Robin Miller: Bautista hasn’t won the WorldSBK title just yet…|
It goes without saying that everybody, without exception, was in agreement that WorldSBK 2019 needed to change. It had become predictable and dull. The arguments centred on what or how much? Evolution or revolution?
The debate has rumbled for years and look what happened. Splitting the races between Saturday and Sunday didn’t do much except make the traditional race day poorer. And handicapping the successful race teams by capping the revs didn’t stop Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki from walking it - for the fourth time.
Discussions between promoters Dorna and the factories started long before the season end and if Phillip Island is anything to go by, progress has been made. More a face-lift than a respawn, perhaps, and some of it confusing. But in spite of, or perhaps because of, Alvaro Bautista’s blitz, there is more excitement for the year ahead.
Manufacturers like Honda and BMW are starting to take it seriously with bosses from both factories in the paddock. They have plenty to do as the results show but both are promising that come Aragon in five weeks’ time, they will be on the pace.
It is also clear that Ducati mean business with the V4 Panigale. Its likeness to their MotoGP bike - and not just in looks - caused suggestions that the FIM have been too liberal with the rules. But that’s been heard before.
Kawasaki have undoubtedly been rocked by the pace of Ducati. But with Leon Haslam showing strength alongside Rea, KRT are not to be written off.
Yamaha, like Honda and BMW, will have upgrades for Aragon. Both teams, Paul Denning’s with Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark and the Italian outfit with Marco Melandri and Supersport champion Sandro Cortese, were on the pace despite tyre wear problems.
The change from two races to three was not universally welcomed by the teams but as Denning put it: “We’re in the entertainment business.” The title of race two, the 10-lap sprint on Sunday morning, was slightly confusing as it was called the Superpole race although Superpole qualifying had already taken place.
However, it did count towards world championship points - 12 instead of 25 for the winner - but not for fastest lap award or bonus money Rea wryly observed, as Bautista received that award for a slower lap in a ‘proper’ race.
The Jonahs, stunned by the pace of Bautista and the V4 Panigale, are already writing off the season as a two team battle between Kawasaki and Ducati with the Spaniard being unstoppable.
A more measured view was that history has shown that no conclusions can ever be drawn from the Australian opener as the Phillip Island track is just so different from any other. And that Bautista had raced a Ducati V4, albeit in MotoGP trim, at the track only four months ago.
But there’s no doubt that the little Spaniard and Ducati have thrown down the gauntlet and aren’t they enjoying it…