While the MotoGP superstars are still fine-tuning their bike set-ups and preparations for the new season, their less celebrated counterparts at the World Superbike Championship (WSBK) are now merely counting days for the start of their 2017 championship.
A final two-day pre-season test awaits them from February 20 at Phillip Island before the renowned Australian racing track hosts the opening round from February 24 to 26. The championship will then move to Chang International Circuit, Thailand on March 10 before proceeding to other world class circuits around the world and ending at Losail International Circuit, Qatar in early November.
Although never getting the same prominence as their ‘richer’ cousins in MotoGP in terms of media coverage and publicity, WSBK – to many hard core bikers and die hard motorcycle followers – is THE true motorcycling series as riders compete on production-based bikes and tested purely on their riding skills and technical brilliance.
MotoGP competes on prototype machines; giving the teams with the biggest racing budget an overwhelming advantage over their rivals – similar to the unique situation that makes Formula 1 very predictable and effectively, boring.
Hence, to a unique group of motor racing fans, WSBK is rated higher than MotoGP; and they come in droves to racing tracks to see the real battle in two-wheel sports. And, come February 24, fans can expect what could perhaps be the best season in WSBK in many years.
One would be the introduction of a reverse grid for the top three rows for Race 2 at every race weekend. Yes, unlike MotoGP, WSBK offers double the excitement with two races for the premier class every race weekend; giving the opportunity for riders to make up for any unfortunate incidents that they encountered in Race 1 on Saturday.
The ‘reverse grid’ format for the first three rows for Race 2 will see the first and third row swapping places. That would undoubtedly set the stage for an exciting start to Race 2 as the top riders fighting for places at the start of Race 2, and perhaps even set an exciting finish to the season with more riders having the opportunity to win races.
On the other hand, it may also see some teams adopting bold strategies of ‘sacrificing’ fight for third place and opting to finish fourth place for Race 1 so that he will be the pole-sitter for the second race. Right or wrong, it would definitely be an interesting element for the new season and something that fans can look forward to.
The other big element that will be providing a massive impact to the new season will, naturally, be the presence of top quality riders for 2017. For one, the return of Italian Marco Melandri to the WSBK Paddock will without doubt bring added interest, being his stature as a proven winner in all classes.
Germany’s Stefan Bradl – Moto2 champion in 2011 and competing in MotoGP since 2012, is ready to show off his skills in WSBK on aboard a Honda CBR1000RR.
Partnering former MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden for Red Bull Honda, the American-German partnership can pose a stiff challenge to the celebrated British riders.
Declaring that the differences between World Superbikes and MotoGP are ‘not that big’, Bradl is ready to make an immediate impact on the world series especially after securing positive results in testing.
Since stepping away from the factory Aprilia MotoGP squad, Bradl had been quickly adapting to the Honda Fireblade CBR1000RR; declaring that his period of adapting to the Honda machine has been a ‘pleasant surprise’.
Whether the German will be strong and quick enough to spoil the ‘Battle of Britain’ of defending champion Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies will be something that fans worldwide will eagerly await.