WorldSBK New Year gossip, rumour and intrigue

Picture: GeeBee Images

Although Loris Baz has been widely tipped to be the second rider at Buildbase Suzuki in the 2019 BSB season, he says he won’t sign for just anyone in order to be riding something this coming year.

The Frenchman rightly points out that he has previously been a MotoGP rider and a front-runner in WorldSBK, and at the age of 25, he isn’t in any rush to go and ride for the sake of it. He prefers to find something competitive and if he was to wait a year, then so be it.

After their summary sacking as Honda’s team of choice, Ten Kate are still aiming to be on the grid in 2019, if only for the European rounds. Lorenzo Savadori might well be riding whatever it is the Dutch squad decide to go with, as he needs a job as much as the team needs a manufacturer.

Former champion Carlos Checa and current WorldSBK rider Marco Melandri have criticised the new, three-race format set to be introduced at Phillip Island. Checa, who won with Althea Ducati, reckons it should be one race only to increase excitement, while Melandri thinks the Superpole sprint race is ‘weird and does not make sense’, especially as the one-bike rule is still in place.

Yamaha performed a world-class U-turn at the end of last year after the departure of Lucas Mahias to Kawasaki left a hole in its GRT satellite team. The plan had been to put Mahias and a kid on the two extra WorldSBK R1s and use the squad as a breeding ground.

But Mahias’ departure changed the tune and race boss Andrea Dosoli wheeled in his old mate Melandri and also new WorldSSP king Sandro Cortese instead, who are both older than ‘factory’ riders Alex Lowes and Mikey van der Mark.

Ducati sporting director Paolo Ciabatti has lofty expectations for this season, saying he wants a WorldSBK and MotoGP double, and adding that with the Panigale V4, there is no excuse to not win the production class. “The V4R is the right bike to challenge Kawasaki and Jonathan Rea,” he said, presumably with at least four fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, Ducati MotoGP team boss and first-ever WorldSBK race winner Davide Tardozzi yearns for the glory days of the series, saying it should align itself with BSB rules and be a big party again.

In order to combat the explosive 230-odd bhp V4R, Kawasaki has wheeled out new inner gubbins on the 2019 ZX-10RR. Included is a new lever system which will allow a more aggressive cam profile to boost rpm by 600 - the amount removed by the FIM results police last year.

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