World Superbike 2022 Superpole qualifying opened at Aragon with fifteen minutes to set a deciding time. Jonathan Rea set a 1'49.301 on Friday and Loris Baz was quickest this morning.
Loris Baz set the second quickest lap of the weekend to open Saturday's action ahead of Alvaro Bautista and Jonathan Rea. Philipp Oettl headed the provisional front row.
Alvaro Bautista, back on a Ducati for 2022, topped the afternoon's session ahead of Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu with Garrett Gerloff joining them in the 1'49s. Jonathan Rea's time this morning remains Friday's quickest lap. The top riders all went out for long runs to learn the tyres.
Ilya Mykhalchyk was quickest BMW, eight hundredths quicker than Loris Baz, and Xavi Vierge was quickest Honda and the fastest overall at 325.3kmh down Aragon's long back straight.
World Superbike returns for a new season and picks up where it ended, with Jonathan Rea topping the timing sheets, dominating the session until Toprak Razgatlioglu joined him in the 1'49s, minutes from the flag. Michael Ruben Rinaldi snuck into third place at the session's end, ahead of Alex Lowes, Alex Lowes and Garrett Gerloff. Loris Baz was the quickest BMW with Ukrainian Ilya Mikhalchik, replacing the injured Michael van der Mark, making his World Superbike debut eleventh quickest, beating his teammate Scott Redding.
It is so much easier to design technical rules for a prototype class than it has ever been for production derived series. Argue all you want about that. But when you are racing the actual products that real motorcycle companies make, and however many racing modifications you allow or disbar, you have to get the scales out and make sure that you allow every potential investor in your racing business to be competitive. Then it is up to them to win or not.
So many things are controlled nowadays, in all forms of production racing, that the base model that you built has become even more important in its fundamental suitability for racing. Unlike prototype racing classes, you have to run what Mr Yamaguskawaduconda brung to a showroom near you.
We have been down the road of the bikes that are eligible in WorldSBK not mirroring real world sales trends in the past, of course. Think of the era when 750cc road bikes were going out of favour and everyone started building 1000cc or greater road-going race replicas. Paradoxically, they were road bikes first, WorldSBK race bikes only after a few argumentative seasons had brought forth new rules.
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.
The WorldSBK championship is to look a little different in 2022. Though the length will stay the same as in 2021 - 13 rounds - the order is to be reshuffled a little, with the intriguing prospect of a possible race at Istanbul Park in Turkey during the season.
The season kicks off later than usual, with Phillip Island likely to be moved to the end of the year, possibly as the season finale held after the Indonesian round at Mandalika Circuit. Racing starts at the Motorland Aragon circuit, before heading north to Assen for the Dutch round of WorldSBK, which returns to its more normal date. After a four-week break, the series reconvences in Portugal for a race at Estoril.
The WorldSBK calendar heads east to Italy after that, for a race at Misano in June, before having a month off between the UK round at Donington Park. Two weeks later, the series travels to the Czech Republic to visit Most for the second time.
Final WorldSBK championship standings after the last race of the season at Mandalika:
WorldSBK standings after the first race at Mandalika:
Much like yesterday, the rain hit the island hard. After delay after delay, the track was checked at 15:30 and the decision was pushed back until 16:00 local time. Astonishingly, after discussions with key riders, a decision was made to go racing, with a quick start twelve lap race in the rain.