It had its roots in New Zealand, the small South Pacific island nation hosting the final round of the inaugural series in 1988, and it was impressive back then, but now the World Superbike Championships (WSBK) rate as one of the globe’s biggest sporting spectacles.
Sadly, New Zealand does not have any riders involved these days, but there are riders from four different continents competing in WSBK this season as the series continues to draw riders in from all corners of the globe
With 12 different nationalities being represented on the 2021 FIM World Superbike Championships grid, it makes up one of the most diverse grids in all motorsport.
Ranging from four continents across the planet, the 12 countries will be represented by some of the fastest riders in the world all in search of becoming the 2021 world champion in the fastest production-based motorcycle championship.
The United Kingdom is the most-represented nation on the 2021 grid with six riders, including both World Champions on the grid in the form of six-time and reigning world champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team).
Joining Rea and Sykes from the UK are Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven), Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), Scott Redding (Aruba.It Racing – Ducati) and Leon Haslam (Team HRC), with four of the five manufacturers having British representation in 2021.
Of the 216 race wins between the 23 riders on the WSBK grid, 177 of these come from British riders with Rea claiming over half of these with 99. Another 66 come from Sykes and Davies with 12 shared between Redding, Haslam and Lowes.
The next most represented nation is Italy with four riders, three of whom will be riding Italian machinery in 2021 with the Ducati Panigale V4 R.
The 2020 WorldSSP Champion Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WSBK) makes his debut in WSBK, as well as Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing); Bassani will be the youngest rider on the WSBK grid in 2021 at just 21 years old.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.It Racing – Ducati) links up with the factory Ducati outfit for 2021, while Samuele Cavalieri (TPR Team Pedercini Racing) has secured a full-time in WSBK for the first time after sporadic outings in the past.
Italian riders have secured 103 WSBK victories to date as well as 379 podiums. With four riders representing Italy in 2021, could Italy reach the 400 podium mark this season?
Spain is represented on the grid with three riders including two rookies.
Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) stays with the Honda factory project for the second year and his third in WBK. He is joined by Isaac Viñales (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and 2014 Moto2 World Champion Tito Rabat (Barni Racing Team) both making their WSBK debuts in 2021, following campaigns in WorldSSP and MotoGP respectively.
Spain’s last win came from Bautista in 2019 but after a season developing the CBR1000 RR-R, Bautista will fancy his chances of adding to his country’s win total while Viñales and Rabat will be looking to become the newest winners from Spain.
The last country with multiple representatives is France, with two riders on the grid.
Christophe Ponsson (Alstare Yamaha) returns to WSBK on a full-time basis after a few wildcard appearances in 2020, while 2017 WorldSSP Champion Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) secured a full-time seat with the team he competed for in 2020, albeit in WorldSSP.
France is just four wins away from claiming 50 WSBK victories and both Ponsson and Mahias will be hoping they can add to this tally through 2021.
The remaining eight countries are represented by eight different riders with Argentina, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Turkey and the USA all represented on the 2021 grid.
American star Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WSBK Team) impressed throughout his rookie campaign and has been rapid in offseason testing so far, giving him and his team high hopes for the 2021 campaign.
Kohta Nozane is Japan’s sole representative in 2021 and will be Gerloff’s team-mate this season as the reigning Japanese superbike champion makes the step on to the world stage.
Turkish sensation Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WSBK) has shown his potential on numerous occasions and will now look to put in a consistent title charge over the course of the 2021 season, while his former team-mate, Dutchman Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WSBK Team), will be hoping to take his new team to the top step.
Loris Cresson (TPR Team Pedercini Racing) last year became the first Belgian rider since Didier van Keymeulen and Michel Nickmans in 2006 to take part in WSBK and will carry on that mantle in 2021, while Argentinean Leandro ‘Tati’ Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) secured a last-minute seat to be on the WSBK grid in 2021.
The final two riders on the grid are both BMW satellite team riders with Jonas Folger (Bonovo MGM Racing) and Eugene Laverty (RC Squadra Corse) representing Germany and Ireland respectively.
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