Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Calendar Grills

Gordon Ritchie has covered World Superbikes for over a quarter of a century, and is widely regarded as the world's leading journalist on the series. MotoMatters.com is delighted to be hosting a monthly blog by Ritchie. The full blog will be available each month for MotoMatters.com subscribers. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.

As one more championship in WorldSBK has now run its enormously unexpected final course, the off-season gives us time for both reflection and plotting a path forward.

OK, that’s the reflection over, what about 2020 and beyond?

The WorldSBK series does not quite restart its new season preparations just two days after the old season, as it does in MotoGP. In those terms it took a bit over two weeks to get WorldSBK bedded in again, but most teams are already getting into 2020 mode after two days of tests at Motorland Aragon.

Being set high in the hills (the vast forests of nearby wind turbines are not there by accident) and this being November, the weather at Motorland was a tad blustery and chilly, to say the least. And for half of the available track time, wet as well.

It has been a long time since Spain or Portugal were reliable bets for testing in winter sunshine, so we can only hope the significantly more southerly Jerez will give everybody two fulsome days of testing come the end of November.

Some, but only a few, seem jaded by the prospect of November testing. There is so much new stuff to look forward to, and so many shuffles of bums on seats. Not so many completely new faces so far, but the beaming countenance of BSB Champion and near-lifelong MotoGP paddock figure Scott Redding is a more then welcome addition.

Some people were surprised he was quite so fast in Aragon testing, but why would he not show up at very good pace? Given his well-known abilities, Pirelli/V4R experience from BSB and vast experience of MotoGP bikes and attendant electronics – not forgetting a cunning first private test of his 2020 bike at Valencia before he got to another regular MotoGP circuit, Motorland Aragon, with the rest – he was every inch the instant hit.

Is there one thing that can be said about the inclusion of Redding in the WorldSBK scene in 2020 that makes him anything but an asset? Well, other than he fact that he is British, no. Too many Brits in WorldSBK? Well, we should have made room for Rea, or Sykes or Davies in MotoGP and shoved some more Bautistas over to Superbike from the bigger paddock.

Over to you to persuade any of the MotoGP runners to jump the mindset fence over to the ‘other’ World Championship without resorting to cattle prods. Most of them would rather eat their own teeth, with our without ketchup, than come to WorldSBK.

Given the final WorldSBK trophy hauls of Raymond Roche, John Kocinski, Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa, Sylvain Guintoli and – nearly – the 16-times race winner Alvaro Bautista, more of them should give this solid silver WorldSBK cage a bit of a rattle if a genuine path to golden GP glory is closed off to them. And if you’re not called Marquez, you’re not coming in, it seems…

You could even head to WorldSSP to restart your career. One-time GP paddock regulars Chaz Davies, Sandro Cortese and Randy Krummenacher have all come from over there and won the Moto2 equivalent championship over here.

And speaking of WorldSSP, as we apparently now are, a big philosophical and practical change has arrived in the WorldSBK paddock for 2020. WorldSSP and even WorldSSP300 machines will all run slick tyres, same as the WorldSBK blokes, albeit in their own class-appropriate sizes. Or bigger than usual for one category…

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I am not a fan of the three race format, and would much rather see a two race format with longer stints and pit stops. With the slicks the way they are, I wonder if it would just be a fuel stop rather than a tire change unless the lap count increased dramatically. It seems even the SC0 tire lasts plenty long now.  It would be fun to see everyone with quick change axles doing TT style tire swaps in pitlane though.

Regarding the slicks and marketing, this definitely sounds like a smart move to me. At least for me, I buy probably 6 or 7 sets of slicks for my track bike to every one set of road tires for my street bike. Most street riding racing fans probably aren't influenced as much by the specific tire as by brand allegance or price. 


Thanks Gordo!
The 2020 WSBK bikes are of much interest. Quite a contrast to the "R6 Cup and a few ZX6's" we have wonderful parity on hand. Not by series handicapping, but by manu design. And what beautifully performing bikes! 215hp and an electronics suite lifted from MotoGP of not long ago. Aero.

We have had a very strong Kawasaki, Green putting all their racing resources into that basket to bring a great all around ZX-10 even further. The 1st BMW with F1 ish yet unseen electronics ushered in our new era. It was Yamaha's R1 response with a lovely manta ray of M1 tech that shaped several years of WSBK, chasing Rea in Green.

Ducati's V4 Panigale recently upped the ante. An unbelievable engine stood out in the drag race. Electronics were sorting ok, the handling iffy out of the crate and a bit tougher to set up, but WOW - this was a new level.

Kawasaki and Rea had an answer. Beautista looked human. Yamaha stepped it up. We finished 2019 with three very strong WSBK machines.

NOW Honda has brought Nicky's potential pointy end all new Fireblade, first in 12 years. It appears to be the real deal. Not the V4 they scrapped, but a significant evolution. Count that 3 bikes. Yamaha has, right on cue (and quite unlike the M1...ahem!) brought a significant HP boost to their R1 for 2020, keeping up with the competition.

BMW unveiled their new S1000 with a very mild (Superstock to Supersport?) engine tune last season, and it performed GREAT. Gorgeous chassis. Fantastic electronics. BSB goat tracks and road courses put it on display. 2020 sees the full fat engine. With a bit closer to stock spec of engine tune for bikes this yr, we will see a slight change in the drag race. Count 4 bikes now?

The underfunded but beautiful MV Agusta project may be waning. We aren't yet looking at a Suzuki return. I very much miss that 600 stature monster V4 Aprilia, still my personal favorite of the litre bike class. EBR/Buell is long gone (my 1125R is for sale btw, takers?). There isn't yet a big KTM to compete with, but can't you smell one cooking?

But of the WSBKs currently on the grid, we have 4 that look like race winners. Welcome back Honda in particular, we missed you.

And then there are the riders...

(Btw Al C, running Pirelli DOT race tires on the street w a 675R then shagging them out on track days, but no wet or super cold street riding here)

When are we going to see a supernaked series, with spec BSB style ECU's. Now THAT would be a spectacular series to watch. 

Reading this was pure deja vu... didn't we get this post from Gordon already?

Most of the time I find EWC more amusing to watch, rather than wsbk of gp.