WSBK

WorldSBK Opener set to be a two day moto feast

New format for 2016 to fill 2 days with racing.

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A former MotoGP world champion, a throng of new faces, a couple of red-hot Aussies and the traditional top guns ‰ÛÓ that's a snapshot of the 24-rider field which will contest the 2016 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship, beginning at Australia's Phillip Island circuit from February 26-28.

The international line-up will land in Australia late next week in preparation for the final pre-season test on Monday and Tuesday, February 22 and 23, with the season kick-off just days later at the Yamaha Finance round (Feb 26-28).

The FIM‰Ûªs official entry list for the 29th edition of the production-based series features riders from 11 different countries representing seven manufacturers: Aprilia, Kawasaki, Honda, MV Agusta, BMW Motorrad, Ducati and Yamaha, returning to the championship after a four year absence with their all new Yamaha YZF-R1.

Three of the riders are current or former WorldSBK champions: British Kawasaki Racing Team pair Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes, as well as Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli who has joined Pata Yamaha to spearhead the Japanese manufacturer's official return to the championship alongside Alex Lowes.
Aussie Josh Brookes on the Milwaukee BMW. Credit: 2Snap
The entry list confirms the participation of 2006 world MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden, who has joined Honda's factory team alongside Dutchman Michael van der Mark, after calling time on his exalted grand prix career.

Two other MotoGP riders from 2015 have also made the switch to WorldSBK: Czech rider Karel Abraham, who will be teammate to Aussie big hope Josh Brookes at Milwaukee BMW, and Alex de Angelis, who will be on an IodaRacing Team Aprilia.

De Angelis is also a 39-time podium finisher in the 125 GP and Moto2 ranks, but will be returning from a big crash at the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix which left him with serious head injuries and multiple fractures. De Angelis won the 2010 Moto2 race at Phillip Island.

Brookes returns to WorldSBK after an eight-year break, and on the back of an utterly dominant victory in the 2015 British superbike title. German Markus Reiterberger also joins WorldSBK after winning his own national superbike title last year. Reiterberger's teammate in the Althea BMW Racing Team is Spaniard Jordi Torres, who won a WorldSBK race in 2015.
Italian Davide Giugliano hopes to have put a long-term back injury behind him. Credit: 2Snap
Taree native Josh Hook is the second Australian rider, and his rookie year in WorldSBK will be played out on a Grillini Kawasaki alongside Swiss rider Dominic Schmitter. Hook was Japanese-based in 2015 and finished a brilliant second in the Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race ‰ÛÓ which helped him garner the attention of international teams. Kawasaki's ZX-10R is also the newest bike in the field.

British and Spanish riders dominate the grid with nine riders between them, and joining Rea, Lowes and Sykes in the British assault will be reigning world No. 2 Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing Ducati) and Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse).

Davies' teammate will be highly regarded Italian Davide Giugliano, whose 2015 season was decimated by long-term back injuries.

Torres is the star Spaniard, but Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team Ducati) is also a very solid campaigner as well.
Former Moto GP rider Nicky Hayden has been confirmed with Honda's factory team. Credit: 2Snap
With 29 WorldSBK victories to his credit, reigning world champion Rea has the most winning form of the 2016 roster, just ahead of Sykes (26) and well clear of Davies (9), Guintoli (9) and Torres (1).

Race formats for WorldSBK have been rejigged for 2016, with the traditional double header race-day Sunday jettisoned in favour of one race each day, with a 22-lap race on Saturday at 3pm and the second 22-lap battle scheduled for Sunday at 3pm (Feb 27 and 28).

WorldSBK will practice and qualify Friday and Saturday, with Superpole moving up the Saturday agenda to a 12.30pm timeslot, ahead of the 3pm race one.

Main Photo: Jonathan Rea ready to defend his title
Credit: 2 Snap
Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli makes the switch to Pata Yamaha as the Japanese manufacturer's official returns to the championship for 2016. 2Snap

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