Huewen: WorldSBK was ahead of MotoGP in the 80s, are we going to see that again?

Keith Huewen poses the question of whether WorldSBK could threaten MotoGP’s status as the leading two-wheel championship, after seeing the series make a comeback in popularity.
WorldSBK Phillip Island 2022
WorldSBK Phillip Island 2022

MotoGP is rightfully seen as the pinnacle of motorcycle racing due to its reach globally, the level of riders such as Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, Mick Doohan and many more that have competed in the series, and the technical/aerodynamic advances that continue to take the sport to new heights.

MotoGP also has a much deeper field in terms of talent, with over half the grid having won a premier class Grand Prix.

That is far from the case in WorldSBK, however, racing at the front of the championship has been of the highest calibre for many years.

Alvaro Bautista, Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea matched the very best riders in MotoGP when it came to standout performances and producing enthralling race battles in 2022, which is expected to be the case again this season. 

Also showing that WorldSBK is ready to take a huge step forward when it comes to rivalling MotoGP is the level of riders that are seeing the championship as an attractive option.

Scott Redding and Iker Lecuona are two riders that have experienced both championships and currently compete in Superbikes, while Danilo Petrucci and Remy Gardner - formerly of MotoGP as well - will be rookies in 2023. 

Iker Lecuona, Argentinian WorldSBK race2, 23 October
Iker Lecuona, Argentinian WorldSBK race2, 23 October

During the latest instalment of the weekly MotoGP podcast, ex-Grand Prix racer, Keith Huewen, alluded to WorldSBK making a resurgence that could see it threaten MotoGP’s status as top dog.

Huewen said: "We’ve got WorldSBK and I think it’s really relevant - all the riders as far as I’m aware are up for contracts at the end of this year, apart from Jonathan Rea. Most of the WorldSBK guys are back up for contract. We’ve heard that Aleix Espargaro doesn’t want to race beyond 35 years of age and there seems to be the possibility of a bit of turnover towards the end of this year when contracts start to come back up again. 

"You also have the fact that WorldSBK is rising massively in popularity around the world, a bit like in the 80s where WorldSBK was ahead of MotoGP in many marketplaces around the world. 

"Are we going to see that again this year? Is WorldSBK going to be making a bit of a comeback and be one of the most popular?"

Huewen also touched on MotoGP’s decision to introduce Sprint races in 2023, which will be the first time in the series’ history that it's done so.

Huewen stated: "Dorna are going to be keeping an eye on both series at the end of the day. The intensity in MotoGP this year for teams, personnel and riders is going to be massive. 

"Extra race on a Saturday, extra strategy for a Sprint race and everything else, the loss of that FP4 is massive. 

"That was the one session of the weekend where; I won’t say they could relax but it could give them that opportunity to get those last few tweaks and get it working - with a full fuel tank of fuel too, so you got to put it in race trim - there isn’t that anymore."

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