18 December 2018
Led by reigning world champion Jonathan Rea, 10 riders on the 2019 WorldSBK grid have won a total of 181 races between them. Rea has a whopping 71 one of those, followed by Tom Sykes (34), Chaz Davies (29), Marco Melandri (22), Eugene Laverty (13), Leon Haslam (5), Ryuichi Kiyonari (5), Michael van der Mark (2), Alex Lowes (1) and Jordi Torres (1).
Haslam and Kiyonari return to the WorldSBK ranks in 2019 – the latter for the first time since 2009! – while the grand prix stars are Spaniard Alvaro Bautista and German Sandro Cortese. And they bring with them major firepower: Bautista was the 2006 125cc champion and went onto win 16 races in the lightweight and intermediate classes before moving into MotoGP, where he was a three-time podium finisher; while Cortese was the 2012 Moto3 champion and in 2018 clinched the world supersport title in his first attempt.
Let’s take a closer look at the proposed 2019 WorldSBK grid:
Four-time world champion Rea will remain at home with his Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK. But there’s been a change on the other side of the garage, as Haslam joins the squad. Signing a one-year deal, the British champion returns to WorldSBK for the first time in 2015 – although we have seen him every year since then during wildcard appearances.
It’s a similar story over in the Aruba.it Racing Ducati garage, with Davies remaining in the team for a sixth season as he rides the sensational new Panigale V4 R. But he will also have a new face on the other side of the garage, as Bautista joins the factory team for 2019. Davies has finished runner-up on three occasions in WorldSBK but will have his eyes on the world title. For Bautista, his pace in early testing has been impressive.
There will be no changes at the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team, as van der Mark and Lowes line up with their YZF-R1s for the third season in a row. Both riders took their first WorldSBK wins in 2018; van der Mark took the double victory around Donington Park, and Lowes followed with the race two win around Brno.
Welcoming the return of BMW as a factory support, the BMW Motarrad WorldSBK Team, run by Shaun Muir Racing, will be lining up on the grid with reigning STK1000 champion Markus Reiterberger and 2013 WorldSBK champion Sykes. Reiterberger, who dominated the STK1000 class on a BMW in 2018, has experience in WorldSBK, while Sykes boasts some of the most experience in the paddock.
Fielding a third Ducati Paniagle V4 R in 2019 will be the Barni Racing Team, which has signed Michael Ruben Rinaldi. The Italian already has one year of experience in the WorldSBK class under his belt. Joining the best independent team of 2018, who secured six podiums last season, his experience and relationship with Ducati will no doubt help to continue this into 2019.
Making the step up from the European Superstock 1000 Championship, Alessandro Delbianco will line up on the grid with the new Althea MIE Racing Team as it makes the switch to Honda in collaboration with the mighty Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) as it returns to the championship for the first time since 2002.
Still without an official team name, Althea will be collaborating with Moriwaki and HRC for 2019. British rider Leon Camier will stick with Althea and Honda after a tough season, while Japanese legend Kiyonari will ride for HRC. Camier had a strong start to 2018 with but ended in 12th overall after being plagued by injury and bike problems. Kiyonari has 53 race starts to his name, with three wins overall and experience in many national superbike championships.
Yamaha will be offering a second factory supported team in 2019, with Cortese and Melandri lining up for the GRT Yamaha WSBK Team. Cortese is keen to adapt his riding style for the new season ahead. Bringing in Melandri to join him, the veteran heads back to Yamaha for the first time since 2011 and was a WorldSBK race winner in 2018, so the duo will soon find the right direction for the team.
Sticking with the same team for 2019 will be Toprak Razgatlioglu, who heads into his second season with Kawasaki Puccetti Racing. The young Turkish star was able to secure two podiums in 2018, as he continues to get to grips with the ZX-10RR. Securing the STK1000 title in 2017, Razgatlioglu has a natural speed which he is continuing to define with the WorldSBK machine.
Last but not least, Torres has recently announced he will be making his return to the WorldSBK paddock after a brief stint in MotoGP as a replacement rider. The Spanish rider is joining Team Pedercini Racing for 2019, and will make his debut on the Kawasaki machine, debuting on the ZX-10RR.
The full WorldSBK grid begins pre-season testing again in late January, with the final shakedown at Phillip Island on February 18-19 ahead of round one and the three-race formula debut, an 18-lap world supersport race and nine national support races in superbike, supersport and supersport 300 – the start of the 2019 Aussie title