2018 San Juan Villicum Round Up: What We Learned In Argentina

WorldSBK's South American adventure saw the history books once again rewritten by Jonathan Rea, with the Northern Irishman claiming a tenth consecutive victory. The world champion claimed a comfortable win on Saturday, the series' first ever race in Argentina, but after a weekend of cleaning a dirty and dusty track, it was the temperature that caused problems on Sunday.

With over 43°C temperatures on the asphalt, it was as slick a surface as many riders could remember, with overnight rain also washing away any rubber that had been put down on the surface. It was easy to make a mistake, and coming from the third row of the grid Rea certainly made his fair share in the early laps. Once on clear track, however, he was imperious and comfortably the fastest man on track. He used this advantage to charge down Xavi Fores and claim a historic double that broke the long-standing record of Colin Edwards (2002) and Neil Hodgson (2003) for most consecutive victories in WorldSBK.

Digging Deep

Rea had to earn the win though. The Kawasaki rider spent Saturday night in the throes of a stomach virus, and by race day morning he was weak and tired. Spending the afternoon hydrating and trying to stay as relaxed as possible, he was likely glad of the later race start time and the extra time to be ready for action.

In Parc Ferme, the release of emotions from Rea afterwards was clear to see. He fell on the fuel tank of his ZX10-RR and for what seemed an age he sat on his bike before joining his team. It was clear how much this win meant for Rea but it was also clear how tough it had been. The champion showed his determination to break the record and stay focused on what he has consistently said is his true goal; once again breaking the season points record.

Argentina amazes

The San Juan region is famous for its wine but over the weekend it also has become famous for its race track. The San Juan Villicum circuit is set with the Andes as a backdrop and the mountain range offers a breathtaking vista on the plains of their foothills. It was a setting that reminded many paddock veterans of the Miller Motorsport Park in Utah, USA with the Colorado Mountains as a backdrop.

There was a nervous energy for many traveling to San Juan, with no one knowing exactly what to expect. The brand new facility was only finished in the lead up to the weekend and there were some teething problems, but overall it was one of the most memorable weekends of recent years in WorldSBK.

When Buriram was added to the calendar there was an incredible atmosphere and excitement ahead of the 2015 round. The crowd was huge and vocal and the Thai crowd took to Superbike in an instant. It was the same in Argentina with over 80,000 fans attending the three days. The paddock was filled with fans, over 7000, and more are expected next year when the facility is able to fully prepare for the event.

Even the most skeptical members of the paddock were swept up by San Juan. Riders raved about the track, teams spoke about modern facilities and fans were able to enjoy the action in large grandstands with plenty of big screen TVs around the 4.2km long circuit. It was a special weekend and, even though Rea once again etched his name on the history books, it was just one element of a historical weekend for the Superbike World Championship.

Rumors and innuendo

Another weekend and another week of questions about 2019 that go unanswered. The most persistent rumors continue to gain momentum, with Shaun Muir Racing continuing to be linked with a switch to BMW, although Muir has said that they are talking with other manufacturers including Aprilia to maintain their relationship. The former British Superbike title-winning squad know that after three years in the paddock now is the time to start winning and fighting for titles.

With Eugene Laverty and Tom Sykes at the top of their shopping list for next season, Muir has said that the goal is to have the fastest riders possible on his bike next year regardless of the machinery at their disposal. That might be what the team wants, but if they switch to BMW, it looks likely that the Bavarian manufacturer would look to bring Marcus Reiterberger on board. It could be a coin flip between Sykes and Laverty for the ride alongside the STK1000 champion.

Both riders have been in talks with Red Bull Honda for next year but whispers around the paddock pointed to Honda not bringing in Sykes. For the Ten Kate run squad, Xavi Fores, podium finisher in Argentina, is also a possibility. Either way, for both SMR and Red Bull Honda, they will have leading riders on their bikes next year regardless of how the dominoes fall.

For any team looking to switch to Ducati, the deadline to come to an agreement is now very close to passing. The lead times to get bikes and parts ready is getting tighter and tighter and it seems that the Aruba.it Junior squad could continue in 2019. With Michael Rinaldi looking close to being confirmed at the Barni Ducati squad, there were some names being bandied about as his replacement. Lorenzo Zanetti has been integral to the testing of the brand new V4, but with Lorenzo Savadori also on the market, Ducati could choose either for the European rounds of the 2019 season.

The ascension of the GRT Yamaha squad to the Superbike class is still not confirmed, but there were certainly more indicators that their move could be confirmed soon. Budget concerns are the continuing issue for the squad, but it seems much more likely to be confirmed in the near future. Yamaha sources confirmed that Sandro Cortese is their preferred option as one rider of two.

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Thanks David.

Interesting times for SBK. I still have not been able to find a calendar for world superbike 2019. Do Dorna want spectators to attend the races or are they only I interested in selling video passes?

I hope Tom Sykes gets a good ride for next year.

It will be tantalizing to see Leon Haslam back in Australia at Phillip island next February, he has won there before & he's in a good team next year. How would Jonathan handle being beaten in race one 2019? Not that it's likely to happen. They have both won their respective championships this year. The dynamic inside Kawasaki will be another facet to watch.

Don't even bother watching World Superbikes anymore and I reckon many other ex-fans feel the same. Having Kawasaki and Johnny Rea dominate for the last four years running, with only a handful of riders able to offer any resistance, has rendered an international level race series a dull & processional affair; a situation which no amount of rule ammendments seem able to change.

Yes, as I've heard Steve English say, it's not Kawasaki's fault that the racing has become predictable. As the only real factory effort present, they have a level of resources that outstrips their rivals and allows them to maintain supremacy out on the track. Hopefully this will change in the near future, with Ducati wanting a successful debut of their new V4 superbike and the other three of the big four Japanese factories hoping to raise the level of their new machines.

Rider talent is always a factor too. While Rea is certainly at a high point in his racing career, it makes me wonder what he's doing that the others are not. Having said that, he comes from a slightly different era of superbike racers than the rest; perhaps those lessons learned in the early years have helped keep him at the top. New recruits to SBK would help shake things up; although given how MotoGP teams overlook the WSBK paddock it would be conceivable that many young racers might perceive it as a career dead-end.

It's strange how things move in cycles sometimes; not so long ago World Superbikes was seen as the unpredictable hotbed of fierce competition, full of entertaining charcters, whilst Grand Prix was the elite level contest with rather forseeable results populated by factory prepped robots...   

Oops my mistake.

Tom Sykes to Shaun Muir racing on BMW ? 

Only a few days until the final round of WSBK & still no confirmed calendar for 2019. Meh!