Back on the road…

As these strange Covid times continue, Greg recounts his recent drive from Barcelona to Jerez for World Superbike testing. Although it proved a complete wash-out, this was actually quite a good thing!

Greg Haines writes from Barcelona

Back in January it was nice to have a sense of purpose again by travelling to Jerez for two days of World Superbike testing. Considering the ongoing mess with Covid-19, bringing the obvious health risks plus the hassle of potentially changed or cancelled flights, I decided to drive down there from Barcelona in my trusty Alfa Mito! I’m very pleased I did because it allowed a change of scene en route and not having to squeeze myself into a plane with other people while the pandemic (and people’s often irresponsible reactions to it) continue to cause chaos everywhere. It also allowed me to use the car as a self-contained ‘office’ space while at the circuit.

Kawasaki rented out the track and shared the costs with fellow attendees Ducati and Honda, plus a few of the smaller teams. The fact no World Superbike rider turned a wheel was actually quite good for me, even though it was very frustrating and costly for them. The reason it was good from a personal point of view is that it allowed me more time than ever to properly catch up with all of the main players for extended (and socially distanced!) interviews both for Motorcycle News and the Eurosport Full Throttle podcast, all of which will be published before the start of the season. From what I hear, the start of the campaign won’t be Assen but Estoril due to the latest restrictions from the Dutch government; actually, considering how strict The Netherlands was last year and remembering how early both the BSB and WorldSBK events there were cancelled, I was very surprised Assen was selected as Round 1.

The Full Throttle podcast is yet to return for 2021 but MCN is already publishing some of the content. I had a nice interview with Tito Rabat; he’s definitely not coming to WorldSBK to make up the numbers and desperately wants to do well…you can really see it in his eyes. That guy means business and he won’t be messing around. There are also plenty of opinions about the new rule meaning only ten days of private testing per rider is allowed between the end of the 2020 season and the end of the upcoming campaign of 2021. Basically, it seems the rule has been put in place to stop the largest and richest teams from testing much more than their rivals in what is a far longer off-season than usual – by that I’m referring to Kawasaki and Honda, the former which has no MotoGP team so dedicates a much larger budget to World Superbikes and the latter which has very deep pockets anyway, as it’s HRC. Those in Jerez were unlucky it rained so heavily and constantly for the two days although, as people I spoke with at BMW and Yamaha pointed out (they decided not to go to Jerez), was it stupid to consider testing there in mid-January? Whatever your opinion, we’ve again seen you can never get all teams to agree on something!

The other interview we published in MCN last week, or at least a small part of it, was Scott Redding talking about the fact he’s now got a much lighter and smaller team-mate in Michael Ruben Rinaldi (pictured, top). For all the same reasons Scotty was so optimistic about he and Chaz Davies being team-mates, as two riders of similar stature can better develop a motorcycle, he’s concerned that he and Rinaldi will be giving such different feedback which, as Redding puts it, means Ducati will more or less have to choose which rider’s development path to follow. That could get complicated.

I’ve transcribed 4,000 words from Jonathan Rea which I’m now in the process of breaking down, extracting the nicest bits for a feature interview with the 6-time World Champion to be printed in MCN next Wednesday, 10th February.

I hope you’re all keeping as safe and sane as you can. If you ever have days you feel you’re going mad then, don’t worry, you’re not the only one! Who ever would have believed it would come down to this? Speak with you all soon!