And so it begins… with the first race of the season.
There they are, rows of superbikes growling at the wind on Phillip Island.
There they are, the riders in their colors getting ready to take on the season, to battle for first place, to gather together the points and challenge for the crown of champion.
There is no mistaking that nervous electricity at the start of the race, each race. How I have missed it, through the winter and the dreaded break. My fingers stumble and my tweets falter while I try to keep up with the riders as they take the corners, changing places again and again. I am out of practice. This winter has seemed longer than usual.
I am torn between the desire to savour every moment of the races and the need to tweet every little bit of it, every overtake, every tumble, every corner. The desire to savour the first race of the season wins. I just have this one race for now. There are still three weeks to go before the 2015 racing season starts in all its glory.
And so it is that I dust off 2014 and ready myself for the inevitable madness of 2015.
There is a lot that has changed – it’s not just the colors, the paint jobs, the decals, the rules and the technology. There has been a complete shuffle within the teams themselves – some new faces, some old, all raring to go this season.
Team Aprilia or the Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils aboard its stunning RSV4 will they be making their presence felt substantially in MotoGP. But there is no way that they will back down from a good old-fashioned SBK battle. Their contenders for the crown this time are the Briton Leon Haslam and the Spaniard Jordi Torres.
Giving them a fight for the crown at the Kawasaki Racing Team is the 2013 world champ Tom Sykes partnering with Ulsterman Jonathan Rea. It will interesting to see the dynamics of the team this season, hoping that they will be able to shrug off the ugliness from last year. In case you have been hiding under a rock all winter, former teammate Loris Baz will now be seen in MotoGP with Forward Racing.
Chaz Davies continues to rock the racing world on the Panigale, with the freshly named Aruba.it Racing-Ducati SBK Team. Yes, I know it is a mouthful, and old habits die hard. Don’t be surprised if you see me calling it plain old Ducati later this season. Teammate Davide Giugliano continues to partner him. However, Giugliano has had a bit of bad luck at the start of the season. He crashed during testing and hurt his back, with two micro-fractures of the L1 and L2 vertebrae. Three-time world champion Troy Bayliss took his place at the races on Phillip Island.
2014 world champ Sylvain Guintoli moved as well, taking a seat with Pata Honda. He shares the team with SBK’s latest rookie and the phenomenally talented Michael van der Mark. This is going to be a partnership and team to watch, this season.
Randy de Puniet will be having a busy 2015 – as he gets comfortable with the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki while balancing his other job as Suzuki MotoGP test rider. Teaming up with Puniet at SBK is 2013 BSB champion Alex Lowes.
David Salom races with Team Pedercini, while Leon Camier is riding the stunning MV Agusta and Sylvain Barrier will with the BMW Motorrad Italia SBK team.
Ready to Race?
I have always thought of the first SBK race as a shake-off-the-winter-blues and putting-the-bike-through-its-paces kind of a race. You never know what you will get. Also, it never really tells you how the season will pan out. So, it was fantastic that the races were just about brilliant! Rea kicked off his Kawasaki career with a first Tissot-Superpole that placed him at a solid position at race start. Not that it stopped the others from trying their very best to steal Rea’s first spot. Haslam and Davies gave him a tough battle, but Rea stuck it out, giving us a supremely tense final lap, before taking first place. Haslam and Davies took 2nd and 3rd place, closely followed by Torres and Michael van der Mark. Sykes took 6th place with Guintoli, battling an injury from testing at Jerez took the 7th spot. Nico Terol (Althea Racing Team Ducati), Lowes and Camier made up the rest of the top 10.
The second race was just as crazy, with a nail-biting finale and time sheets that went just about crazy. Rea was trying to wrap up a neat 2-all victory, but Haslam would have none of it. He fought the Kawa rider down to last second, finally edging Rea out by .010s right at the finish line. Davies took his 3rd spot followed by Sykes, Guintoli, Terol, de Puniet and Camier. Both van der Mark and Torres lost their chance at grabbing some points after crashing out.
Meanwhile, in Supersport world, MV Agusta set its sights on the win quite clearly, with Jules Cluzel taking the first place in Australia for the second year in a row. Giving him stiff competition was teammate Lorenzo Zanetti and CIA Landlords Insurance Honda’s Gino Rea. Former WSS world champion Kenan Sofuoglu, currently with Kawasaki Puccetti Racing had to however be content with a 6th place after he ran off the track at the start of lap 6.
On to Thailand!
And so it was that the really, supremely early race day Sunday came to an exciting close. Next stop is the new circuit in Thailand – the Chang Thai round. The Buriram circuit is 4.554 km with 12 corners. Wonder what this will bring?