The curtain came down on the 2017 World Superbike Championship under the floodlights of Qatar at the weekend and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the season ended with an emphatic double victory for Jonathan Rea.
The Kawasaki Racing rider has been a dominant force in 2017, underlined by his record points tally for the season, 556, which broke Colin Edwards’ long-standing record from 2002. The first rider in WSB history to win the title three years in a row, the Ulsterman only failed to finish two races all season and of the 24 races when he did see the chequered flag, he won 16 of them and finished on the podium in the other eight.
Rule changes may close the pack in 2018 but Rea has taken his riding to new levels this season and, on current form, it’s going to take more than that to stop him. His rivals need to up their game if they’re to prevent the Ballyclare rider from making it four in a row.
It may seem unlikely, given their seemingly refusal to recognise the sport, but Rea should be a shortlisted for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year such has been his achievements not just during this year, but consistently for the last three seasons. To ride at such a high level for one season and become world champion is hard enough but to do it three years in a row should see his efforts and achievements recognised.
Technical changes outlined store for 2018
WorldSBK bosses have confirmed that new technical regulations for the 2018 season will introduce a rev limit and a new engine concession system which will see a development freeze for the most successful squads.
The old air restrictor parity system has been replaced with a rev limit which will see Kawasaki lose as much as 1500rpm off the top of their ZX-10RR motor while the less successful manufacturers such as Honda will be largely unaffected. The rev limit can be altered at various points throughout the season and applies to each individual manufacturer.
And if Kawasaki and Ducati again begun to run away with the championship, they will not be allowed to develop their engine over the course of the season while those about them will. As a secondary benefit, the private teams will get access to cost-capped engine parts to help them reach performance levels similar to the factory supported teams.
Price caps and approval process have been applied to several key frame, suspension and engine parts with the aim of ensuring access and availability to all parts for all teams along with controlled pricing.
Whilst the three leading manufacturers of this season – Kawasaki, Ducati and Yamaha – will field the same line-ups, Honda, who are expected to be closer to the front in 2018, have secured the services of Leon Camier with the Brit leaving MV Agusta. His credentials in WSB need no explaining and, on his day and with the right package, he’s more than capable of winning races whilst expected team-mate Stefan Bradl should also be in a position to have a greater presence after a difficult first year in the class.
The class needs Honda, and others, to step up and take the fight to the other manufacturers whilst Camier’s place at MV Agusta has been taken by Jordi Torres, the Spaniard having previously won a race in WSB for Aprilia. A former Moto2 Grand Prix, he’ll be hoping to at least emulate Camier’s results after two solid years on the Althea BMW.
Milwaukee Aprilia, who had an up and down year on their return to the class, will also be hoping to challenge for the wins and podiums in 2018 and although they’ve yet to announce their line up they’re expected to resign both Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori. MotoGP exile Loris Baz looks set to replace Torres and join a scaled-down, one-rider Althea BMW effort.
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.