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Expert level selected | How will the 5 WorldSBK rookies fare in 2024?

Petronas MIE Honda

The 2024 WorldSBK Championship is but a couple of weeks away and amid the rising excitement among teams, riders and fans, there will be five riders no doubt feeling a fair weight of anticipation too as they prepare to make their debuts.

Perhaps the most interesting note to take away from the quintet - Sam Lowes, Tarran Mackenzie, Andrea Iannone, Nicolo Bulega and Adam Norrodin - is that these ‘n00bs’ comprise a cross-section of riders at very different stages in their career.

Coupled with the fierce competition from those who have already ‘been there, done that’ and the stage is set for a tense first appearance at Phillip Island later this month.


But how does BSN think they will get on… let’s delve in!

Sam Lowes, Marc VDS Racing, Ducati Panigale V4 R, 2024 WorldSBK, Testing, Jerez, action [Gold & Goose]

Sam Lowes

We have been waiting a long time to see Sam Lowes embark on a career in Superbike racing - and not just because he will be knocking elbows with his own twin brother, Alex.

Indeed, Lowes was on a fast-track towards WorldSBK when he clinched the WorldSSP Championship back in 2013 but would choose Moto2 as his progression thereafter. It means there has always been some curiosity as to how Sam would fare on 1000cc machinery.

While he faces another challenge by making his debut with a team also making its first tracks into WorldSBK, Marc VDS Racing is one of the most professional outfits outside of MotoGP and there is little doubt it will be up to speed with fellow independent outfits like Barni Racing, Team Go Eleven and GYTR GRT.

Better still, Lowes will have quality machinery in the Ducati Panigale V4 R, plus he will arguably fly under the radar of attention versus fellow V4-equipped newcomer, Andrea Iannone.

While there may be some comparison with Alex during the early stages, Lowes has the credentials and the machinery to challenge for top indy honours in 2024, which means podiums and maybe even a win if the chance comes knocking at a familiar venue like Jerez or Portimao.

Tarran Mackenzie

It has come two years after it perhaps should have happened but Tarran Mackenzie is finally making his full WorldSBK debut in 2024.


It seems like a long time has passed since Mackenzie swept to the BSB title in 2021 and based on his stunted trajectory since then, there is likely a big part of him that wished he’d stayed committed to Team Go Eleven after it chose to stick with Ducati machinery, rather than switch to Yamaha.

Indeed, Mackenzie has enjoyed a somewhat painful period since 2021, literally in 2022 as part of his BSB defence and then a frustrating year on the underpowered, uncompetitive Petronas MIE Honda CBR600RR in WorldSSP. His shock win in the damp at Most aside, Mackenzie endured last year but has at least been rewarded with a promotion to the Malaysian-backed, Czech-based team’s WorldSBK effort.

However, he faces a big challenge coming into 2024. He has already had a late start to pre-season testing, while early indications suggest the new Honda CBR1000RR-R package is still hamstrung by its iffy electronics package, which really hinders its otherwise solid stock-based underpinnings.

While Mackenzie is arguably the team’s strongest representative since the team started competing in WorldSBK full-time, the standard is higher than ever, so the Scot could have his work cut out.


Andrea Iannone

In some ways, it was a surprise to see Andrea Iannone land a competitive seat straight away after more than four years out of competition following his doping suspension.

While the Italian’s last credits saw him competing with interest in MotoGP, you have to wonder whether he would still be in racing in the premier class had his career not been put on a forced hiatus back in 2019.

Either way, Iannone is here and it is credit to the MotoGP race winner that he has remained committed to his training and kept a positive mind to return, so perhaps his seat with Team Go Eleven is in fact fully deserved.

Pre-season testing suggests he has blown off the cobwebs very quickly too, Iannone posting competitive times on the privateer Ducati Panigale V4 R. It remains to be seen how he will fare in race conditions, but for now, it looks as if Andrea Iannone has never been away.

Nicolo Bulega

Whereas Iannone is coming back from suspension, Sam Lowes arriving from Moto2 and Tarran Mackenzie a domestic Superbike Champion, Nicolo Bulega is the latest WorldSSP Champion to be given a shot at WorldSBK.

Better still, he is doing it on the title-winning Aruba.it Racing Ducati Panigale V4 R, a huge opening gambit for the Italian and just reward for his dominant run to last year’s intermediate crown.

A former Moto2 rider and leading light of the VR46 Academy, Bulega has nonetheless flourished under Ducati’s tutorage and looks every inch the fully-formed WorldSBK front runner after testing, the youngster setting some eye-catching times that overshadowed his title-winning team-mate.

With the likes of Andrea Locatelli and Dominique Aegerter (WorldSSP Champions in 2020, 2021 and 2022) also performing well in WorldSBK, the omens look good for Bulega - time will tell if his searing single lap pace can carry over a distance, but he already looks to be a stronger proposition than predecessor Michael Ruben Rinaldi.

Adam Norrodin

The rider with arguably the biggest challenge to make an impression in a quality field, Adam Norrodin joins Tarran Mackenzie in making the step up to WorldSBK with Petronas MIE Racing Honda.

While on paper it would seem that Norrodin is the pick of the team's Malaysian sponsors', Petronas, he nonetheless brings some decent credentials to the premier Superbike series.

A former Grand Prix racer, Norrodin enjoyed solid results at Moto3 level before making the switch to WorldSSP.

While the uncompetitive Honda package made it hard to gauge his skills entirely, Norrodin was more of a match for Mackenzie than the points' show, occasionally out-performing his more experienced team-mate.

Still, Moto3 to WorldSBK via a difficult WorldSSP season is a big transition for Norrodin and with no obvious weaknesses on this year's grid, he could face a hard time, at least initially

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