The 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship gets underway with the Australian Round in just a couple of weeks with the 22 riders competing in the full campaign getting ready to master the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. Of these 22 riders, five will be making their first appearance at the circuit as they head into their rookie campaign while a sixth rookie will take part in the European season. With world titles, domestic titles and MotoGP™ race wins to their names, is the rookie class of 2023 the strongest rookie line-up?
PETRUCCI RETURNS TO THE PADDOCK: STK1000 runner-up set for WorldSBK debut
The headline name joining WorldSBK in 2023 is Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) as he looks to become the first rider to win in MotoGP™, STK1000, MotoAmerica, WorldSBK and a stage of the Dakar Rally. Petrucci is a two-time Grand Prix winner and a STK1000 runner-up, but the Italian rider did secure the CIV STK1000 title in 2011, the same year he finished second in the European Championship. Petrucci has two MotoGP™ wins, four STK1000 victories, five MotoAmerica victories and a Dakar Rally stage win so he can he add to that in WorldSBK in 2023?
TWO-TIME WORLD CHAMPION: Aegerter makes the step up
In terms of titles, Dominique Aegeter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) is the most successful with three to his name in the form of two World Championships, in WorldSSP in 2021 and 2022, and a MotoE™ World Cup from 2022. Aegerter took 27 race wins in his two seasons in WorldSSP and 35 podiums in 44 races, meaning he is only behind five-time WorldSSP Champion Kenan Sofuoglu in the all-time wins list. He’s also taken victory in Moto2™ as well as a podium finish at the iconic Suzuka 8 Hours.
THREE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS AT GRT: Gardner joins Aegerter
Aegeter’s GRT Yamaha teammate, Remy Gardner, is also a World Champion as he won the 2021 Moto2™ World Championship after a season-long battle with his teammate, meaning Yamaha have four World Champions from their six riders in 2023. Gardner also has six Moto2™ victories to his name as well as a season of MotoGP™ competition under his belt. He has also competed in what was then the FIM CEV Moto3™ Junior World Championship and the FIM CEV Moto2™ European Championship, with Gardner bringing plenty of experience to the team.
GRANADO’S FIRST CAMPAIGN: Brazilian rider aiming high in his maiden season
Brazilian rider Eric Granado (MIE Honda Racing Team) already has some WorldSBK experience to his name thanks to a one-off appearance with MIE Honda in 2020 but will start his first full campaign in 2023. Like Aegerter, he has spent the last few seasons in MotoE™ and has taken ten wins in the World Cup, although he did miss out on the 2022 title to Aegerter. Granado did claim the FIM CEV Moto2™ European Championship in 2017 when he took six wins and nine podiums from 11 races.
RIDER DEBUT, TEAM STEPS UP: Baldassarri and GMT94 Yamaha join forces
After a season in WorldSSP fighting with Aegerter, Lorenzo Baldassarri steps up to WorldSBK with GMT94 Yamaha, who will also make their debut in the Championship. Four wins in 2022 as he finished second in the Championship and five Moto2™ wins across his career in the MotoGP™ paddock set Baldassarri up well for his rookie campaign. In 2011, Baldassarri won the Red Bull MotoGP™ Rookies Cup with two wins and six podiums to his name. The GMT94 Yamaha team will also step up to WorldSBK this season after so much success in WorldSSP. Team boss Christophe Guyot recently spoke about stepping up to WorldSBK, why Baldassarri was the “perfect” choice for their rookie campaign, the goals for 2023 and more.
BRITISH CHAMPION ON THE GRID: Ray looking to impress
Bradley Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team), like Granado, has experience of WorldSBK from a one-off outing from 2018 while he also competed in the Red Bull MotoGP™ Rookies Cup for three seasons and in CEV for three campaigns. However, a lot of Ray’s success came on the domestic scene in the UK. He heads into WorldSBK as the reigning British Superbike champion after a thrilling campaign in his native Britain. In total, he has 11 wins in BSB and 33 podiums. Ray and his Yamaha Motoxracing team will compete in the European rounds of 2023, with their season getting underway at the iconic TT Circuit Assen in April.
- From WorldSBK.com