Perhaps the most serious talking point of WorldSBK in 2019 is the polar opposite opinions on the series itself.
If you concur with the keyboard warriors and Twitterati, it’s bereft of interest, a foregone conclusion, a dead parrot. If the case is such, and who is to say the public is wrong, why are the manufacturers pouring barrels of money into it?
HRC is back in, Ducati has a brand new 1000cc V4 just to race, Yamaha has two works teams, Kawasaki has built another new bike to claim back just 600rpm, BMW is in with a works effort for the first time. WorldSBK is arguably better-placed now than it has ever been.
In terms of winners, you can’t look past on-the-bounce four-time winner Jonathan Rea. So dominant has he been, it will take something special to stop him.
Honda and BMW aren’t in a position, yet, to do that but the V4-Baustista-Davies triumvirate might just be, as might a four-pronged Yamaha attack which has in it no-mugs Marco Melandri and Sandro Cortese to go alongside Magic Mikey and Alex Lowes.
Yamaha and Ducati are putting in a shitload of money and effort to wrestle the world title away from KRT. Davies has had to over-ride an ageing V-twin just to stay on the podium while some electronics problems have been the main difficulty over at team blue. With a new department run by Michele Gadda now overseeing all diodes and data, it might all change for the better.
Lowes and van der Mark both won races in 2018, so the capability is evident, both riders wanted a more consistent bike over all tracks instead of challenging for wins one weekend and sixth the next. Four high-level riders will help that target to be reached
Bautista believes that initially he will only give Rea a thin time occasionally at the beginning. That, in all honesty, is bollocks. And Davies is just as capable. Fully-fit for the whole season, the Welshman has the pace for Rea and should now have the bike underneath him too.
While we are on the subject, Rea’s new team-mate and old friend Leon Haslam is to be written off at your peril. Haslam knows the bike, knows the tracks (bar Argentina) and just needs to make sure the package is right for him in terms of electronics before the lights go out Down Under.
It’s difficult to see how even something as mighty as HRC can conjure up enough turd polish for the current Fireblade in WorldSBK trim. Midori Moriwaki might have enough in her bag of tricks to give Leon Camier what he needs for some podium spots in 2019 but whether Ryuichi Kiyonari still has enough left to help is another matter.
BMW’s team, run by sparkly northerner Shaun Muir, has only tested briefly but will be out again this month before heading to PI. New bike, new team, new riders is almost a never a winning combo from the off but with the commitment coming from Germany and Guisboro, their papers should very soon be in order.
Eugene Laverty has a V4 Panigale but won’t even see it until later this month, so the Irishman is already playing catch-up but he should be in the mix come Imola or before if the Go Eleven team are up to snuff.
WorldSBK is back and on fire in 2019. This is a building year for three manufacturers, so 2020 and beyond should be vintage.