#ARGWorldSBK: Penultimate Tango!

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After a ferocious debut in South America last season in Argentina, the 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship goes back for more as the Circuito San Juan Villicum awaits. The tight and technical layout offers close racing for the huge Argentine audience, whilst also bringing exciting action. As Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) is already crowned champion and Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) is secure in second, the fierce battle is over third.

Jonathan Rea stormed to a double in Argentina last year, becoming the first WorldSBK rider to win on the continent of South America. Just finishing Race 1 in the points will put Rea equal to Sylvain Guintoli’s record number of consecutive point-scoring finishes, at 43. He is also looking to win more races, to cement his position as the best WorldSBK rider ever. The 32-year-old Northern Irishman has been in rampant form and could be set to break more records in 2019. 

The ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati outfit suffered much ill-fortune at Magny-Cours and saw the final chances of winning a riders’ title slip away when Alvaro Bautista crashed with Razgatlioglu. However, pride and honour are at stake and the Italian team returns to Argentina and a track that saw them take the first ever pole position in Argentina last season. Chaz Davies was denied a podium there in 2018 and will be eager to return to the rostrum in 2019 for the first time since Race 1 in Portugal. For Bautista, he’s never been to the San Juan venue.

Momentum and confidence are firmly with Toprak Razgatliolgu (Turkish Puccetti Racing), who romped to two wins at Magny-Cours to bring Turkey to the top of the WorldSBK field. He was on the podium at Circuito San Juan Villicum last year too, something he will now seek to better. With a new contract in his pocket and the switch to the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team confirmed, Razgatlioglu’s confidence is sky-high and the 22-year-old could be the man to beat. Add in the determination to finish third in the championship, Toprak could be on top. Again.

The battle for third is hotly contested between six WorldSBK race winners, and leading the scrap is Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team). Lowes, who leaves the team at the conclusion of 2019, will want to prove his worth and value by securing third in the world, although teammate Michael van der Mark seeks to pinch that position away from him. Both Yamaha riders struggled in Argentina last season, with Lowes bringing home the only top six in Race 2. In 2019 however, the Yamaha has been competitive at almost every track and with just five points separating the pair, it could be an explosive round for their rivalry.

Whilst still in with a mathematic chance of third overall, Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) couldn’t have suffered a difficult round in France at a worst time. Haslam has never raced at San Juan either, meaning that his hopes for third could mathematically be over as he learns the track, whilst everyone else picks up from where they left off in 2018. However, he has got a 16-point advantage over Chaz Davies. He in-turn is 14 points clear of Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) – neither of which achieved a podium at the circuit last year.

A pole position and double podium for Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) last year in Argentina proves that he could be a star of the show in South America. Entering his own penultimate tango, Melandri will look to waltz up the order and dance to the podium once more, but there’s plenty of other Independent riders who will look to be the obstacle in that process. Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha) is in good form, as is Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) who will look to consolidate his top ten pace from France. Eager to be back in the top ten is Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven), who achieved his first top ten since returning from injury in Race 1 at Magny-Cours in ninth.

Argentina’s home-hero is Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura), who was cruelly denied a top ten last season after a stone went through his radiator in Race 1. This time, he will be chasing his fifth top-ten of the season, where his best result has been sixth in the torrential rain of Donington Park.

There’s a whole host of riders who are making their debuts in Argentina that have not been mentioned, starting with Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team), who secured a career-best Superpole result of fourth last time out. Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) has never raced in Argentina at any circuit, so the whole experience will be new for him. Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), who is fighting for a place on the 2020 gird, is also making his first appearance at San Juan, along with WorldSBK rookie, Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team).

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