With the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship approaching the halfway stage of the season, with five out of 12 rounds in the books, paddock personalities have been taking stock of the campaign so far. One of these is two-time World Champion James Toseland, who spoke at the Pirelli Emilia-Romagna Round about the season so far, Alvaro Bautista’s (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) near-perfect start to the season and several other topics.
BAUTISTA’S FORM: “hats off… not all of the Ducatis are doing this”
Reigning Champion Bautista has enjoyed an almost perfect start to his title defence, winning 14 out of the first 15 races. The Spaniard has won every race he has finished this season so far as he goes in search of a second consecutive title, with 2004 and 2007 Champion Toseland reviewing his start to the season so far and the Championship race. Bautista is 86 points clear of nearest rival Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) with seven rounds remaining.
Toseland said: “It’s a domination by Bautista, but it’s so impressive. Not all of the Ducatis are doing this kind of level or consistency and performance. You have to take your hat off to him individually but it’s not easy for everybody else. The Ducati has stepped up massively this season. It’s Bautista’s to lose. If you look at the advantage he has on that bike, it is Bautista’s to lose. He made mistakes in 2019 which we’ve all said but the experience he’s got on the Pirelli tyres now… 2019 was his first year on Pirellis, and he didn’t understand them at every corner at every circuit. Now he does. You can just see that experience is making the consistency come to the forefront.
A TURNING POINT: could Razgatlioglu close the gap at Donington?
WorldSBK heads to the iconic Donington Park circuit for Round 6 of 2023 at the start of July which has, in recent seasons, been a difficult circuit for Ducati while Razgatlioglu has thrived there. The 2021 Champion took a hat-trick there in 2022 as well as two wins in 2021; including from 13th on the grid after he had an Ayrton Senna-like start in Race 1. Ducati have not tasted victory at Donington since 2011, so could the UK Round be a turning point in 2023?
Looking ahead to the upcoming rounds, Toseland said: “Donington especially because I think that’s Toprak’s favourite track. It has heavy braking, especially in the second part of the track. He had good results around there as well so don’t rule Toprak out at Donington Park. It’s damage limitation now on who’s going to fight for second place in the Championship even at this point in the season. He’ll have a good chance at Donington of closing the gap on the Ducati.”
“MORE DETERMINED THAN EVER”: Toseland on Rea’s motivation
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) is yet to win a race in 2023 and has only collected four podiums, finishing in second place on three occasions as his best result of the year. His last win came in Race 1 at Phillip Island in 2022 and the six-time Champion will be hoping he can end his win drought which has currently been going on since November 2022.
Speaking about Rea’s motivation, Toseland said: “I think finishing outside the top five for Jonathan Rea is actually going to add to his motivation because he wants to get back there. I think staying at #1 and being quite comfortable for him would be more difficult to keep his motivation in that situation. I think trying to get back up there and beating Bautista and Toprak… he’ll be more determined than ever.”
RAZGATLIOGLU TO BMW: Toseland shares his thoughts
The shock news ahead of the Emilia-Romagna Round was the announcement that Razgatlioglu would switch Yamaha for BMW in 2024. The 26-year-old spoke about his aiming of winning the title with the German manufacturer, as did his manager Kenan Sofuoglu, and Toseland, who won the title with Ducati in 2004 and Honda in 2007, gave his thoughts on the news.
Toseland said: “It’s going to be a challenge, that’s for sure. The BMW’s weak points seems to be on the corner entry; braking and entry. The best rider for braking and entry is Toprak Razgatlioglu. I’m sure BMW’s noticed that. Will Toprak be able to mask that issue for the bike and get good results? BMW are putting in a lot into it, a lot of development. Fingers crossed something they bolt onto the bike will work through the winter and keep Toprak at the front like we need.”
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