This weekend, the Superbike World Championship heads to Spain for the second time in 2019, and to the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto for round six of the year.
— Ten Kate Racing SBK (@TenKateSBK) May 30, 2019
There is a new arrival this weekend, as Loris Baz and Ten Kate Racing make their return to the championship after missing rounds one to five. It is perhaps ironic that Baz and Ten Kate should find themselves linking up for the remainder of the 2019 season, since Baz left Althea at the end of 2018, and Honda left Ten Kate which led to the Moriwaki Honda squad that is run by the Althea team. Baz and Ten Kate are returning this weekend with Yamaha, which is a difficult one to consider from the Ten Kate perspective, considering their long history with Honda, with whom they won ten world titles – nine in WorldSSP and one in WorldSBK. For Baz, though, the blue of Yamaha is not an unfamiliar one, having ridden a Yamaha in Britain, as well as in STK1000 in 2009. Additionally, Baz rode the ‘open’ Forward Yamaha in 2015-16, achieving a best result of fourth, in the mixed conditions of Misano back in 2015. However, for both Ten Kate and Baz this weekend will be their first competitive venture in WorldSBK with the YZF-R1, a bike which has finished on the podium with Pata Yamaha WorldSBK riders Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes, as well as GRT Yamaha WorldSBK’s Marco Melandri, so it will be interesting to see how the new setup compares with the more established Yamaha runners.
The competitiveness of WorldSBK has been questioned over recent years with the domination of Jonathan Rea and the Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK, and now with the ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati squad and Alvaro Bautista. Bautista was beaten for the first time three weeks ago in Ducati’s backyard at Imola, where Rea took victory in both of the two race which were able to be run, but nonetheless arrives in Jerez with a forty-three-point lead over the reigning World Champion.
Bautista’s history in Jerez is a good one, winning the Spanish 125cc Grand Prix there in 2006 on his way to the world title, adding podiums in the 250cc class in 2007 and 2009, in both years being beaten by the riders who would go on to win the respective championship, Jorge Lorenzo in 2007 and Hiroshi Aoyama in 2009. Ducati’s history in Jerez is also a good one. In fact, Ducati ae the most successful manufacturer at the Andalusian track, and between 2013 – when it returned to the calendar – and 2017, Ducati amassed seven podium finishes, including four wins. The signs for Bautista are good.
Arguably, they are better for Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati). Each of the four wins Ducati has taken in Jerez were claimed by Davies, including a dominant double in 2016. Additionally, Davies seemed to be back on form in Imola and, but for a bike problem in race one, could have beaten his teammate in race one as well as the Superpole race, which he finished in second place. Lying sixth in the championship, 178 points behind Bautista at the top, it is perhaps fair to say that the Welshman is out of championship contention, but if his form can carry over from Imola to Jerez, he could certainly be a spoiler in the Rea-Bautista championship tussle.
Jerez shares some similarities with Imola, the previous track on the calendar. Although it misses the stop-start chicanes of the Italian track, Jerez has a good flow, and is a track which follows the natural contours of the land. More importantly for Jonathan Rea and the factory Kawasaki team, though, is that one characteristic shared between Imola and Jerez is a lack of significance of top speed. Top speed has been Kawasaki’s overwhelming weak point compared to Ducati this season thanks to the new Panigale V4R, so the short straights of Jerez should be a benefit for Rea and the ZX-10RR. However, Rea’s strong point is had braking, something which he was able to maximise in Imola thanks to the chicanes. The critical point this weekend will be whether Rea can overcome the Ducati’s power advantage in the three hard braking zones at turns one, six and thirteen. His ability, or lack thereof, to do that this weekend could prove crucial in the 2019 WorldSBK title race.
Once again, Eugene Laverty is missing this weekend thanks to the injuries he sustained in Imola, so will once again be replaced by Tommy Bridewell at Team GoEleven. Bridewell will be hoping for a full compliment of track time before the race this time round, after heading into Superpole three weeks ago with only two laps under his belt.
Finally, after missing the last two rounds through injury, Leandro Mercado is back this weekend for the Orelac Racing VerdNatura squad.