Thank you! What a year!

World Superbike 2021 has been very different to what we’ve come to expect in recent years. Ever since I’ve commentated on the championship from 2015, I’d only ever called Jonathan Rea as the World Champion. But now we have a new winner in Toprak Razgatlioglu…what an astounding talent!

Greg Haines writes from Barcelona

Well, here we are. It’s December again and Christmas is fast approaching. I put my tree up last night, so it’s certainly beginning to feel a lot like Christmas as the song goes. Looking back at the WorldSBK season, it went by quickly. I was definitely looking forward to 2021 more than any other year I’ve ever commentated because all of the ingredients were there: an exciting calendar, stability in the technical regulations (which is always good to close things up) and the really exciting prospect of Scott Redding and Toprak Razgatlioglu with their respect Ducati and Yamaha teams for a second successive year. That was the only way anybody was ever going to beat Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki…almost copying their approach. Not only that but the organisers finally said ‘No’ to the green bikes taking advantage of a loophole in the regulations to gain more power by upping the RPM on their road bike.

This season really did deliver. Not only did we have great variety, with five different winners, but no fewer than 13 riders from eight different teams stood on the podium. Just think about that: eight different teams represented on the rostrum! That’s great. In Andrea Locatelli, we’ve seen a sensational debut season which we’d all be talking about a lot more had it not been for Razgatlioglu’s unbelievable skillset and achievements. Those two team-mates worked together far better than any others; a lot of that is thanks to the efforts from Paul Denning and Andrea Dosoli heading up the team plus crew chiefs Phil Marron and Andrew Pitt, who successfully put their egos to one side in order to work for PATA Yamaha as a team and not just for their individual riders. Another standout for me was Axel Bassani, who surely will be on a factory Ducati bike sooner rather than later. Michael Ruben Rinaldi was solid and there’s definitely more to come, while Garrett Gerloff has finally admitted his head just wasn’t in the right place after the terrible reaction he got within Yamaha after taking down Toprak at Assen. I’m still convinced Gerloff can go on to tremendous success and I hope he achieves his dream of getting to MotoGP full-time. I reckon Toprak will also be in MotoGP, in 2023, provided he gets an offer from the factory team – he’s only wanting to go if he can challenge for the title. Imagine how superb it would be if Razgatlioglu, the young kid we’ve known since the Superstock 600 days, could go on to become the first rider in history to clinch both the WorldSBK and MotoGP titles! Nicky Hayden looked to have a decent chance but that story was so tragically cut short back in 2017. We still miss him dearly.

I’ve really enjoyed the broadcasting this year. I’m proud to be able to call James Whitham a friend and we always have great laughs both on commentary and during the time we have between sessions, which we like to fill in by quoting ‘The League of Gentlemen’ or ‘The Day Today’, or by testing each other on 70s and 80s song lyrics. Working with James Toseland (pictured with yours truly and a shandy) has also been great; he certainly came into commentary with some real honesty and wasn’t afraid to say what he thought, which got him into trouble with a few people! Having said that – and I have had similar experiences myself – people usually get annoyed with you because you’ve had to state the truth. The fact is, for example, if somebody crashes too much and a commentator states that fact, people around them sometimes don’t like it…but we wouldn’t be able to say it if they didn’t crash too much! Motor racing is an extremely competitive industry full of (in many cases) selfish people looking after themselves and, believe me, the biggest egos are often on the media side as opposed to on the race track! Over the years you get to know who’s genuine, who’s fake, who can be trusted and who to keep at arm’s length. My general rule is ‘trust nobody’…although you get to know who you can share a secret with!

Back in Indonesia our studio picked up straight after the podium due to time constraints following all of the delays we’d had because of the weather, which didn’t give me the few seconds I usually take in commentary to thank everybody. Once again, I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to the Eurosport team both on site and back at base in London for all of the dedication, hard work and laughs along the way in what has been another challenging year in terms of rules and restrictions. Thanks also go to my friends and colleagues at Dorna and MSV for just getting the show on the road in the first place, to Michele Merlino and the top stats guys and in particular to all of my co-commentators both at BSB and WorldSBK. Thank you also to Michael Guy and Josh Close at MCN for being such great and easy people to work with; we’ve written a lot of words this year! The same very much goes to Pete Burton and Ola Fisayo who put the hours in behind the scenes on the Eurosport Full Throttle podcast. Most of all, thank you very much to all of you at home for joining us on the journey; we wouldn’t be doing the job without the viewers, listeners or readers. At the end of the day, I’m an excited viewer myself – and I hope we help you to enjoy the show! Thank you again for the compliments and constructive criticism along the way, we really appreciate all of it!

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and positive start to 2022. Can Toprak and Yamaha retain those titles? Time will tell!