2020 is approaching fast and already in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, there is nothing to split riders after day one of Jerez testing. However, a pattern has emerged: Kawasaki and Yamaha are closely matched at the Andalusian circuit and, just like in race weekend of 2019, there’s barely anything splitting the two giant Japanese manufacturers. 2020 is already shaping up to be a year of rivalry and the test days are showing just how unpredictable the forthcoming season could be.
At the head of the field by the smallest of margins, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) only just finished ahead of Turkish star Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team). The two riders enjoyed numerous last lap battles in 2019 and now they are at opposing manufacturers, both are finding that the riding style differences on different bikes are bringing them closer.
KRT’s aims in the test are to refine their package further, with small details being ironed out to improve the overall package. Rea’s crew in particular are keen on playing with new set-ups and preparing for the optimal set-up, should a strange situation demand one, affectively meaning that they’d have an ideal set-up to try out.
Enhancing the Yamaha charge and confirming the Iwata manufacturer’s strength was 2019 Jerez winner, Michael van der Mark. The Dutchman, who, like Toprak, is still using the 2019 bike, set the most laps out of anyone in the test on day one (98) and finished 0.334s behind Rea at the top. However, he was two tenths clear of KRT’s new kid on the block, Alex Lowes. The former WorldSBK race winner was right in the mix all day and was up to second in the middle of the afternoon, before dropping to fourth.
Both Pata Yamaha riders are on the 2019 bikes and are trying new things to try and add for the 2020 season, how Niccolo Canepa is riding the new 2020 machine and bedding it in well, finishing inside the top ten. Pata Yamaha were also working on Ohlins set-ups and trying to make a step in accelerating out of corners and stability within them.
Top Independent honours also went to a Yamaha, with Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha) turning his first wheel of 2020 and getting down to a strong lap time. Achieving a top ten at Jerez on his return to racing action back at the start of June, Baz will be confident of making further strides forward with his set-up.
Jerez is a circuit that has historically levelled the playing field in WorldSBK, offering unpredictability in terms of which manufacturer will be able to be the fastest. Kawasaki took a double at Jerez in 2017 with Jonathan Rea, whilst Yamaha took five out of nine possible podium positions at Jerez this year, including a win for Michael van der Mark in Race 2.