PREVIEW: will the WorldSBK surprises continue in Barcelona, can Rea retaliate?

Europe welcomes the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship and the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is the stage for the second round of the season. Down Under for the opener, it was a topsy-turvy start to the season as favourites fumbled and outsiders proved outstanding but will the order reset amidst a backdrop of stunning scenery, Gaudi architecture and beautiful beaches? The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya often throws up a surprise and 2024 shouldn’t be any different. 

THE SURPRISES FROM ROUND 1: can they keep up their form?

As far as debuts go, it was certainly emphatic for Nicolo Bulega ( Racing – Ducati) who won his first ever WorldSBK race, a flag-to-flag at that. He was also under the existing lap recording in the Barcelona test, underlining his strength over one lap once more. However, with no other podiums and him being beaten up in the opening laps in Australia, it’s Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who leads the way to Barcelona thanks to a fine Sunday double in Australia. Leading the way and with just a single point between them, it looks like ‘Bulegas’ – on paper – should have the advantage over Lowes with the Ducati historically stronger in Barcelona than the Kawasaki, even if Lowes made race pace gains during the test. 

Then, there’s Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) who got a rostrum at the track last year and after a mega impressive opening round, he and new crew chief Tom O’Kane will be working in Barcelona together for the first time. Phillip Island was very much a rise of the ‘number two’ riders and after a strong test last week, it could be more of the same. With low grip always a factor and something he relished before, Andrea Iannone’s (Team GoEleven) thunderous start to his new WorldSBK adventure will continue at a circuit he knows well; a solid test a week ago, will ‘The Maniac’ feature once more? As for Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), a maiden BMW podium in Australia was a highlight but Race 2 engine issues were not. Competitive at the test last week and under the lap record, will BMW’s previously weakest track be kinder in 2024?


Barcelona and Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati); they’ve made history for the last two years at the track and he was even competitive in his struggling years at Honda. This year is different – his own words after the test too; he didn’t clear off into the distance Down Under and couldn’t manage his tyres as usual, two things that have gone hand-in-hand in terms of Barcelona brilliance. Six dominant wins from the last six Catalan races, Bautista – now back to almost full fitness – may still be the favourite. Someone else who ended Phillip Island strongly and is always a force in Barcelona is Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team Motocorsa Racing) as he chases a first podium with Lorenzo Mauri’s team. Sam Lowes (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team) has his second round at a circuit he’s familiar with, as Ducati’s strengths always come good in Barcelona. He was a star in the test, so watch out for #14.

TIME FOR REA-VENGE? The season starts here for #65

No points from his first three races in Yamaha, declared unfit after a huge Race 2 crash and leaving Australia downbeat: Jonathan Rea’s (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) debut in blue left him feeling exactly that and a bit bruised too. However, the six-time World Champion knows how to get stuck in and fight and after riding in Barcelona’s two-day test last week, he’s back to remind everyone of his pace. He’s won in Barcelona on two occasions before with Kawasaki whilst Yamaha have only one once in 2020. The persistent and relentless chatter problem have gone after the test last week so expect Rea to return to the fore for round two to get his season up and running. It’ll also be a first chance to see Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) back after being declared unfit in Australia; he was on pole in 2022 for Honda and was in the top four last year, a circuit where he and Xavi Vierge always feature well at. 

OTHERS IN THE TOP 10: Petrucci prowess and more

Sixth place overall in the Championship is Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) but he had a Barcelona to forget in 2023, one of his worst rounds of the season. After a podium last time out in Race 2, he’s in good form and found a soft tyre breakthrough in the test. He’s just ahead of Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), who was very impressive in round one considering he’d had no testing prior to touching down in Australia. Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) is just behind teammate Toprak in P9 and just ahead of Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) in P10, with three BMWs inside the top ten of the Championship standings for the first time ever. 

ELSEWHERE: Bassani, Gardner and Redding look for luck and a step

Axel Bassani (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) is still adapting to the inline four of the ZX-10RR and after further testing and steps forward in the test with the help of Marco Melandri, could be in the top ten battle in Barcelona – where he took a first podium in 2021. Remy Gardner’s (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) P15 overall in the standings isn’t representative of his pace, with him being taken out of Race 1 by Bassani before hitting Rea’s debris from his Race 2 crash, leaving him down field. Scott Redding (Bonovo Action BMW) has never enjoyed Barcelona on a BMW but will hope to change that this year, having won at the track three years ago. 

Philipp Oettl (GMT94 Yamaha) and Brad Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) are the final riders who come into the round with points already on the board, with Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Petronas MIE Racing Honda duo Tarran Mackenzie and Adam Norrodin searching for their first of 2024 – along with the aforementioned Rea and Lecuona.

Get your FREE Official Programme here, catch-up on Round 1 highlights here and enjoy every moment in 2024 LIVE and UNINTERRUPTED with the WorldSBK VideoPass!


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