New rules, new bikes, new teams, new riders and a new weekend schedule, the World Superbike championship is very different for 2016.
With races on both Saturday and Sunday, adjusting to the new format could spring a few surprises. The 2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden joins the Ten Kate Honda team and current British Superbike champion Josh Brookes brings his Milwaukee team to the world stage with stunning looking BMWs. Yamaha returns at the hands of Paul Denning’s squad, fielding Alex Lowes and Sylvain Guintoli.
The new schedule
There are a few minor changes in scheduling, but the most visible changes will be World Supersport gaining two Superpole sessions, the same as World Superbike qualifying, and the first Superbike race taking place last thing on Saturday. This change means riders get more time to rehydrate and relax between races and any crashed bikes get more time to get repaired.
Oh, and you might see champagne being drunk on the podium after both races for the first time since the championship started.
Teams and riders
Kawasaki Racing Team
Very little has changed here, with reigning world champion Jonathan Rea and former champion Tom Sykes returning on the ZX-10R. Still very green, still very fast. The only change is Rea’s bike no longer carries the number 65 as he’s wearing the number one plate this year.
The factory Ducati squad is also unchanged from last year, with 2011 World Supersport champion Chaz Davies finally getting the Panigale its first victory last year (and it’s second, third, forth and fifth), he took second place in the championship, splitting the fast Kawasakis of Rea and Sykes, and starts his third year at Ducati, a stability he has never had before in his career. Davide Giugliano also returns, and is hoping for a year where his spectacular riding style, blindly trusting electronics like a man with no fear, doesn’t cost him DNFs or injury. Will he be sidelined by injury before getting his first victory?
Honda World Superbike Team
Ten Kate have always built fast bikes, but in recent years, the old Fireblade has started showing its age. This is the last year of the old model and expectations aren’t that great, but there could be some surprises as their new rider is former MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden. The very popular American will be seeing the old bike out and will get the new bike next year. While his job is to try to bring back American audiences, there’s little doubt that he intends to fight for victories, no matter how long in the tooth the bike is. He will also be hoping to better his 2004 wild card results of 4th and 13th. 2014 World Supersport champion Michael van der Mark also returns for a second year in the team, aiming to better his three podiums from last year.
Althea BMW Racing Team
Ditching both the Aprilia and Leon Haslam, Althea have switched to BMWs and have brought on 2013 and 2015 IDM Superbike Championship winner Markus Reiterberger, a rider very familiar with the S1000RR and have kept Jordi Torres, race winner and best rookie last year.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team
2014 World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli joins Paul Denning’s squad alongside 2013 British Superbike champion Alex Lowes. Saying goodbye to a Suzuki whose electronics even Davide Giugliano would have mistrusted, the YZF-R1 returns and doesn’t look bad at all.
MV Agusta Reparto Corse
2009 British Superbike champion Leon Camier returns on the MV Agusta, once again without a teammate, in spite of talks of of Marco Melandri getting to race the beautiful-but-slow 1000 F4.
The team that won the 2015 British Superbike championship with a Yamaha have switched to World Superbike and BMW. the reigning BSB champion races alongside GP racer and Moto2 race winner Karel Abraham. Abraham’s father owns the Brno racetrack and unfair accusations of him buying his way into championships have dogged him throughout his career. The Australian Josh Brookes returns to World Superbike after spending seven years competing in the British championship, winning the title last year with 13 victories, dominating the second half of the season. Brookes is both entertaining and outspoken, but is still trying to shake a slightly dangerous reputation that started when he broke Guintoli’s leg in a mysterious sighting-lap crash in 2009.
It’s almost certain that the 2016 champion will be one of the riders listed above, but there will be 24 riders taking part, with additional riders joining in wild card slots throughout the season. Alex De Angelis, a race winner in Moto2, joins Lorenzo Savadori in the IodaRacing team, riding Aprilias. Peter Sebestyen joins Imre Toth in Team Toth for the first round, replacing Gabor Rizmeyer who is avoiding the Australian round due to his still owing hospital bills from last year. There are no Suzukis listed as racing throughout 2016.
Monza is back, safety checks permitting. If it falls through, Estoril could take its place.