It’s provided a tantalising sub-plot to the closing stages of the 2019 WorldSBK season – just who will be riding where in 2020.
Most of the machinations have now played out, setting the scene for a cracking start to the 2020 FIM Superbike World Championship, Yamaha Finance round at Victoria’s Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit from February 28 until March 1.
Up to 10 WorldSBK winners will be on the Phillip Island grid for the three weekend races – the two traditional 22-lappers and the Sunday sprint – as well as British ace Scott Redding and young American hotshot, Garett Gerloff.
LOWES GOES FROM BLUE TO GREEN
With most of the shuffling between existing riders and teams, one of the biggest moves has been 29-year-old Alex Lowes’ decision to defect from Pata Yamaha to join five-time world champion Jonathan Rea at the all-conquering Kawasaki Racing Team.
In turn, Lowes’ seat at Yamaha has been snapped up by increasingly impressive Turk Toprak Razgatlioglu, who’s been the standout independent rider in 2019 on his Puccetti Kawasaki – his first WorldSBK race win at the French round, just reward for a stellar season.
Dutchman Michael van der Mark will remain at Yamaha, which will debut an updated YZF-R1M in 2020 with a major focus on engine improvements.
Lowes, van der Mark and Razgatlioglu finished the 2019 WorldSBK title in positions 3-5, behind Rea and Alvaro Bautista.
HONDA MEANS BUSINESS
Outside of Yamaha, Honda is the biggest talking point on the hardware front in 2020 with an announcement imminent on a completely updated CBR1000RR – and it’s signed Bautista to ride it!
Bautista was the standout in the first half of 2019 on the factory Ducati before the merciless Rea amped up the pressure and made the championship his own, and now the Spanish rider has opted for a new challenge with Honda – which is desperate to return to the front of the WorldSBK grid after a long period of mediocrity.
Kawasaki has now usurped Honda as the most successful Japanese manufacturer in the WorldSBK title – seven titles compared to six.
Bautista’s teammate in 2020 is likely to be Japanese superbike front-runner Takumi Takahashi or the experienced Leon Haslam , with long-time Honda campaigner Leon Camier making the switch to Barni Racing to ride a Ducati.
REDDING AND ABLE
Bautista’s announcement that that he was accepting the carrot from Honda opened the door for Ducati to pounce on 26-year-old Redding, who just pipped fast-finishing Aussie Josh Brookes for honours in the 2019 British superbike title and is a former MotoGP podium finisher and runner-up in the Moto2 title.
Redding, who competed in MotoGP from 2014-2018, will almost certainly hit the ground running as a WorldSBK rookie, as he’s ridden a majority of the circuits and has already developed a strong relationship with the Panigale V4R.
Meanwhile, Chaz Davies will continue at Ducati in 2020 full of confidence after an excellent finish to the 2019 season.
LAVERTY JOINS SYKES AT BMW
On the factory-backed front, BMW has also tweaked its roster with Irishman Eugene Laverty to join incumbent Tom Sykes. The all-new S 1000 RR has already taken massive strides in 2019, and the next step in the project will be scoring regular podiums and race wins in 2020.
Sykes and Rea are in exalted company – they will be the only WorldSBK champions on the 2020 grid. Sykes won the 2013 title on a Kawasaki – ironically after battles aplenty with his new teammate, Laverty.
Not since Ben Spies in 2009 has an American rider made a huge impression on the WorldSBK title – but that could all change in 2020 with impressive Texan Garrett Gerloff joining the GRT Yamaha team alongside Italian WorldSSP runner-up Federico Caricasulo.
Gerloff finished third in the 2019 MotoAmerica superbike title, scoring eight wins, and thanks to some encouragement from Spies he’s now taking his talents onto the world stage.
INDEPENDENT STAR POWER
Razgatlioglu has been the independent revelation in 2019, and news this week confirms that Spanish ace, Xavi Fores will take the Turk’s seat at Puccetti Kawasaki. In 2020 there are high hopes that Pedercini Kawasaki pair Jordi Torres and the returning Lorenzo Savadori will also be pushing hard near the front.
The future of Leon Haslam, who has been replaced at Kawasaki Racing Team by Lowes, is still a mystery but rumours abound he’ll be joining Bautista at the new Honda Racing Corporation-backed factory effort that will debut its new generation Fireblade. Haslam is no stranger to Honda having raced with Ten Kate Honda in WorldSBK in 2013 and 2014.
CLASSES AND SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
The Yamaha Finance-backed WorldSBK round at Phillip Island – the 30th time the production series will be visiting the 4.445km circuit – will also feature World Supersport racing, as well as the Australian Superbike Championship in action with the Superbike, Supersport and Supersport 300 categories.
WORLD SUPERS – THE GREAT MATES’ ESCAPE
World Superbikes is the perfect Great Mates’ Escape. It’s summer, the weather is warm, you can camp on-circuit and enjoy an easy, affordable weekend away.
The message is clear. Grab your mates, lock in February 28 – March 1 for the opening event of the 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, Yamaha Finance round, at the Island!
3-Day General Admission tickets are only $125* pre-purchases which include FREE WorldSBK Paddock access! Add 4-Nights Camping at the circuit for only $235* PLUS! Children 15 & Under are FREE with a paying adult.
For further information go to www.worldsbk.com.au or call Phillip Island’s World Superbike hotline on 1300 728 007 and get ready for a Wild Ride, Trackside.
*Plus one-off handling fee