Brad Ray feels he is ‘moving in the right direction’ amid a high quality field as he continues to find his feet in the WorldSBK Championship, the 2022 BSB Champion optimistic he has done enough to secure a full season deal for next year full season.
The Kent rider made an ambitious switch to the world stage this year after romping to his first domestic title in 2022, Ray teaming up with privateer outfit Motoxracing Yamaha for his maiden season.
The move has not come without some compromises though with Ray only participating in nine of the season’s 12 events because Motoxracing can only commit to the European events.
It meant Ray didn’t get his campaign underway until Round 3 at Assen, putting him on the back foot in a hugely competitive WorldSBK field that counts ex-MotoGP riders Danilo Petrucci and Remy Gardner, plus WorldSSP Champion and Moto2 race winner Lorenzo Baldassarri among the contingent of fellow rookies.
It also gives him fewer opportunities to turn heads at a time when key seats for 2024 are beginning to fill.
Despite this, Ray - whose best finish so far is a run to 12th in Barcelona - told BSN in a wide-ranging interview that he is confident he will secure a full campaign deal for next season.
“I want to stay in WorldSBK next year, but I want to be on a full season deal,” he said.
“Ultimately there is no point being in WorldSBK if I am not in the full championship, so that is my first goal.
“Yamaha has been really good to me, so I think the plan is to hopefully stay with Yamaha and maybe stay with Motoxracing but I am honestly not sure, I can’t say too much.
“Shane [Byrne, Ray’s manager - above] will be on the case in the next few weeks to try and secure something for me, but I am hoping I have done enough to secure a ride for next year and have a full chance.
“It is so difficult to do WorldSBK for just one year - even more so doing just the European rounds - to prove yourself fully, I feel I need another year to blossom and bring the best out in me.”
Brad Ray 'grabbing WorldSBK chance with both hands'
Despite Ray’s insistence on landing a full-time ride for 2024, he says he has no regrets about committing to Motoxracing Yamaha’s nine-round schedule, saying it was imperative for him to ‘get a foot in the door’.
"100% [no regrets], I wanted to take the next step up into WorldSBK," he continues.
“I completed BSB, did what I needed to do. I want to become a WorldSBK Champion, so the only way to do that was get a foot in the door, whether it is European or full season.
“I want to try and prove myself the best I can then in future bag a good enough ride to compete for a World Championship.
“I am super happy to have had the chance with Yamaha to step into WorldSBK, so I’m grabbing it with both hands."
"WorldSBK level has stepped up, top ten a big achievement"
Discussing his season to date, Ray says he is taking things race-by-race, so while he admits his results don’t look spectacular on paper, he says the gap to the front is reducing and he feels on course to crack the top ten before long.
“From the outside looking in they don’t look like great results, but the people in the paddock know the machinery I am on, they know that I’m only doing the European rounds and the level in WorldSBK has stepped up massively, so for me to get close to the top ten in my first year is a big achievement
“We are slowly finding our feet and getting up to speed. I don’t want to be where I am position wise, but every track I go to I seem to be closing the gap to the front guys and reducing lap time.
“So we are moving in the right direction. I’d like it to be a bit quicker but we have to keep working the way we are and soon I will be tapping on the door of the top ten and top six.”
Round 7 of the 2023 WorldSBK Championship takes place this weekend at Imola in Italy, the series’ first visit to the Italian venue since 2019.