Superbike champions Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam will have an extra race to contend with in 2019, after world superbike bosses confirmed that the race format will change to incorporate an additional ‘qualifying’ race on Sunday morning.
A third race had long been rumoured, as world superbikes looks to spice up its offering and address complaints from fans and race promoters alike. Up to (and including) the 2015 season, world superbikes run both its races on a Sunday afternoon, however for the past three seasons these have been split over the weekend, with one race on Saturday and one on Sunday – a move which proved less than popular with many.
For 2019, the two main races will continue to be held on Saturday and Sunday, however a 10-lap sprint race will also be held on Sunday morning. The race, to be known as the Tissot Superpole Race, will set the grid for Sunday’s feature race and provide additional championship points for the top nine finishers, with 12 points for the winner, nine for second and seven for third – reducing down to a single point for ninth. The points will count towards a rider’s championship position, but will not be counted as official races for the purposes of the record books.
While the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup has been axed for 2019, the 600cc Supersport World Championship remains and the WorldSSP300 series, going into its third season, gains additional track time. The series, which sees young riders battling out on 300-400cc production bikes, will gain additional practice sessions to accommodate the expected influx of new riders. The 300 class will also adopt a ‘Last Chance Race’ which will decide the last six slots on the grid for the main, points scoring, race.
This season’s Superbike World Championship looks to be one of the most intriguing for years. Rea, who has won an unprecedented four titles back to back, faces new competition from Ducati, who are introducing a new bike in the form of the MotoGP derived V4R for Chaz Davies and WSBK newcomer Alvaro Bautista (pictured) at their factory squad. Rea also faces the challenge from former team-mate Tom Sykes and the new BMW S 1000 RR and British champion Haslam, who joins him at the official Kawasaki Racing Team.