WorldSBK: Back to Italy for Round Seven

Two weeks on from an action-packed sixth round of the Superbike World Championship, the series moves to Misano this weekend for the eighth round of 2019.

Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) shocked everyone by crashing his Ducati Panigale V4R in a race for the first time in race two back in Jerez, letting Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) off the proverbial hook in a weekend in which it looked certain that Bautista would greatly extend his championship advantage.

Alvaro Bautista at Jerez WSBK 2019. Image courtesy of Ducati

Instead, Rea clawed back two points over the course of the Jerez weekend. The gap between the two title rivals stands at forty-one points in Bautista’s favour. On paper, it still seems unlikely that Rea will be able to overcome his deficit, but Misano could prove a positive round for the reigning World Champion. The Adriatic circuit was the scene of Rea’s first ever WorldSBK win back in 2009. In total, Rea has six WorldSBK wins in Misano, as well as four other podium finishes, which compares to Bautista’s solitary Grand Prix victory back in 2008 in the 250cc race, a third place in the 2009 250 race and a third place in the 2012 MotoGP race. In fact, in that 2012 premier class outing, Rea was also present on the second Repsol Honda. The Northern Irishman was replacing the injured Casey Stoner, and finished eighth. So, strictly speaking, for the first time this season we go to a track where Bautista and Rea have faced each other, albeit in particular circumstances which are unrepresentative of those this weekend and were in no way fair to Rea.

This weekend presents a good opportunity for Yamaha. Their bike has traditionally gone well in Misano – who can forget Michael van der Mark’s tyre letting go on his way to victory for Pata Yamaha WorldSBK back in 2017? Additionally, van der Mark was on the rostrum last season in the second race, ahead of Marco Melandri – then on Ducati, now riding GRT Yamaha WorldSBK’s YZF-R1. Furthermore, Melandri won at Misano in 2017, adding to his double rostrums in 2014, and his third place in the first race in 2011, also on a Yamaha.

Moreover, the Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha team have already been to Misano with the R1, albeit mostly in wet conditions. This should give them a chance of a good result this weekend, and an improvement over their first outing of the year last time out in Jerez where Loris Baz went 12-9 in the two full-length races, but was unable to start the Superpole race of bike problems.

Jerez proved a strong round for Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) who took his second podium of the season – and second in two rounds – with third place in race two. The Turkish rider will need more of the same this weekend to edge closer to securing a factory Kawasaki seat for next year, as Moto2’s Xavi Vierge is rumoured to be a possible teammate for Jonathan Rea in 2020.

Michele Pirro is also in action this weekend, the Ducati stalwart riding the BARNI Panigale V4R this weekend. The Italian has featured inside the top ten in several MotoGP races at Misano in the past for the Italian factory. In 2012, Pirro was tenth in Misano on the Gresini FTR Honda CRT machine, and the year after was tenth once more for Pramac. In 2016, as a wildcard, Pirro finished seventh after qualifying on the second row of the grid, whilst in 2017 he finished fifth in the wet. Pirro’s latest MotoGP appearance was at the Italian GP in Mugello earlier this month where he finished seventh, thirteen seconds off the win. Similarly, his latest WorldSBK appearance at Misano came in 2015, when he was eighth in both races. Additionally, Pirro won both races at the CIV round at Misano earlier this year, so could present a problem for some of the championship regulars.

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