After another dominant year from Jonathan Rea to claim his second world title in succession a lot of things have been shaken up in the WSBK paddock this includes a change of rules as I discussed in an earlier article: (https://tractioncontrolblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/wsbk-rule-changes/)
This preview will cover the main contenders and their teams in 2017 :
Kawasaki race team:
The KRT has been the dominant force in WSBK for the past few seasons starting with Tom Sykes in 2013 and continuing on now with Johnny Rea. The team has won 3 out of the last 4 rider world championships and winning the last 2 years constructor championships, What made last years title even more impressive was the fact the team was developing the brand new ZX 10-r throughout the year a worrying thought for potential challengers this coming season.
Kawasaki have kept the same rider line up from last season and when you look at results why wouldn’t they between their two riders in 2016 they collected 14 wins out of a possible 26 and when they weren’t winning both riders would usually finish on the podium.
2016 season stats: Poles: 2 Races: 26 Podiums: 23 Wins: 9 Championship Position: 1
2016 Season Stats: Poles: 8 Races:26 Podiums:20 Wins: 5 Championship Position: 2
The Ducati WSBK team returned as a true force in the championship with the introduction of the Panigale bringing them up to match the Kawasaki. The 2015 and 2016 seasons brought them closest to a rider world championship since Carlos Checa won them the title in 2011, At the end of 2016 Chaz Davies and Ducati found something that allowed them to match and beat the Kawasaki’s unfortunately due to Jonathan Rea’s dominance and non finishes for Davies at the start of the year the points gap was too much to overcome.
Ducati have retained the services of Chaz Davies for a further 2 years the Welsh man has had a breakout 2 seasons with the Italian manufacturer . Joining him in the Ducati team after a year away from racing and making his return to the WSBK paddock is Marco Melandri , Melandri last raced in the WSBK in 2014 with the Aprillia team before returning to the Moto GP gird in 2015.
2016 season stats: Poles: 2 Races: 26 Podiums: 17 Wins: 11 Championship Position: 3
2014 Season Stats: Poles: 0 races: 24 Podiums: 11 Wins: 6 Championship Position: 4
Ten Kate Honda Racing:
The Ten Kate racing team have been the also rans in the WSBK championship for far too long out of not fault of their own, While the team is arguably one of the best in the paddock the machinery they have to work with has not been up to par for them to compete with the brand new machines of the Kawasaki, Ducati and Yamaha . The 2016 season saw them sign ex Moto GP world champion Nicky Hayden he came in with the promise that Honda would deliver a brand new machine for the team and in 2017 they will get just that with the new Fireblade SP2.
Honda have retained the services of Nicky Hayden for 2017 in his first season he showed flashes of what fans can expect from him winning a race and finishing on the podium unfortunately he was let down by machinery to often and will be hoping the new bike in 2017 will help out. The team lost Michael Van Der mark to the factory Yamaha team but have brought in a more than capable replacement, That replacement is ex Moto GP rider and former Moto 2 world champion Stefan Bradl at 26 the German is still very much in the prime of his career and will be right at the front given time to adjust to the WSBK championship.
2016 season stats: Poles: 0 Races: 26 Podiums: 4 Wins: 1 Championship Position: 5
Stefan Bradl :
(Moto GP) 2016 Season Stats: Poles: 0 Races : 17 Podiums: 0 Wins: 0 Championship Position: 16
The Crescent Yamaha squad is the factory representation in the WSBK championship set up last season after Yamaha decided to return with the brand new R1. The team had a less than successful season in 2016 the team suffering from rider injuries and bike malfunctions leading to far too many DNFs. 2017 will see the team have a full year with the R1 and a full season of data and development that will hopefully limit the amount of retirements and help the team compete for a title.
Alex Lowes remains with the team in 2017 the former British Superbike champion has shown glimpses of the talent that got him a ride in the first place but crashed far too often when in decent point scoring positions last year he impressed when he deputised for an injured Bradley Smith in the Moto GP championship. As I mentioned earlier Michael van Der Mark makes the jump from Honda to Yamaha in 2017 hoping that a change of scenery can move him from potential star to a bonafide star of the championship.
2016 season stats: Poles: 0 Races: 24 Podiums: 0 Wins: 0 Championship Position: 12
Michael Van Der Mark:
2016 season stats: Poles: 1 Races: 26 Podiums: 6 Wins: 0 Championship Position: 4
MV Augusta have had bumpy ride as of late with uncertainty over the entire companies future at some points during the last season, Thankfully they seem to have found some stability and are now looking forward to 2017. 2016 was riddled with reliability issues but throughout all of those the team showed signs of pace and potential.
The team have kept the services of Leon Camier for 2017 the ex British Superbike champion has had an up and down WSBK career but seems to have found a real home with the Italian Manufacturer, Along with the team Leon showed glimpses of the pace that everyone knows he has but whether down to reliability or crashing he failed to finish in a lot of races he will be hoping this improves drastically in 2017.
2016 season stats: Poles: 0 Races: 25 Podiums: 0 Wins: 0 Championship Position: 8
The SMR squad suffered an awful 2016 season after joining the championship as the reigning British Superbike champions things were looking good for them and rider Josh Brookes to make a statement in the paddock, Unfortunately do to Yamaha choosing the Crescent squad to be the factory Yamaha team SMR was forced to switch to BMW machinery and never seemed to click with them both riders Josh Brookes and Karel Abraham struggled and team limped to the end of the season. 2017 sees the team become the factory team of the Aprilia factory with backing from the manufacturer the team will be looking to improve on 2016 and show the true potential that the team has to be a permanent fixture and contender in the WSBK championship.
Both last seasons riders have moved on Josh Brookes back to British Superbikes and Karel Abraham somehow back to Moto GP. Lorenzo Savadori joins the team after a breakout rookie season riding the Aprilia in 2016 the young Italian impressed alot of people with his riding, Also joining the team is returning WSBK star Eugene Laverty he left the championship in 2014 riding for the Aprilia team that season before making a move to Moto GP in 2015.
2016 season stats: Poles: 0 Races: 26 Podiums: 0 Wins: 0 Championship Position: 10
(Moto GP) 2016 season stats: Poles: 0 Races: 18 Podiums: 0 Wins: 0 Championship Positions: 13
Althea BMW Racing Team:
Unlike the other BMW team in 2016 the Althea squad had a solid year new to the BMW they seemed to find settings and got used to the highly technical machine quickly. They did suffer some retirements and had a major injury to their young star rider but for a team starting out the season with a brand new motorbike they did not disappoint and will be looking to build on that this coming season.
Markus Reiterberger remains with the team for 2017 the young German missed the majority of the 2016 due to a major injury caused by an accident at the Misano round of the season. He showed great form before the injury running in the top 5 consistently out performing his more experienced team mate on many occasions. Jordi Torres also remains with the team again he showed well after joining the team after a year on an Aprilia the Spaniard adapted well and was fighting in the top 5 for the majority of the season.
2016 season stats: Poles: 0 Races: 24 Podiums: 0 Wins: 0 Championship position: 16
2016 season stats: Poles: 0 Races: 26 Podiums: 0 Wins: 0 Championship position: 6