It’s not long now before the World Superbike Championship takes its annual two-month break and the most recent rounds at Donington Park and at Brno in the Czech Republic certainly had some talking points from Jonathan Rea’s record-breaking 60th win to Alex Lowes’ break through victory and the in-fighting going on at Kawasaki.
Yamaha finally make the break through
It’s been a long old slog for Yamaha since they returned to WSB in 2016 but having waited almost two and a half years for a win, they’ve subsequently taken three victories in four races with Michael van der Mark dominating at Donington Park and Alex Lowes taking the second race win at Brno.
For both riders, it was the first time they’d tasted the winner’s champagne in WSB and it was a relief for all concerned that both they and Yamaha were finally on the top step. However, now is where the hard work begins in order to prove it wasn’t a one-off.
Challenging for the race wins each and every week must now be the goal, especially as van der Mark was simply sublime at Donington and never seriously looked like being threatened. If manufacturers are serious about being world champions, they need to have a bike that can perform at all circuits and not just a select few.
As expected, Rea finally broke Cary Fogarty’s long-standing record of 59 wins with victory in the opening race at Brno making him the most successful rider – in race wins at least – in World Superbike history.
His tally now stands at 60 wins and the question now is how many can he go on to achieve? His recent form has looked extremely ominous for his rivals and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him end the season close to the 70 mark. And if he does that, he’ll almost certainly match Fogarty’s total of four world titles.
Ducati’s mixed run continues
It’s been a long time since Ducati last tasted victory – Aragon in April to be exact – and both Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri are struggling to find any sort of consistent form at present. Davies has taken just three podiums in the last eight races and Melandri faring worse with just two.
Rumour has it that Ducati have shelved development of the Panigale and, instead, are concentrating on the all-new V4 that will appear in the 2019 series. That bodes well for next season but, for now, the Welshman and Italian are up against it, especially Melandri.
With just 26 points from the last five races, his double victory at the opening round seems a very distant memory and both riders will be hoping their fortunes turn around sooner than later. The Championship needs them back in race-winning contention.
After a number of verbal spats in the past, there appeared to be a bit of harmony back in the Kawasaki garage in more recent times with Rea and Tom Sykes seemingly having developed more respect and a healthier relationship with each other.
However, that disappeared – probably for good – at Brno with the team-mates having a coming together in race two and subsequently blaming each other for the incident. It wasn’t a pretty exchange of words between the pairing and whilst it’s not uncommon for two high-profile team-mates to be involved in such incidents, it could be the beginning of the end to Sykes’ nine-year tenure at Kawasaki.
It was Sykes who did all the leg work to get the Kawasaki competitive and he deservedly took the world title in 2013 after narrowly missing out the year before and he hasn’t been out of the top three in the final standings since 2012.
However, it’s hard to see how he has a future at Kawasaki beyond 2018 not because of the Brno clash but more because he’s been second-best to Rea now for three and a half seasons. The Yorkshire rider was the number one rider when Rea arrived at the team but it was almost inevitable that they’d be given equal status and the bragging rights have firmly shifted in favour of Rea.
Rea soon got the better of Sykes upon joining the team and has simply dominated his team-mate from 2015 onwards. Sykes has taken a few wins here and there but the statistics don’t lie and at the time of going to press, Rea has taken 45 victories to Sykes’ 12 in that period, the Northern Irishman scoring 1872 points compared to 1398.
Sykes is a former World Champion so knows how to ride a bike but he’s not the rider he was, having been bettered by Rea in every area and it’s highly probable that he needs to find a new home if he’s to kick start his career and become a potential world champion once more as opposed to a number two role only.
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.