Author: Gordon Ritchie|WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images
Other than a few rider exits and a very few new confirmed signings there is still a lot of silly season left in WorldSBK, even as the entire field tested at the endlessly-undulating Portimao in Portugal.
The confirmed signing of Eugene Laverty to the SMR-operated BMW Motorrad team for 2020 will result in something of a dream team of Laverty and existing rider Tom Sykes – if each can repeat their race winning capabilities from their recent WorldSBK careers, of course. Sykes has already taken podiums and the S1000RR should be the final full WorldSBK spec next year with more horsepower again.
Sykes has not quite signed on the line yet but SMR have taken up his option for 2020, with just final details to be fixed.
Aruba Ducati have got Chaz Davies already on a two-year contract but Alvaro Bautista is not going to ride for them in 2020, he confirmed at Portimao. He is down to ride the new Honda WorldSBK machine, which should debut quite soon as a roadbike.
Scott Redding has already been spoken of as the preferred option for Ducati Corse – by Ducati Corse – to replace Alvaro in WorldSBK and that is a goer.
Bautista apparently has the potential to go back to MotoGP on a KTM but it is understood that he had not actually signed a contract with anybody, at least not on at the Portimao tests. Honda and WorldSBK appears his option.
Honda in WorldSBK in 2020 may be a very different looking outfit to what it is now in any case.
One body of opinion is that it will all be a more in-house direct HRC team, run from Spain, as an offshoot of the MotoGP effort – in some way or other. Some suggest that they are already in the process of making that a reality as a more direct HRC team than this year’s Moriwaki/Althea/HRC amalgam.
An opposite rumour is that HRC will continue support for the new bike which should have a radical bore and stroke, but in a technical way only. That leaves the way open for Moriwaki and co. to continue as the main team – but there is also a possibility that there could be four Hondas, two from the new in house effort and two from the existing set-up, but in a more privateer fashion for the latter.
Takumi Takahashi, who scored well in a wet WorldSBK race for Honda this year at Misano, as a stand in for Leon Camier, could well be the 2nd rider on the Honda. Camier’s future is currently not clear, and he missed these tests as he continues his recovery from injury and surgery.
Leon Haslam is a probable to be retained in the KRT set-up, although now that Toprak Razgatlioglu is all but publicly confirmed to join Michael van der Mark in the official Pata Yamaha squad, some say he may be placed in the Puccetti set-up, but with increased support.
That second KRT seat has also now been linked to any number of available riders, even from MotoGP – as has the Puccetti ride, to be balanced.
Lowes being taken out of the official Yamaha set-up elicits controversy; as he is still third place overall in the championship, with only hyper-points scorers Rea and Bautista ahead of him.
Yamaha would like to keep him inside the overall effort, as a replacement for the retiring Marco Melandri, but such is the fluidity of the rider market in 2019 that other opportunities may present themselves. Lowes has known about his exit for some time, and has now been offered a Yamaha WorldSBK ride of some kind, but not his current one.
The GRT Yamaha team could be Lowes and Federico Caricasulo-shaped in 2020, if the Italian team decides to go with the current WorldSSP rider for the Bardahl Evan Bros Yamaha squad. If he wins the WorldSSP championship outright (he is currently 15-points behind his team-mate Randy Krummenacher) he must surely be promoted to the Italian-based GRT team, which would leave no space for the strong rookie in 2019, Sandro Cortese, who had a good Portimao test. Some say Caricasulo is not quite ready to go upstairs yet and Cortese is worth sticking with in 2020 as he will have experience of all the circuits on an SBK machine.
Krummenacher himself has been linked to some secondary WorldSBK rides if he wins WorldSSP himself.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi hopes to stay on board with the Barni Racing Ducati squad, and Jordi Torres also looks to remain inside his present Pedercini Kawasaki team for a second year.
The VerdNatura Kawasaki team just need enough sponsorship and other support to continue. There may be a new team in the shape of Brixx Ducati and Sylvain Barrier, who have been competing in BSB recently.