WorldSBK predictions: Can anyone stop Bautista from a three-peat?

With the 2024 WorldSBK season right around the corner, here are our predictions on all the biggest talking points.

Toprak Razgatlioglu, Jerez WorldSBK test, 25 January
Toprak Razgatlioglu, Jerez WorldSBK test, 25 January

The 2024 WorldSBK season is arguably the most highly-anticipated in the championship’s history.

Rider moves, new names and a weight limit rule are just some of the main storylines.

But who is our pick to win the title?

Alvaro Bautista

A two-time reigning world champion, Bautista is the clear favourite to repeat as champion although the new weight limit rule has without question thrown a spanner into the mix.

Bautista has not looked his usual self during pre-season testing, however, some of that is due to recovering from an injury he suffered at the end of last year.

The weight limit has certainly presented its challenges to Bautista and Ducati, but the Spaniard has still been impressive when it comes to race pace.

Bautista has been nothing short of sensational since his return to Ducati and until a rider consistently proves they can get the better of him, picking against the former MotoGP rider is a very tall order. 

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Biggest surprise - Nicolo Bulega

While we expect Bulega’s team-mate to win the world championship again in 2024, our prediction for Bulega is that he will not only finish as the rookie of the year, but inside the top four in the championship.

Michael Rinaldi struggled alongside Bautista and only managed one win over the last two seasons.

But Bulega has shown devastating pace in pre-season testing, so much so that we expect him to become a multiple race winner this season.

Nicolo Bulega, Jerez WorldSBK test, 25 January
Nicolo Bulega, Jerez WorldSBK test, 25 January

Expectations for Toprak Razgatlioglu, Jonathan Rea

Razgatlioglu has been Bautista’s closest challenger in the last two seasons, and during that time produced the type of performances we’ve never seen before.

BMW have not been as competitive as they would have hoped in recent years, but Garrett Gerloff showed exactly what the M 1000 RR is capable of in 2023, when he claimed pole at Magny-Cours.

And Razgatlioglu has done little to dampen expectations after two very impressive tests at Jerez and Portimao. Finishing in the top three this season will be the minimum aim, if not challenging for the title.

Razgatlioglu himself has said a title challenge is perhaps more likely in 2025, although the Turkish star can never be ruled out.

For Rea, a fresh start at Yamaha is likely to result in improved results as Kawasaki have gradually become less competitive than their fellow Japanese manufacturer.

Rea only secured one win in 2023, which was the lowest single-season return of his Kawasaki career.

But his move to Yamaha is one that could pay off in multiple ways, as the six-time world champion has been clear that he wanted to feel re-energised.

And talking of world championships, moving to Yamaha should bring Rea closer to achieving his goal of clinching a seventh Superbike crown.

Like Razgatlioglu, finishing in the top three will be his aim despite being new to the R1 and that’s exactly what we believe will happen.

Where will Andrea Iannone finish?

One of the major headlines in WorldSBK this season is the return to world championship racing for Iannone.

The former MotoGP rider signed for GoEleven Ducati and has been impressive during testing.

Iannone’s talent has never been in question and the Italian will be expected to fight for top six results, both in races and the championship.

Andrea Iannone, Jerez WorldSBK test, 24 January
Andrea Iannone, Jerez WorldSBK test, 24 January

Iannone is on the best bike on the grid, so if his adaptation is quick podiums could even be possible.

How will the weight limit rule impact the series?

As mentioned previously, the new minimum combined weight for rider and bike has shaken up the grid.

Bautista is the rider who has been impacted the most, as Ducati have added over six kilos of ballast to his Panigale V4 R.

That means a heavier bike, particularly on corner entry, has been challenging for the Spaniard to overcome.

It has also thrown off the set-up he is used to, while taller riders such as Razgatlioglu, Michael Van Der Mark and Scott Redding have not had such problems.

This should balance out the playing field and bring Bautista’s rivals closer to him, but will it be enough for another rider to consistently challenge the 39-year-old?

We don’t think it will, but we also don’t expect Bautista to have as dominant a season as last year.

Riders who require the least amount of weight added will benefit the most from the new rule change.

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