picked up an injury which forced him to miss the last two rounds. They battled Rea at Phillip Island, can they all battle again and if so, can it be for the podium?

ROOKIES: plenty of potential, a new challenge – Aegerter the one to beat?

Where do we start for this one? Twice out of three races, Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) was top rookie, but somehow, he perhaps doesn’t grab the new recruit headlines? Dominique Aegerter’s (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) front row, fastest lap in the Superpole Race, tyre conservation in Race 2 and podium potential in the Superpole Race were all signs to suggest that ‘Domi’ is a force to be reckoned with. A race winner at Mandalika – a circuit the Yamaha goes well at – don’t be surprised for a strong Swiss presence at the front. His teammate Remy Gardner has MotoGP™ experience at Mandalika and will hope that a top six finish is in the realms of possibility. As for Petrucci, he’s aware of the struggles with the temperatures at a new circuit but is eager for top ten finishes. Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) knows the track and impressed throughout Phillip Island, whilst Eric Granado (PETRONAS MIE Racing HONDA Team) starts from scratch.

DOWN UNDER DISASTER: BMW need more at Mandalika

It was a concerning first round for BMW across the board – no BMW inside the top ten after Tissot Superpole and in the dry, without pace to challenge for a top ten placing. Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) took P9 in a wet Race 1 ahead of new recruit Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) in tenth, but besides that, there was little to cheer about. Gerloff’s teammate, Loris Baz, scored a single point with 15th in Race 2, whilst van der Mark was best BMW in both dry races with tenth but no points in the Superpole Race whilst he took 12th in Race 2. Mandalika should offer new hope for the German manufacturer, where Redding was able to put them in the top six.

NOTABLE STORIES: rounding off the grid, factory riders with work to do

Alex Lowes’ start to 2023 was plagued by two costly crashes in the full races in Australia, leaving with just six points from the Tissot Superpole Race. Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) will want better dry pace in Indonesia, with no top ten bagged in those conditions in Australia; he’ll aim to be on the pace from the start and improve in Superpole, after qualifying in 17th at Phillip Island. It was a tough start to 2023 for Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), who didn’t score a point and was plagued with technical issues across all races. Hafizh Syahrin (PETRONAS MIE Racing HONDA Team), whilst being Malaysian, is as close as he gets to a home round in Indonesia, whilst Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) showed potential and hopes for points at the track he made his debut at in 2021.

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