The 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship had many stories playing out throughout the season and featured some memerisingly close racing. From last-lap fights to brand-new winners, it was a vintage year of racing but also a year where many records were broken. Besides lap times, there were also a vast array of historic records that were broken whilst also setting new goals for seasons to come. In short, 2019 was record-breaking in many ways.
Starting where it all began, Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) came out of the blocks fighting in 2019, storming to not one or two race wins but 11, equalling the all-time number of consecutive race wins, level with Rea from the 11 races before him. Bautista and the new Ducati Panigale V4 R started the season so strongly that for the first 11 races, only Jonathan Rea was able to show him a wheel and lead a lap. Bautista eventually won 16 races, a new record for rookie wins in a season, although he couldn’t repeat Ben Spies’ achievement in 2009 of taking the title at the first time of asking.
However, at the very first race of the season, there was more history that was perhaps overshadowed by Bautista’s dominant opening. GRT Yamaha WorldSBK were the new team that graduated to the class from WorldSSP in 2019 and in their first race, seasoned veteran Marco Melandri romped to a return of the Phillip Island podium. This made it the first time that a new team had stepped up to WorldSBK and in their first race, achieved a podium.
By the time WorldSBK was ready for the summer break, Great Britain became the first nation to lock-out 50 podiums completely, with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) beating Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes in the Tissot Superpole Race at Laguna Seca. At the next round in Portugal, WorldSBK celebrated its 400th round but even bigger numbers were to come in France.
As the year rumbled on, more history was made, especially by the time Magny-Cours arrived as Race 800 beckoned. However, it would be Jonathan Rea who achieved a fifth WorldSBK crown after a scintillating weekend of battling with rivals Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team), not to mention rekindling his rivalry with former teammate and arch-rival Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team). A fifth title was secured making Rea the most decorated rider in the history of WorldSBK. Not just that, but he had done them all consecutively.
Rea continued to set records as the final two rounds of the season called, with the Ulsterman taking a second hat-trick of the year at Losail and thus taking a seventeenth win of the season (which also confirmed him as the rider with the most wins in WorldSBK), equalling his own record from 2018 and Doug Polen’s record from 1991. Not only that, but he smashed the all-time point-scoring record for one season, ending on 663 at the end of the year.
With the final race of the season, Jonathan Rea also finished inside the points for the 48th consecutive race, whilst behind him, Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha) finished inside the top ten in the standings despite having missed the first 13 races. However, one of the biggest records was the fact that Jonathan Rea overturned a 61-point deficit to eventually win the title by 165 points, a swing of 226 in just 19 races from the peak of both riders’ respective title leads.
Come the end of the season, there were records all around and an unpredictable season of ultimate WorldSBK action came to a close. However, this may well just be the start of a period of WorldSBK action that sees riders break even more records and raise the standard even higher than those before them.