With current WorldSBK championship leader Bautista and Toprak Razgatlioglu already under contract for 2023, Rea is now the only rider from the ‘big three’ with an unclear future. 

Bautista, who is now in his second stint with Ducati in WorldSBK, has started the campaign as the rider to beat, as he did in 2019. 

Another double victory in Misano was enough to extend his championship over Rea to 36 points, while Razgatlioglu is close to 80 behind the Spaniard after just four rounds. 

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While Gresini Ducati confirmed their 2023 rider line-up in MotoGP last weekend in Assen - Alex Marquez has joined Fabio Di Giannantonio - yet more news came from the Bologna-based manufacturer as Aruba.it Ducati went a long way to confirming their Superbike line-up for next season. 

Despite his incredible performances so far in 2022, Bautista and Ducati have agreed to just a one-year extension.

It’s a smart move from the Italian marque as it gives them the opportunity to continue with a rider who is in the form of his life, while also allowing them the option to analyse their plans for 2024 which could include going after Razgatlioglu should he remain in WorldSBK. 

Does Bautista staying end Rea’s chances of securing a factory WorldSBK at Ducati?

With Bautista staying, Ducati, who have expressed strong interest in Rea before which is believed to still be the case, would need to be willing to put together a ‘dream team’ in order to sign the six-time world champion. 

Speaking at Misano, Rea claimed he was unsure where his future lies, therefore hinting at a possible move away from Kawasaki who themselves remain intent on keeping Rea.

There’s no doubt that Rea will continue next season in WorldSBK, but with Ducati having officially confirmed Bautista, it’s unlikely that another factory team other than Kawasaki would be able to present him with a bike good enough to challenge for the title. 

Like Bautista, Rea has also been in incredible form this season which is why signing the Northern Irishman wouldn’t be a bad move for Ducati.

What it would do however, is potentially create a team dynamic that’s both fiery and unsustainable. 

With Danilo Petrucci also linked to the second Aruba.it Ducati seat and the team’s current rider Michael Rinaldi not out of contention, Rea staying at Kawasaki appears to be much more likely than just a few days ago. 

The other six confirmed WorldSBK riders for 2023 include Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha), Alex Lowes (KRT), Scott Redding (BMW), Iker Lecuona (Team HRC), Philipp Oettl (GoEleven Ducati) and Luca Bernardi (Barni Spark Ducati).