The long wait for WorldSBK action is finally over as the 2021 season begins this weekend at MotorLand Aragon. 

The Spanish circuit will be hosting its first ever season opener, while circuits such as Navarra and Autodrom Most make their official debut on the World Superbike calendar. 

Kawasaki

The new season will see Jonathan Rea go for his seventh consecutive title with Kawasaki on the brand new Ninja ZX-10RR, while team-mate Alex Lowes goes into his second year with the Japanese manufacturer. 

Rea is the most accomplished WorldSBK rider in history and starts the season as firm title favorite once again. The Northern Irishman is also one win away from triple figures as he sits on 99 currently. 

Rea was fastest in the lone Official pre-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona in early April. Lowes had a slower start to his pre-season as he missed the Portimao test in March due to a training injury, however, the 30 year-old recently ramped up his preparations with tests at Barcelona and Aragon in April and May. 

Kawasaki have more riders than any other manufacturer on the 2021 grid with six riders in total, as Loris Cresson, Samuele Cavalieri, Lucas Mahias and Isaac Vinales all make their full debuts. 

Cresson and Cavalieri will spearhead Team Pedercini Racing’s challenge, 2017 WorldSSP champion Mahias will compete for Puccetti Racing, and Vinales is onboard the Orelac Racing VerdNatura machine. 

Ducati

Ducati’s title charge will once again be led by former MotoGP rider and BSB champion Scott Redding. 

2021 will be Redding’s second year in the class as he looks to become the first rider to beat Rea since 2015. 

Redding’s impressive debut season included 5 wins and nine other podiums. On the other side of the Aruba.it Ducati garage is Michael Ruben-RInalid who enjoyed his best season last year. 

With Aragon kicking off the season and it being the scene on Rinaldi’s maiden WorldSBK victory in 2020, expect the Italian to be a challenger from the outset. 

The 25 year-old replaces long-term Aruba.it rider Chaz Davies in the top team as the Welshman moves across to Rinaldi’s former GoEleven team. 

Davies missed Ducati’s first scheduled test of 2021 at Misano in March as he was recovering from Covid-19, but since churning out his first laps for the satellite team, Davies has been another one of the pre-season standouts. 

Joining Redding, Rinaldi and Davies on the grid for Ducati is another former MotoGP rider and 2014 Moto2 world champion Tito Rabat with Barni Racing, while fellow WorldSBK rookie Axel Bassani will compete for the Motocorsa team. 

Bassani is the youngest rider on the grid but has repeatedly looked fast on WorldSBK machinery so far. 

Yamaha

Next up is Yamaha who will be relying on Turkish star Toprak Razgatlioglu for a championship tilt as he goes into his second year with Pata Yamaha. 

Razgatlioglu's first year aboard the R1 was his best in the series as he took three wins and six podiums. The 24 year-old ended the season in style by winning two out of three races in Estoril. 

Razgatlioglu is joined by current WorldSSP champion Andrea Locatelli who’s had an inconsistent pre-season. Weather has affected some of the testing opportunities for the Belgian rider who replaces Michael van Der Mark. 

The GRT Yamaha squad sees the impressive Garrett Gerloff return for his second year in the series, while Japanese rider Kohta Nozane who was involved in the Qatar MotoGP tests replaces Federico Caricasulo. 

In regards to top independent rider honors, Gerloff and Davies will most likely be the two major contenders.

Bringing up the last R1 seat is Christophe Ponsson for the Alstare Yamaha team. 

Honda 

Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam return for their second campaign with the HRC outfit, which has also seen former rider Leon Camier become the new team manager. 

Bautista and Haslam showed flashes last season on the Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade and will be hoping to get more consistency out of the 2021 package. Testing has been up-and-down for the team with Bautista not able to complete the Official Barcelona test, however, both riders have since been busy at Aragon during April and May. 

Honda has the least amount of bikes on the grid this season with three, as Argentine Leandro Mercado will ride for MIE Honda Racing.

BMW

Finally we have BMW and the highly-anticipated new M 1000 RR package. Sykes returns with the factory outfit alongside Van Der Mark. Sykes is the only WorldSBK champion left on the grid outside of Rea, while Van Der Mark leaves Yamaha after four years. 

Rounding out the grid are another two former MotoGP riders in Eugene Laverty and Jonas Folger. Laverty is part of the RC Squadra Corse team and Folger the Bonovo MGM Racing team.

 

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