The wait is about to come to an end and fans cannot help but be excited. Just thirteen more days and Superbike will finally fire up the engines for the new season. The factory derivative bikes will pick up where they left off, in Jerez, on the track where the curtain fell on the 2016 season. The event will take place on 24 and 25 January, where we will see all the premier category top teams in action, hoping for a helping hand from the weather this time. Indeed, because the last time the manufacturers and riders had their plans complicated by the rain.
The spotlight will be on the two Kawasaki machines ridden by Rea and Sykes, with the Northern Irishman actually having gone faster than Valentino Rossi’s pole position time. The number one rider will start the new season with the predictions in his favour, but his teammate, Tom Sykes, will certainly do his best to throw a spanner in the works.
The same goes for Chaz Davies, unbeatable in the second half of last season. The Ducati standard-bearer will be Johnny’s direct rival in the battle for the championship title. Alongside him will be Marco Melandri, determined and charged with enthusiasm in this new red-coloured adventure, hoping that his injured meniscus will not condition his return.
Among many others, we will also see Nicky Hayden, absent from the November tests due to an injured knee that he suffered during a flat track race, forcing him to wave the white flag. This will be the American’s second year in SBK astride the Honda and he will certainly want to live up to expectations. Alongside him will be a rookie, Stefan Bradl, who decided after ten years in Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing to make the switch to the factory derivatives.
Those seeking redemption include Yamaha, who confirmed Alex Lowes, bringing him alongside the flying Dutchman, Michael van der Mark. There will be no lack of returning riders as well, such as Eugene Laverty astride the Milwaukee Aprilia. There is no doubt that the three days in Spain last November penalised the Brit and his teammate, Lorenzo Savadori, who can no longer afford to waste any more time.
Less than two weeks and it will finally be the stopwatch speaking on Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 January in Jerez, with Superbikes starting a week ahead of the MotoGP tests in Malaysia. In addition to the Spanish tests, the factory derivatives will also be busy in Portimão on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 January. Then comes Australia, Monday 20 and Tuesday 21 February before the official start of the new season on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 February.