Six high-profile rookies took to the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship grid in 2023, with multiple world and domestic titles between them to create arguably one of the strongest rookie line-ups ever. Now, with 2023 in the history books, it’s time to look at how the group fared during their first full seasons in WorldSBK. From podiums to a point-less season, there were celebrations and despair in a mixed campaign for our rookies.
PETRUCCI ON THE PODIUM: difficult start, strong end
Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) was one of the highest-profile rookies to make the move to WorldSBK after a season in the USA. It was a challenging start to the Italian’s season as he struggled to make the top ten, leaving him questioning whether it was the right move. However, a breakthrough on home soil at Misano allowed ‘Petrux’ to fight for the podium even if results didn’t come that weekend. They soon did though, with third at Donington Park followed by a double podium at the Autodrom Most. The #9 finished the season seventh in the standings, the top rookie in 2023.
MAKING HISTORY: Aegerter secures Switzerland’s first podiums
Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) rider spent two seasons in WorldSSP, winning the title in both 2021 and 2022, before graduating to WorldSBK with Yamaha. He narrowly missed out on a debut pole position in Australia as he threatened the top five positions immediately, before crashes and an injury disrupted his season. He ended the year strongly with a double podium at Jerez in the Tissot Superpole Race and Race 2 to just pip teammate Remy Gardner to top spot in the GRT Yamaha pecking order.
GARDNER CLOSES IN ON A ROSTRUM: a best of fourth builds nicely into 2024
Like teammate Aegerter, Gardner ended the season strongly with a whole host of top-six finishes in the final five rounds. A mid-season lull where he struggled to crack the top ten until WorldSBK hit the Autodrom Most, where two top-six finishes kickstarted a run of form that lifted him into the top ten in the Championship standings. Fourth was the #87’s best result, coming at Jerez in Race 2, as he took ninth in the standings – only one place behind his teammate.
A CHALLENGING YEAR: Baldassarri misses out on a top ten
Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) finished as runner-up to Aegerter in the 2022 WorldSSP season and followed him into WorldSBK for 2023, linking up with the GMT94 Yamaha squad who returned to WorldSBK. It proved to be a challenging year for both team and rider, with ‘Balda’ securing a best result of 12th on three occasions – on home soil at Misano and to end the season strongly at Jerez. However, the #34 is currently searching for a seat for 2024 with the team drafting in Philipp Oettl for next year.
RAY INTO THE TOP SIX: potential on show
Bradley Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) made his WorldSBK debut in 2018 but returned in 2023 for a full-time campaign with Yamaha for 2023. He secured one top-six finish this year, at Imola, as he scored 19 points in his rookie season, finishing one point and one place behind Baldassarri. The Brit missed one round through injury at the Autodrom Most, and also only competed in the European rounds, but returns for the same team next year with a full-season campaign planned.
DIFFICULTIES FOR GRANADO: injuries impact rookie season
After a one-off appearance in WorldSBK in 2020, Brazilian star Eric Granado returned in 2023 for a full season with the PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team. It was a difficult year for the Brazilian as he missed several rounds through injury, and the #51 did not score points during his first full campaign, while teammate Hafizh Syahrin did. His best result was 17th on two occasions, in Race 2 at Assen and in the Superpole Race at Most.
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