Starting in Europe, back-to-back rounds to kick start the campaign and three new venues: 2021 is a calendar like no other
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship kicks off later than usual thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 situation around the world and also starts at a circuit the Championship traditionally visits but not to begin a season. On top of that, the season starts with MotorLand Aragon and the Circuito Estoril as back-to-back rounds, while there are three new venues listed on the provisional calendar as well as a return to Italy and the UK. All of this sets up an unpredictable season of WorldSBK action but how will the new-look calendar impact the Championship?
The Pirelli Aragon Round starts the season with MotorLand Aragon which has, in the past, been a Ducati favourite. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) claimed half the wins at Aragon last year with three out of six, while Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.It Racing – Ducati) claimed his first WorldSBK victory last year with Team GoEleven, while Scott Redding (Aruba.It Racing – Ducati) took the final two race wins. Add in Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) into the mix with seven previous Aragon wins and it’s entirely possible to have a shaken-up Championship after just one round. Just a week later and WorldSBK heads to Portugal and the Circuito Estoril, a venue that returned in 2020 with the Estoril Round and decided the Championship. Last year, the race wins were shared by Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK) with two and Davies winning in Race 2.
From there, a two-week break awaits the teams and riders before heading to the Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” as it returns to the Championship after missing out in 2020. Rea has won seven of the last 11 races at Misano and will go into the race looking to extend this record with only Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) and Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) on the grid who have won at Misano since Rea’s first win at the circuit in 2009. The next two rounds on the calendar also feature returning venues as Donington Park and TT Circuit Assen make a welcome return to the calendar. Since 2013, Sykes claimed nine consecutive victories at Donington before Rea and Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) ended his streak with Rea taking four wins and van der Mark two.
Next up will be two races at venues that have not yet hosted a WorldSBK race with the Autodrom Most and Circuito Navarra making their debuts on the calendar. The two venues will host rounds in August but with no previous races to look back on, the form book could be thrown out of the window. From there, WorldSBK heads to France and the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours where there are five riders on the current grid that have taken victory at the French circuit, with Sykes, Rea, Davies, Razgatlioglu and Redding all having won there.
A triple header on the Iberian Peninsula follows with the Catalunya Round, Spanish Round and Portuguese Round going back-to-back. Last year’s Catalunya Round featured Garrett Gerloff’s (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) breakthrough weekend as he claimed maiden podiums, while Rea and Davies both claimed victories in the Catalunya Round to date. A trip down to the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto follows a week later where four the last five races have been won by different riders: Redding, Rea, van der Mark and Bautista all claiming victories, while Sykes and Eugene Laverty (RC Squadra Corse) have also won at the Andalusian venue. WorldSBK then heads west to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve and a Rea stronghold: the six-time Champion has won 12 of the last 13 races there. With the circuit appearing late on the calendar, how much will it influence the title battle?
After Portugal, there’s another returning venue as WorldSBK ventures down to South America and the Circuito San Juan Villicum in Argentina. Having hosted five races previously, Rea has claimed four victories with Bautista the only other winner at the circuit before the Championship finale takes place at the brand-new Mandalika International Street Circuit, ensuring the title battle ends on an unpredictable note.
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