The rumour mill is gathering pace, with few done deals for next season…
The summer break often signals the start of silly season for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, with this year proving to be no exception. While at this time in 2018 several announcements had already been made by the factory teams, signings and renewals are trickling out much more slowly this year. Nearly every seat is up for grabs and names are swirling right, left and centre, leaving several questions on our minds, most notably: Who will be on the 2020 grid?
First, the dead certs. The two race winners last time around at Laguna Seca are also, coincidentally, the two men with perhaps the safest seats around the paddock. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) both signed two-year deals last summer and look all but certain to stay put for the duration of their respective contracts.
Who will sit alongside them in the KRT and Aruba.it squads is a different story. Álvaro Bautista’s (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) fairytale WorldSBK debut had most convinced that the partnership would continue through the 2020 season at the very least and discussions between the Spaniard and Ducati have been widely documented by both parties. But Bautista himself recently revealed that Honda have been pushing hard to sway him over to their own 2020 project. Could this game-changing move really happen? Until all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted…
Then there’s the question of who would fill his seat, with Scott Redding, one of the few world-class British talents yet to grace the WorldSBK scene, emerging as the pundits’ favourite. Currently tearing it up on a V4 R in the British Superbike championship, Redding has received heavy praise from Ducati Corse Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti, although don’t count out other manufacturers taking a punt on the former MotoGP™ star.
There has also been no official confirmation on who will sit on the other side of the Kawasaki garage. A handful of nagging injuries have slightly curtailed Leon Haslam’s (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) return to the series, yet the 36-year-old remains 18 points off of third in the championship standings and just put in a sterling effort to take the Japanese manufacturer to their first Suzuka 8 Hours win in over two decades.
A reported interest from KRT in MotoGP™ rider Tito Rabat was swept under the rug a few days ago as he penned a new deal with Reale Avintia Racing, while the other name widely linked with the Provec squad, fellow ZX-10RR-tamer Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing), could in fact be on his way out of Kawasaki altogether according to manager and mentor Kenan Sofuoglu, in quotes originally picked up by Speedweek.com. The WorldSSP legend admitted holding “talks with the Kawasaki and Yamaha factory teams”, with recent developments pushing his protégé towards the latter.
However, no options have been left off the table, including remaining with Puccetti Racing for another year. Team owner Manuel Puccetti has been acting as an intermediary between Razgatlioglu and Kawasaki in his bid to secure the 22-year-old’s services for a third season, several sites report.
Where would all this leave the duo of Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark? For now, all remains quiet over the Pata Yamaha front… Quite the contrary to GRT Yamaha, with several reports linking WorldSSP frontrunners Federico Caricasulo and Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) to Marco Melandri’s soon-to-be-vacant seat.
Tom Sykes’ results on the factory BMW have been rightly lauded and many expect the association to continue into the 2020 season, although no deal has been signed. His name is right near the top of a star-studded list of riders yet to be tied down for next season, including late 2019 announcements Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) and Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing), or Ten Kate Racing’s Loris Baz. All three have featured inside the top six on their privateer machines, exceeding many expectations.
Will the pieces for 2020 start falling into place soon? Stay tuned to WorldSBK.com to find out the latest announcements regarding the WorldSBK season and watch all the remaining races in 2019 LIVE and OnDemand thanks to WorldSBK VideoPass!