Predicting every manufacturer’s top rider, biggest surprise and more...

With pre-season testing right around the corner, here are some predictions from heading into next month’s WorldSBK season-opener.
Andrea Iannone, Jerez WorldSBK Test, 31 October
Andrea Iannone, Jerez WorldSBK Test, 31 October

Every manufacturer’s top rider in 2024 will be?

Ducati - Alvaro Bautista

There is really no other place to start than the two-time reigning WorldSBK champion, who will again be the odds-on favourite to make it three titles in a row.

Bautista has been sensational since returning to Ducati, and following a dominant year in 2022, the former MotoGP rider was nearly untouchable for much of 2023.

A new team-mate in the form of Nicolo Bulega, who is also a Superbike rookie is unlikely to prove a consistent challenger to Bautista, while the likes of Andrea Iannone and Sam Lowes will need some time to adjust as they too are rookies in the class.

Yamaha - Jonathan Rea

Although Rea is by far the most accomplished WorldSBK rider of all-time, Andrea Locatelli has a proven track record of getting stronger every season.

At times in 2023 Locatelli matched Toprak Razgatlioglu for pace, while also leading Rea in the battle for third in the standings before eventually losing out.

Locatelli, who has three years of experience aboard the R1 could be the strongest Yamaha rider out of the gate, but Rea will be expected to overhaul the Italian and be a threat for race wins, just like Razgatlioglu was for the Pata Prometeon team. 

Kawasaki - Alex Lowes

Alex Lowes, Jerez WorldSBK Test, 31 October
Alex Lowes, Jerez WorldSBK Test, 31 October

This is a very difficult one to call, because Lowes has all the experience needed to suggest he should be Kawasaki’s top rider, however, Axel Bassani is a very talented individual.

Like Locatelli at Yamaha, Lowes, on his day was able to challenge Rea for out-right speed, and given his vast amount of experience aboard the ZX-10RR, we believe he will narrowly edge out Bassani.

That’s not to say Bassani will struggle at Kawasaki, far from it, as the former Ducati rider is someone that knows how to produce his best when it matters. 

BMW - Toprak Razgatlioglu

The biggest move to take place in 2023 was the stunning departure of Razgatlioglu from Yamaha to BMW.

The Turkish rider was sensational again in 2023, and despite missing out on the title, Razgatlioglu showed why he’s thought of so highly by his competitors.

Razgatlioglu challenged for victory in races where Ducati and Bautista seemed to have a clear advantage, proving he can ride well beyond the capabilities of his machine.

Razgatlioglu will have very good riders to try and beat at BMW in Michael Van Der Mark, Scott Redding and Garrett Gerloff, however, picking any rider other than Razgatlioglu to be top BMW was just not an option.

Honda - Iker Lecuona

At Honda, the battle to finish first will likely come down to factory Team HRC teammates Lecuona and Xavi Vierge, as it did in 2023.

Only six points separated the pair last season, with Vierge coming out on top although Lecuona missed a race.

Lecuona was better than Vierge as a rookie and if he can avoid injury problems, he should be the favourite to return to being Honda’s top rider.

Biggest surprise will be Danilo Petrucci

Danilo Petrucci, Spanish WorldSBK, 27 October
Danilo Petrucci, Spanish WorldSBK, 27 October

Although he should never be taken lightly as a two-time MotoGP race winner and a Dakar stage winner, Petrucci might not necessarily be expected to be a consistent podium finisher in 2024.

But that’s exactly what we envision will take place for the Italian, who with a year of experience under his belt, and being aboard the most competitive bike on the grid, could make huge strides forward.

With Razgatlioglu and Rea needing to adapt to their new bikes, Petrucci could be an early contender for big results.

But Petrucci is not the type of rider who fades as the season goes on and instead we expect him to be strong throughout, despite WorldSBK arguably being the most competitive it has ever been. 

Top rookie - Andrea Iannone

Being a factory Ducati rider, Nicolo Bulega would be the obvious option here, however, two other riders, also aboard Ducatis could be very big challenges to the Italian.

One of those is Iannone, who in terms of talent would sit very high on the current list of riders set to compete in WorldSBK this season.

Of course, being a rookie and having to overcome a four-year absence from racing won’t be easy, but Iannone is a special rider on his day.

Having a Panigale V4 R will make things easier and if he clicks with the GoEleven squad, the former MotoGP rider could be very hard to beat, even for the series’ top riders.

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