The season may have been shorter and the latest challengers to his undisputed throne arguably stronger than ever but it didn’t stop Jonathan Rea crossing off his erstwhile five WorldSBK titles with a new benchmark of six.

Naturally, there is no question of Rea being on the grid in 2021 in the same green hues of his beloved Kawasaki Racing Team, the masterminds behind all six of those incredible successes, but he will at least have a different ZX-10RR steed beneath him… well, at least different looking if otherwise mechanically similar.

As it stands, most of the big names have sourced rides for 2021 - Scott Redding at Ducati, Toprak Razgatlioglu at Yamaha, no change at Honda and Michael van der Mark joining Tom Sykes at BMW - but there is evidence of manufacturers putting some faith in the next generation with Ducati plumping for Michael Ruben Rinaldi and Yamaha promoting Andrea Locatelli while upgrading Garrett Gerloff’s machinery.

However, there are some seats still to be filled together with some high profile names yet to know where they will be going as yet.

Chief among these is Chaz Davies, a 31-time WorldSBK race winner and third place finisher in 2020 aboard the Aruba.it Ducati Panigale V4 R. Unfortunately for him, the high standard of his twin Panigale years and the immediate pace of new team-mates Alvaro Bautista and then Redding - not to mention a rather uncomfortable average starting position of ninth in 2020 - counted against him over the past two years as he was axed prior to the season finale.

While Ducati can perhaps be justified in wanting to promote a fresh talent, especially when they are Italian, the manner of leaving the decision until after other seats had been filled and swapping a seasoned performer with one that while impressive has only three podiums to his name seems a touch risky.

Either way, it means Davies needs a new ride but if it’s coming on the WorldSBK grid, it won’t be a factory one. The best factory-arm’s-length-assisted teams are arguably Barni Racing and - in 2020 at least - Team Go Eleven, but they run Ducati machinery and while there would be motivation in wanting to defeat the team you left on the same machinery, Davies hints his Ducati days are now over.

Beyond them there is Ten Kate Racing, which has made noises about swelling to two bikes if it can find the budget, while the prospect of Davies on a Yamaha - with whom he won his WorldSSP title - certainly holds some appeal. 

There is also the somewhat mysterious satellite BMW team, but that hasn’t announced which team is running the effort, let alone the riders, plus Pedercini Kawasaki but it has been working with Loris Cresson since the end of the year and is hoping to have Sandro Cortese back from injury in 2021.

Speaking of Ten Kate Racing, which returned to the podium for the first time since 2016 this year, some may be surprised to learn it hasn’t already re-signed Loris Baz, who proved once again he is a series front runner on the right bike. 

It wasn’t a perfect season by all accounts, but given Yamaha raised eyebrows by choosing Locatelli over him for a factory seat, it seems as though he won’t be in Yamaha colours at all next year. Latest paddock speculation has him on a Ducati next year with Barni.

Ignominiously dropped from his BMW ride for 2021 after three events of 2020, Eugene Laverty remains one of WorldSBK’s steadiest pair of hands even if this wasn’t a season to shout about. His views about the early decision on his future aside, there was progress towards the end of the year on a bike that largely made up the numbers in 2020, so could be a wise shout for the new satellite team.

That said, with each having MotoGP experience Davies, Baz and Laverty could find themselves on Aprilia’s radar for the premier class.

Other names we could see on the grid in 2021 are Jonas Folger, who didn’t disgrace himself on his WorldSBK debut in Catalunya and Estoril, with Ten Kate Racing being identified as a possible move, while Leandro Mercado is also a free agent after parting ways with Motocorsa Racing.

As it stands, there will be at least four rookies making their debut in 2021 - Locatelli (Pata Yamaha), Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha), Isaac Vinales (Orelac Kawasaki) and Lucas Mahias (Puccetti Kawasaki).

 

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