The MOTUL FIM World Superbike Championship is eight rounds in 2023 and with the majority of the paddock taking a well-earned break – apart from those who have been to Silverstone or Suzuka, for example – it’s time to look at some moments that can have gone under the radar this season. 2023 really had it all, with story, shock results, HUGE surprises and some unforgettable moments.
VIERGE’S FIRST PODIUM: taking advantage of the chaos to claim P3
There are several reasons to remember Mandalika Race 2. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was in control at the front of the field, but fell back as the race progressed after he was unable to change his tires under a red flag conditions. The Italian fell behind teammate Alvaro Bautista first and then Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) as he relegated the #21 to third. The worst was to come for Rinaldi as he ran out at Turn 10, allowing Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) to pass him for P3. Vierge secured a maiden podium and Team HRC’s first – and, so far, only – of the 2023 season. Unfortunately for the Spaniard, neither he nor Honda looked set to reach those heights again this year, but they will be hoping that the summer vacation will bring a change of fortune after returning to the top ten of Most.
HOME COMFORT, HOME HERO: Bassani narrowly misses out on victory
Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) has taken a huge step forward again in 2023 as he has become a more regular frontrunner on the Independent Panigale V4 R. Sometimes racing in front of your own fans can add pressure, but the #47 looks to thrive in these conditions and took his first podium of the year at Misano. However, it was Imola where he really stole the show. He led in both feature races, with Race 2 where he came so close to victory. He battled Razgatlioglu after Bautista’s lap 1 with the #54 passing him with only a few laps to go. Unable to respond, Bassani settled for second place and, surely, his first victory is just around the corner?
FROM DESPAIR TO HAPPINESS: Petrucci bounces back from Misano difficulties
Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) endured a difficult start to his rookie campaign and, after Misano when he crashed chasing a first podium, the Italian was questioning his decision to join WorldSBK. Fast forward a month at Donington Park and everything had changed. His pace at Misano was strong but without results. In the UK, it was possible and it got results. Fourth in Race 1 was followed by fifth in the Superpole race, before impressing for a maiden podium in Race 2 as he finished third. He was just eight seconds short of victory, but his first podium opened the floodgates. He lost at Imola but took two stages at Most with a third in race 1 and second in race 2 to continue his strong form. Like Bassani, Petrucci is on the verge of a first World Superbike victory and, with it, a place in the history books.
A BETTER 2023 RESULT: Redding rejoice at Donington with fourth
In 2022, Donington Park began an incredible run for Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) and it looks like history has repeated itself. Before hitting the UK circuit, the 30-year-old had been on a run of six races outside the top ten, but that changed on home soil. He was eighth in race 1 and ninth in the Superpole race. Race 2 was the highlight, however, as he moved up the order to finish fourth – his best result of the season after repeating it at Most – and just two seconds off the podium. Since Donington, Redding has been in the top ten in eight out of nine races, including P4 at Most, after starting from the pitlane in Race 1 to switch to intermediate tyres.
A HOME PODIUM: Locatelli impresses at Imola… but it should come as no surprise
Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) is enjoying his best WorldSBK season in terms of podiums with six to his name this season, the same number he achieved in 2021 and 2022 combined. Ahead of the Giro d’Italia in Imola, ‘Loca’ had raced at home nine times and recorded a best finish of sixth, but that changed in July. Fourth in race 1, when he led, was followed by third in the Superpole race – his first step on the ground. He was then fourth again in Race 2. He led the first two races at Imola, showing he can and will fight at the front, and is currently in a tight battle with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) for third in Championship.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Oettl at Australia, Ray at Imola, Rinaldi at Misano
With the season opener in Australia, there was room for surprises and Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) delivered at Phillip Island. He was fast throughout the Official Test and turned that into fifth in Race 2. his best WorldSBK result to date. At Misano, Rinaldi enjoyed the highlight of his season as he took two podiums in Race 1 and the Superpole race, finishing behind teammate Bautista in two Ducati 1-2s. Staying in Italy but moving to Imola, Brad Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) had a breakthrough weekend as he consistently battled for the top six. Although he fell behind in Race 1 and the Superpole race, the reigning British champion remained in contention in Race 2 as he finished sixth.
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