WorldSBK burst back into life this week as a handful of teams and riders put their summer holidays on hold in favour of two days testing at MotorLand Aragon.
The test serves as a warm-up for the final four rounds of the season that will both determine who will walk away with the title trophy and arrange riders ahead of the 2024 WorldSBK season.
Looking ahead, the 2024 WorldSBK Championship line-up is destined to look rather different to today’s grid. Much of this can be attributed to Toprak Razgatlioglu, who is heading into his final races with Yamaha ahead of a high-profile switch to the ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK team next year.
His exit means there remains a big empty seat available on the Crescent Racing-run Pata Yamaha, one that is attracting a substantial amount of interest from across the international stage.
However, one rumour that sticks out is talk Jonathan Rea ‘could’ be considering a shock switch from the Kawasaki Racing fold. Though very much speculation borne from logic that Yamaha was always likely to enquire, it is nonetheless one that hasn’t been shooed away quickly with Rea seemingly considering his options as the ageing Kawasaki ZX-10RR declines in competitiveness.
If he does switch - and it remains a sizeable ‘if’ - then it would cause a major shake-up in his wake that leaves Kawasaki with arguably an even bigger pair of shoes to fill than Yamaha currently does.
Should he go then Kawasaki is supposedly looking very closely at privateer Ducati standout Axel Bassani.
The young Italian has been the revelation of WorldSBK over the last couple of seasons, punching well above his and small Motocorsa Racing team’s weight to get established among esteemed competition.
Indeed, while many would have anticipated a logic step up into the factory Aruba.it Ducati team, it appears the World Champions are more inclined to promote its protege Nicolo Bulega from WorldSSP.
That move too will leave a competitive name in Michael Ruben Rinaldi on the rider market too, with rhetoric from Ducati all-but-confirming his impending exit.
He is a consideration for Yamaha too should Rea not move, but if he does then he would find himself up against Bassani for the Kawasaki ride.
He was also mentioned in relation to Honda, but with Johann Zarco confirmed with LCR Honda for the 2024 MotoGP season, it looks likely that Iker Lecuona will remain in the HRC squad with Xavi Vierge.
Elsewhere, BMW is yet to decide whether to retain Michael van der Mark or Scott Redding alongside Razgatlioglu, though it is the former most are expecting. That means Redding - WorldSBK runner-up to Rea in 2020 - could find himself shuffled to the sister Bonovo Racing outfit alongside Garrett Gerloff for 2024, forcing Loris Baz onto the rider market.
Either Redding or Baz could factor in that Yamaha seat, or be considered by Kawasaki, who might see the benefit of welcoming back the latter a decade on from giving the Frenchman his big break in WorldSBK.
Alternatively, Kawasaki’s decision to give Adrian Huertas a test on the ZX-10RR this week was telling, the Japanese firm finally realising it needs to consider without Rea and invest in one of the riders steering its many machines in both WorldSSP and WorldSSP 300. The Spaniard was certainly impressive, lapping just +0.7secs off the pace, putting him in contention for a WorldSBK promotion to fend off a rumoured approach from Ducati to replace Bulega in the WorldSSP Aruba.it team.
If Yamaha’s swoop for Rea doesn’t work out then it has Dominique Aegerter waiting in the wings to take over from Razgatlioglu. After a solid debut season with the GRT team, the Swiss rider has penned a new deal with Yamaha, though the manufacturer carefully declined to mention which team he’ll be racing with.
Other considerations for Yamaha include Fabio di Giannantonio, though the Italian might be getting a reprieve in MotoGP following Zarco’s switch to LCR Honda, with his biggest threat for Gresini seat - Franco Morbidelli - now in line for the Pramac seat instead.
Over at GRT, Remy Gardner looks likely to keep his seat, so if Aegerter does step up to the factory team then Brad Ray is in prime position to assume his place in the Italian squad.
Elsewhere, Andrea Iannone’s name continues to be referenced, particularly among the satellite Ducati teams. Go Eleven seems the most likely destination, though both Barni Racing - which is set to retain Danilo Petrucci - and Motocorsa Racing have both intimated they could double up for 2024 to accommodate the suspended ex-MotoGP rider.
|2024 WorldSBK Rider Line-up so far [provisional as of September 2023]|
|-||Alvaro Bautista||🇪🇦||Aruba it Racing||Ducati Panigale V4 R|
|-||Nicolo Bulega||🇮🇹||Aruba it Racing||Ducati Panigale V4 R|
|-||Andrea Locatelli||🇮🇹||Pata Crescent Yamaha||Yamaha R1|
|-||Jonathan Rea, Fabio di Giannantonio, Michael Ruben Rinaldi||-||Pata Crescent Yamaha||Yamaha R1|
|-||Jonathan Rea||🇬🇧||Kawasaki Racing Team||Kawasaki ZX-10RR|
|-||Alex Lowes||🇬🇧||Kawasaki Racing Team||Kawasaki ZX-10RR|
|-||Xavi Vierge, Iker Lecuona, Michael Ruben Rinaldi, Scott Redding||HRC Honda||Honda CBR1000RR-R|
|-||HRC Honda||Honda CBR1000RR-R|
|-||Toprak Razgatlioglu||🇹🇷||ROKiT BMW||BMW M 1000 RR|
|-||Michael van der Mark, Scott Redding||ROKiT BMW||BMW M 1000 RR|
|-||Danilo Petrucci, Andrea Iannone [2x rider team?]||Barni Spark Racing||Ducati Panigale V4 R|
|-||Sam Lowes||🇬🇧||Marc VDS Racing||Ducati Panigale V4 R|
|-||Dominique Aegerter [Team TBA]||🇨🇭||GYTR GTR Yamaha||Yamaha R1|
|-||Remy Gardner, Bradley Ray, Stefano Manzi||GYTR GTR Yamaha||Yamaha R1|
|-||Philipp Oettl, Andrea Iannone||Go Eleven||Ducati Panigale V4 R|
|-||Axel Bassani||🇮🇹||Motocorsa Racing||Ducati Panigale V4 R|
|-||Garrett Gerloff||🇺🇲||Bonovo Action BMW||BMW M 1000 RR|
|-||Michael van der Mark, Scott Redding, Loris Baz||Bonovo Action BMW||BMW M 1000 RR|
|-||Lorenzo Baldassarri, Bradley Ray, Stefano Manzi||GMT94||Yamaha R1|
|-||Bradley Ray, Andrea Iannone|
|-||Hafizh Syahrin, Eric Granado, Tarran Mackenzie||Petronas MIE Racing||Honda CBR1000RR-R|
|-||Petronas MIE Racing||Honda CBR1000RR-R|
|-||TBA||Puccetti Racing||Kawasaki ZX-10RR|
|-||TBA||Orelac Racing||Kawasaki ZX-10RR|
|-||TBA||TPR by Vinales Racing||Kawasaki ZX-10RR|