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2024 WorldSBK Pre-Season Testing, Phillip Island | 6 very intriguing points to watch closely for

Motoxracing Yamaha

Yippee, our impatient wait is over and the start of another new season of international motorcycle racing is about to get underway… which is good, because the dogs are getting stroppy at being pitched against each other to satisfy our winter racing cravings.

Only a few days separate us from lights out for the traditional opening gambit of any racing season, the annual curtain raiser for the WorldSBK Championship at Phillip Island *claps hands in childish glee*

But before all that we can get a teaser taste to sate our appetites with two days of official pre-season testing held at the same circuit, which takes place on Monday and Tuesday. Translates that into UK time, that’s Sunday night (tonight).


If you’re a dedicated sort, then here are the local and UK times for the two days, but don’t worry, if you want to save yourself, stock up on sleep and ensure you are beautified for the main event, be assured there will be plenty of results, reports and news ready and waiting for you when you do wake up here on BSN


9.10 - 13.10 | WorldSSP Testing [UK: 22.10 (Sunday) - 2.10]

13.40 - 17.40 | WorldSBK Testing [UK: 2.40 - 6.40]


9.10 - 13.10 | WorldSBK Testing [UK 22.10 (Monday) - 2.10]

13.40 - 17.40 | WorldSSP Testing [UK: 2.40 - 6.40]

While there is much change ahead of this year’s series, the benefit of four days unofficial (but pretty quick) testing in Europe means there are a few particularly interesting points of note that we implore you to keep an eye on beyond the anticipated debuts of Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu at Yamaha and BMW respectively, not to mention Sam Lowes’ WorldSBK debut and Andrea Iannone’s big racing comeback.

Colour us excited!


Not pictured: The parachute Toprak Razgatlioglu might need to rely on with his BMW...

Toprak Razgatlioglu smashing top speed records on BMW

As if they weren’t going to be already, somehow Toprak Razgatlioglu is going to have even more eyes on him during these two days as he steps out officially for his competitive debut in BMW colours.

The move drew some questionable faces when it was announced mid-way through 2023, but Razgatlioglu is nothing if not diligent and he has been working like a trouper trying to get the M 1000 RR to his liking - which with his unique riding style, is no mean feat!

If we were body language experts (which in fairness is tricky when he’s doing something gymnastic or in the middle of a handstand) then we suspect Razgatlioglu knows he is onto something special since his smile hasn’t disappeared from day one, despite his being a bike that hasn’t exactly elicited the same response from new stablemate Scott Redding in two years.


He was quick in testing and while proof and pudding won’t be devoured until racing gets underway, one very notable point of interest did emerge from the four days - Razgatlioglu’s searing top speed readings.

Indeed, after a year spent watching the Ducati stream by and out of braking zone range on more occasions than he would like to count in 2023, Razgatlioglu finally has a rapid machine in his grip. 

The M 1000 RR has always been fast in a straight-line, but the work done on the corner exit (an area where it struggled previously) coupled with his late braking style meant Razgatlioglu exerted a bigger margin for error over the opposition at Portimao than Bautista and Ducati ever did.

Speed reading kits during unofficial test sessions are notoriously fickle, but he was never below 315kph (something few could even max out at) going right up to 326kph, with his team-mates not too far behind either. If Razgatlioglu can ensure his legendary skill on the anchors is preserved, then it’s a combination that will be extraordinarily difficult to beat at the more modern ‘long straight, hard-braking’ circuits in 2024.

No more body shaming for Alvaro Bautista, please... shame the same can't be said for his Ducati

Alvaro Bautista’s baggage

Surprisingly, the biggest question mark coming into the 2024 WorldSBK season comes courtesy of the last year’s unquestionably dominant Alvaro Bautista.

Indeed, Bautista’s lacklustre pace in pre-season testing has raised a few eyebrows, though many quickly descended on the assumption the double world champion might be sandbagging a bit for effect.

However, ‘sandbag’ is an appropriate term for the Spaniard this year as he prepares to lug around a few extra kilograms of ballast to counteract his feathery personal weight, the result of WorldSBK trying to counteract at least one of the reasons as to why Bautista was able to win an eye-watering 27 races last year.

In his defence, Bautista’s light weight isn’t the only reason for his dominance - the Ducati is a seriously fast bike - but it did contribute to other benefits beyond blasting past on the straights, namely superior tyre life that allowed him to toy with his rivals for half a race before disappearing into the distance once he got bored.

As such, Bautista is carrying extra weight in 2024, a measure designed for the entire field but has ended up only seemingly affecting him, which is tough because carrying a little extra weight in your own body is subliminal, finding it tacked onto your perfectly set-up machine is something entirely different.

While Bautista has explained away his modest pace in testing as a lingering neck injury, there is a sense that he is saving face in front of WorldSBK’s own cameras so as not to get into too much trouble.

As such, when Bautista went off the party line and spoke to Crash.net recently, his true views came out and he was very outspoken against a rule he feels is deliberately aimed at him and therefore unfair.

It could be a case of getting excuses in early only to then blow the competition away anyway - something Bautista has been guilty of before - but he is a rider that relies on pushing a bike he has full confidence on, something that doesn’t seem to be the case right now, while it remains to be seen how the weight will affect the Ducati in its tyre preservation sweet spot.

At the very least, the rule change appears to have gotten inside his head, so we could see a very different Bautista - minus the perma-grin of 2023 - in Australia.

Brad Ray is the only rider in WorldSBK to have never worshipped at the Temple Phillip Island

The only true rookie at Phillip Island

He may not be a WorldSBK rookie per se, but Bradley Ray will have the distinction of being the only rider in the 23-strong field to be rolling out of the pit-lane at Phillip island for the first time in his career.

The Briton missed out on the opening two flyaways in Australia and Indonesia last year, so heads into 2024 - which will be a full campaign this time with Motoxracing Yamaha - knowing he’ll still have to build up like a n00b in Australia.

On the plus side, he will be joined by Andrea Iannone in trying the Mandalika Circuit for the first time next time out though.

We’re sure he’ll quickly get the hang of it

Anyone know Nicolo Bulega's haircare routine? Asking for a friend...

Bully, bully, Bulega

As Alvaro Bautista worries about his bike’s belt-line, his new team-mate Nicolo Bulega is having a far more exciting time trying the all-conquering Aruba.it Racing Ducati for size on the other side of the garage.

It is a bold move by Aruba.it Racing to promote its WorldSSP Champion straight into a factory WorldSBK seat, not least because he has that Spanish guy for company right there in the same team.

Both a testament to the faith Ducati has in Bulega and a true test of Aruba.it Racing’s rider development programme, Bulega has been the standout star of pre-season testing so far by bothering lap records straight out of the box.

Beyond having a superb machine underneath him, Bulega is benefitting from having a less complicated transition from V2 to V4 Ducati machinery propelling him along, while his superb single lap pace in WorldSSP would suggest his times in testing are perhaps to be expected to an extent.

As a rider who was adept at ‘doing a Stoner’ by getting the hole-shot and then disappearing into the distance in WorldSSP, Bulega clearly has form when in clear air, but has looked a little shakier in the cut and thrust of elbow-to-elbow action previously, something he will get plenty of at Phillip Island.

Maybe a win straight away in Australia is a tall ask, but the right ingredients are certainly there…

Another year, another new homologated Honda... third time lucky?

Honda money

There isn’t much obvious new material to get too excited about among this year’s field, but for those who judge change on spreadsheets then Honda is coming with a double whammy of new motorcycles at Phillip Island.

Indeed, both the Honda CBR1000RR-R and Honda CBR600RR have been given updates sufficient enough to be homologated again and both will debut in race trim in Australia.

For the bigger of the two machines, you might need to get a microscope out - or be particularly adept at spotting change among the oily bits - to figure out the changes to the WorldSBK Fireblade but Team HRC’s Xavi Vierge and Iker Lecuona (plus Tarran Mackenzie and Adam Norrodin in the sister Petronas MIE Racing squad) will have a fresh model to play around with.

Cut through the bluff though and the CBR1000RR-R SP is now onto its third iteration since its introduction in 2020, a sure sign that Honda - while committed - is struggling to find the sweet spot with the machine in a WorldSBK capacity. Given the model’s pace in stock specification and its competitiveness in the less technically-complex BSB, all eyes are on whether Honda gets its electronics package working effectively at last.

After all, the Honda has shown itself to be almost as quick as the Ducati in a straight-line, which is a good start, but struggles for stability and handling, which is not so handy. Alas, pre-season testing showed there is seemingly still rather a lot to do from Team HRC to get the Honda up to speed.

As for the CBR600RR, the latest generation marks a return to the European market for the roadgoing model after being banished for a few years until it cleaned up its (emissions) act. We had actually seen that model on track in 2023 - despite it not being available for sale in Europe - but it was woefully slow and unreliable.

As such, the new generation - which will again come under the official steer of Petronas MIE Racing - has a low bar from which to surpass so expect it to look a more competitive addition in 2024 in the hands of Kaito Toba and Khairul Idham Bin Pawi.

We've already hidden the alarm clock so you don't have to...

Phil-lip your boots with BSN

Look, it’s February and that means over here in the UK the sun won’t rise until the clock strikes 7am and even then it’ll probably be behind a gloomy, grey rain cloud so when the lights go green we won’t judge you for choosing a lazy weekend snooze over watching the action live on TV through bleary eyes.

Alas, here at BSN we would definitely get blamed for lobbing the alarm clock across the room so you can be assured that we will be present and correct both here in the UK and over Down Under to bring you all the results, all the reports and all the reaction the very moment they happen.

Now, it’s important to provide a disclaimer here. We regularly get the odd message from those not wanting a spoiler until they have gotten around to watching a delayed broadcast, but remember we are a news service providing up-to-the-minute news so…

We will try not to give all of the game away on social media (we’re not animals) but please be aware we can’t skirt everything for several hours after the main event just until you’ve had your coffee and bacon butty, so if you’re determined to get a lie-in and be surprised when you come around to watching the action, we implore you avoid the internet until you do.

Just make sure that as soon as the racing has finished you get straight back onto the internet, log onto BSN and social media afterwards to catch up on everything we have divulged in the meantime.

There, no we’ve said that, no complaints from anyone in the back!

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