UNANSWERED QUESTIONS: five key themes that remain unresolved after Australia

The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship kicked off in style Down Under and while the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round did answer a few questions about 2024, it also left us with a lot of unanswered ones. Rookies were rapid, there were ups and downs for riders who changed teams while some embraced their position as team leader very well. What are we still looking for answers from ahead of the next round?

WILL IANNONE BE QUICK ALL YEAR? So far, so good for ‘The Maniac’

Despite it being his first race back after four years, Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) secured a podium in Race 1 in Australia. It was a memorable comeback to race, but one key caveat is it’s a circuit he’s always gone well at in MotoGP™. The question is now whether the #29 can be fast at every circuit this year despite his lengthy absence. Testing would suggest he can be, having gone quick at Jerez and relatively fast – albeit slightly further down the order – at Portimao. He’s raced a lot of circuits on the WorldSBK calendar before even if it was a while back, so will ‘The Maniac’ be in podium contention at every round in 2024?

MORE TO COME FROM BAUTISTA? No wins at Phillip Island in 2024…

Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) came into Australia almost undefeated on the Panigale V4 R: eight wins from 12 on Ducati machinery, including five in a row from the 2022 Tissot Superpole Race, meant he was the favourite in Australia. It didn’t work out that way, however. A best of P2 in Race 2 was the highlight, with a crash in Race 1 dropping him to 15th. With no wins and only one podium at a circuit he’s been so quick at in the past, will the #1 struggle throughout 2024 as new challengers and rules come into play or was Phillip Island a one-off following a disrupted winter through injury?

RAZGATLIOGLU AND BMW: why we need to wait until later in 2024 to fully assess?

It was a strong start for Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) with BMW, taking a Tissot Superpole Race podium and fighting at the front all weekend. However, Phillip Island is often a strange weekend for various reasons, including on tyre life – where the BMW has historically been weaker than its rivals. A mandatory pit stop in Race 1 reduced this problem, as did the 10-lap Superpole Race, while the #54 had a technical issue in Race 2. The question as to whether ‘El Turco’ and the three other BMW riders can fight for a rostrum consistently will be answered when WorldSBK hits Europe in a couple of weeks.

ALEX LOWES AND KAWASAKI: genuine on-track step forward or Phillip Island factor?

One of the surprise packages in Australia was Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), with the #22 taking two wins on Sunday and leaving as the Championship leader for the first time since 2020, when he won for KRT at the same circuit. Throughout testing, the British rider was keen to reiterate that he and Kawasaki had been focusing on long-run and end-of-race pace to find gains in the closing stages, but third on the grid in the Tissot Superpole session suggests the one-lap pace is up towards the front too. Caveat: like Iannone, it’s a circuit Lowes has gone well at, with three of his four WorldSBK wins coming at the iconic venue. The potential is there for it to have been a genuine step forward, but the Phillip Island factor has to be considered.

DISASTER DOWN UNDER: don’t read too much into it for Rea

Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) started his stint with Yamaha by showing quick pace in testing, but that disappeared in Australia. Chattering issues throughout the Official Test and the round left him struggling and he departed Phillip Island without a point to his name, and he was declared unfit following his Race 2 crash. That said, he’s shown his potential on the R1 throughout testing at Jerez and Portimao, so fully expect the six-time Champion to be back towards the front when WorldSBK resumes in Europe.

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Source: WorldSBK.com

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