WORLD SUPERBIKE 2019: The Story so far

by Robert Jones

The 2019 World Superbike season has reached the summer break, with only a third of the season remaining for the riders and teams.

With nine rounds down and a total of twenty-five races completed, the championship picture still has a long way to go for two men in particular. 

Alvaro Bautista and Jonathan Rea have been the class of the field in 2019, with both riders enjoying extended periods of success.

Bautista takes World Superbike by storm 

The former MotoGP rider arrived to the Aruba.it Ducati team to join Welshman Chaz Davies, and his impact was felt immediately.

Bautista won the first eleven races of the year, with clean sweeps at Phillip Island, Buriram, Aragon and Assen. The 34 year-old added to those wins with a further three victories in Jerez and Misano, bringing his total to fourteen on the season.

Credit: WorldSBK.com

It was the start to life in World Superbike that no one could have envisioned and set a new benchmark for the field. The Spanish rider was in a league of his own and led the championship by a huge 61 points at one stage, before a surprising run of crashes turned his season on its head.

The first mistake came at Jerez in race two, where he crashed from the lead and then suffered the same fate in Misano. Both crashes were on the second lap of the race while leading comfortably which was all the more shocking to see.

This has sadly become a trend in the last two rounds for Bautista, as he suffered four DNF’s in six races, which included scoring zero points last time out at Laguna Seca. The dramatic collapse to his championship has seen a 142 point swing in favor of Rea, who now leads by 81 points. 

Consistency pays off for Rea

It would have been a huge shook to Rea, as he was being beaten race after race by the Spaniard, but he never lost hope and took ten consecutive second places at the beginning of the season to stay in contention.

Although the gap was building between the two, the determination to get those results and rack-up the points is crucially what has put Rea in this position.

Credit: WorldSBK.com

The four-time champion has been in stellar form since Misano, as he has capitalised on Bautista’s errors by winning seven out of the last nine races. While Rea is looking in a comfortable position, the Northern Irishman has not been without incident himself this year.

Race one in Jerez saw an unusual mistake in judgment as he hit the side of Alex Lowes on the final lap, causing his fellow Brit to fall and subsequently took a penalty for the collision.

Rea also had a crash in the Superpole race at Misano, but remounted to finish fifth and score important points along with clinching victory in the two feature races.

So while its not been a perfect season by any stretch for Rea, his damage limitation in those moments has been considerably better than Bautista. 

Rea has nine wins on the year, and in a season which has been a struggle at various points, it very well looks like a fifth championship crown is beckoning for the Kawasaki rider.

One-time winners in Michael Van Der Mark and Chaz Davies

While the top two in the championship have been utterly dominating so far, there have been some brilliant performances by other riders starting with Van Der Mark. The Dutch rider has had a difficult season, as injuries to begin the season and currently have limited the potential shown.

However, Van Der Mark once again proved at Jerez that he has all the talent needed to be a champion in World Superbike, as he took a supreme victory in race two and was the first rider to beat Bautista or Rea this season.

Just as Van Der Mark was hitting top form, the 26 year-old suffered a huge highside at Misano in the first practice session, which ruled him out for the remainder of the weekend.

Without the bad luck, a challenge for victory in Italy and the following round at Donington Park where he took his first ever wins in 2018 would surely have been possible.

The Pata Yamaha rider will hope to recover over the summer break and build a strong platform going into next season, with the championship resuming at Portimao in Portugal.

Credit: WorldSBK.com

For Davies, it has been a strange season for the Ducati rider who has struggled to get comfortable with the new V4 Panigale.

Davies showed signs of being back to his best at Aragon and Imola, but inconsistencies in between have resulted in him being only seventh in the championship.

Going into round nine in the US, Davies had only produced three podiums with a second place in the Superpole race at Imola, and two third places at Aragon.

Davies has always been strong at certain circuits, and this is the case at Laguna Seca where the Ducati rider matched his podium tally for the year, with two second places finishes and a brilliant victory in race two.

Toprak Razgatlioglu and Tom Sykes showcase their abilities 

Razgatlioglu and Sykes have been two of the shining stars in 2019, with both riders consistently challenging at the front on bikes not expected to do so.

For Turkish sensation Razgatlioglu, its been a stellar season for the 22 year-old, who has seven podiums to his name and has regularly out-performed the more experienced Leon Haslam.

With the second seat for the factory Kawasaki ride in 2020 yet to be announced, it’s fair to say Razgatlioglu has put himself in with a great chance.

Three of those rostrum finishes were second place results at Misano and two at Donington, where he pushed eventual winner Rea to the absolute limit in race two, and showed the potential that has long been touted about.

Credit: WorldSBK.com

For BMW its been a revelation of a season, with a completely new bike built for the 2019 season and the signing of Sykes, results and performances have been outstanding to say the least.

Given the lack of experience compared to other factories in the championship, they have shown huge growth with Sykes taking three podiums finishes, which could have been doubled if not for unfortunate mechanical issues.

The highlight of the year for both rider and team, would have been the home round for Sykes at Donington Park, where he took Pole Position and challenged Rea for victory in the Superpole race.

Marco Melandri announces retirement at the end of 2019

One of the big pieces of news to come out of World Superbike this year, was the recent announcement by veteran Italian rider Melandri that this would be his final year.

Melandri has struggled since his move from Ducati last season on the GRT Yamaha, and confirmed the news on the eve of round nine in America.

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