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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: That Whizz The Year That Was

The greatest WorldSBK championship fight for many years has just gone all the way to the very last day of competitive action. The new best Superbike rider in the world managed to become the most tip-top Top Cat after a season-long fight with the greatest WorldSBK rider of all time. And don’t forget another bloke in red, not blue or green. He also won more than a fistful of races.

Five of the top six riders also won at least one race, on four of the five competing manufacturer’s flagship products. All five manufacturers took multiple podiums.

When you see the final WorldSBK outcome written down like that then obviously 2021 will be regarded as a classic.

The past season will be remembered for many things, but primarily for Razgatlioglu vs Rea. It was, as even the most cursory glance under the roller-shutter pit garage doors proved, much more than just enthralling man-to-man combat.

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2022 Jerez Test Preview - A Lot Of Work Awaits In Andalusia

It is a slightly different run up to the start of winter testing for the 2022 season. For the past few decades, testing for the following season began a couple of days after the end of the current season, riders taking to the track on the Tuesday at Valencia after the final race. Dorna, the FIM, and IRTA had already decided to make a change before Covid-19 struck in 2020, but the global pandemic meant there was no testing at all at the end of last year.

So this year is the start of the new normal. The season ends at Valencia, everyone gets a few days off, and then the paddock heads south to Jerez for two days of testing. It's better all round for everyone: rider get a few days to recover from the final race weekend, teams get a chance to catch their breath again, and prepare for their new riders/bikes, and the factories have time to prepare the new bikes and parts to be tested ahead of the test.

Jerez is also a much better test track than Valencia. It has a bit of almost everything: slow corners, fast corners, hard acceleration in low gears, hard acceleration in high gears, etc. All that is missing is a very high speed back straight, but the Sepang test in February should soon put that right.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Choice Cuts

Now that we are nearly at the end of the 2021 WorldSBK season, but still with what feels like ages to go until the deciding round in Indonesia, we have a chance to look back and forward at the same time.

We’re not looking at the enthralling final championship battle, however. No matter how much it has captured the imagination of the public. That will be decided in a while under the gaze of an increasingly appreciative bike-racing world.

Behind the headline happenings there have been another two important subplots brewing, simmering and both are worthy of a closer look before we get to see if the World Champion spends the winter on an island in the far west of Europe or as close as you can get to Europe but still technically be in Asia.

So, for a moment, pin that forthcoming campaign map up on the back wall of your mind’s personal Operations Room and think on this. We are - whisper it - watching the true start of the changing of the old guard in WorldSBK.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Rules, Damn Rules And Sparktistics

I guess it is a credit to modern motorcycle engineering that so few bikes that get looked after properly in racing break down in actual races any more. With major parts of most WorldSBK machines coming from a production line somewhere, along with the rest of the bikes destined for the street, that’s remarkable in itself. Given that they all have upper rev limits and just a little bit of something in reserve on the computer design screen simply because you have a very limited engine allowance through the racing year, overstraining even your purpose-built racing components is a risky business nowadays.

Especially as in all but a few straights, the electronics spend a lot of the time attenuating the power you already have. Most of these bikes make too much power now, so the way it makes it matters more.

The reason I mention this potential race bike breakdown thing is that as I am clattering the keyboard in a hotel in Murcia, halfway between Barcelona and Jerez, the championship lead is a mere point, with Toprak Razgatlioglu just one ahead of Jonathan Rea. But, without an unfortunate front-running breakdown, due to an electrical charging system and voltage drop problem in Race One in Catalunya, Razgatlioglu would be leading by quite a few more points. He’s running away with this championship, if only he didn’t keep losing points.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Time And Tide (Wait For No Man)

I am striking while the iron of competition is hot here. In addition, it is halfway through the season now, so time for a recap. This is a chance to indulge in a bit of fortune telling and then possibly a nightcap when the laptop lid closes on another busy workday.

It’s just a short time since the racing fates piled into the 2021 WorldSBK street fights that took place in the shadow of a heavenly Czech Castle in Bohemia and the reflection of a ‘flame-off’ from whatever satanic mill was blasting away just down the hill from the Motodrom Most.

At a characterful but sporadically outdated new WorldSBK venue, the 2021 WorldSBK championship trendometer swung to full scale deflection once again as those aforementioned racing fates jumped on Toprak Razgatlioglu’s pillion and helped him win two, and nearly three, races on his factory Yamaha. Fairly turbocharged him they did, and a treble was almost achieved.

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Raul Fernandez Confirmed To Join Tech3 KTM In MotoGP For 2022

KTM has officially confirmed that Raul Fernandez will be moving up to MotoGP in 2022, racing for the Tech3 KTM team. The Spaniard has been rewarded for a sensational rookie campaign in Moto2 with a promotion to MotoGP.

That Fernandez would move up to MotoGP was an open secret. The only question was the timing of the announcement. But KTM had to fight to keep the Spaniard, after Yamaha had attempted to poach him for the Petronas team.

With Fernandez joining current Moto2 Ajo teammate Remy Gardner in Tech3, the current line up of Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona are set to lose their places in MotoGP. Lecuona has been linked to a move back to Moto2, while Petrucci is widely tipped to move to the WorldSBK series, where he could make a return to Ducati.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: The Inside Jobs

After the first few races of the 2021 WorldSBK championship some trends have already become apparent.

One, the usual one, is that nine races/nine podium man Jonathan Rea is leading the championship by a fair margin of 20 points. That’s equivalent to a second place in a full race. Four 2021 race wins under his awning already, he became the first rider to smash through the 100 race victory barrier in WorldSBK history at the opening round.

Two, Toprak Razgatlioglu is now turning into the more rounded, consistent force his talents have always pointed towards. Maybe his factory Yamaha too? Hence it is he and not two-time race winner Scott Redding who went from 35 points behind Jonathan Rea after Estoril to 20 points behind after the long-awaited return of Misano after two years. Redding is himself a full race win of 25 points behind Razgatlioglu. So that’s 45 points - yes, numerology is clearly not just for cranks and conspiracists - of deficit to the leader for the person many thought would challenge Rea most strongly after his great 2020 ‘rookie’ season. And he still might, of course. He’s still many people’s best bet, for obvious reasons.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Carrasco’s remarkable comeback and the sad tale of grand prix racing’s female pioneer

On Sunday Ana Carrasco won a race just nine months after breaking her back. Hers is an amazing story but no more so than the shocking story of the first woman who tried to make it in motorcycle racing

Marc Márquez’s comeback from potentially career-ending injury is a work in progress, but today we can add the name Ana Carrasco to the list of superhumans – most notably Mick Doohan, Robert Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson – that overcame the most hideous odds to keep doing what they love and win again at a high level.

In 2018 Carrasco won the Supersport 300 World Championship and last September suffered serious injuries while testing her Kawasaki Ninja 400 at Estoril. She fractured two vertebrae, luckily without damage to her spine, her luck measured in mere millimetres.

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Steve English Superbike Snippets - Round 2, Estoril: Rea's Risk Averseness, A Deep Field, And Gerloff's Pitlane Penalty

Back to back rounds kicked off the WorldSBK season and after six races, Jonathan Rea has opened a commanding 35-point lead. Estoril showed that the field is competitive but that Rea and Kawasaki still have the edge thanks to their experience and consistency. Over the course of a full season he’s very hard to beat, but over a race weekend it can be a very different story. Here’s some of the biggest stories from the paddock in Portugal.

Jonathan Rea is the margin for error

I said it on commentary this weekend, Rea is your margin for error. Whatever the circumstances in WorldSBK the Northern Irishman can make the most of the situation. He doesn’t make many mistakes and he’s always ready to capitalise on those of his rivals. On Sunday it was Scott Redding’s mistake when he tried to retake the lead that Rea took advantage of.

The Kawasaki rider has claimed over 100 victories by, amazingly, being more risk averse than his rivals. It’s very rare that Team 65 go to the grid with question marks. Rea and his crew chief, Pere Riba, generally use tried and tested settings rather than looking for a magic bullet on their tough weekends.

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Steve English Superbike Snippets - Round 1, Aragon: Kawasaki's Lost Revs, Intermediates vs Slicks, Toprak's Work Ethic, And BMW Rising

The opening round of the 2021 Superbike World Championship is in the books and after three intriguing races there’s a lot to dissect ahead of this weekend’s round at Estoril.

New Kawasaki

The “new” Kawasaki ZX10-RR certainly looks different. With aerodynamic upgrades it has a very different profile, but this is very much a facelift rather than a new model. Engine upgrades were quite limited but with some new parts they had found a not insignificant 500rpm. During the winter Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes both commented that the bike was now much better as they wound on the power.

With a much fuller power curve the big advantage is found mid-range rather than in outright power. The Kawasaki doesn’t make its power at maximum revs. “We’ve been filling in the gaps of the power curve” was how Rea explained the improvements. That didn’t mean the team weren’t frustrated to lose the extra revs though.

Clearly annoyed at finding improvements and not being able to use them will always leave a team feeling exposed but in Aragon they found a way to make it work. The Kawasaki came away with podiums in all three races and leading the standings. It was a fantastic weekend for Team Green and gives them a lot to build on.

Rea’s performances will never surprise. Winning his 100th WorldSBK race on Saturday got a monkey off his back but as he was always going to win races this year, it was a question of when, not if.

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