WSBK 2015 season preview

Aung Thu at Muangthong United

The 2015 World Superbike Championship begins this week at the Phillip Island circuit and, 13 races later, will conclude in Qatar in October.

Last season Sylvain Guintoli claimed the crown for Aprilia, beating Tom Sykes to the title by six points. It was a flying end to the season for the Frenchman, who finished on the podium nine times in final ten races including three wins in the last four.

Guintoli will be eager to carry that form through to Phillip Island, however, a swap from Aprilia to Pata Honda may stunt his upward trend. Throw in the fact that he hurt his neck and ankle at the final test – less than a month before the start of the season – and his hopes may once again rest on a late-season fight-back.

The onus is therefore firmly with last year's runner-up, Sykes, to come out the blocks hot in order to build up a lead in the standings. The Brit, though, may once again be thwarted by his own team-mate.

In 2014 Sykes' chances of winning a second successive WSBK title were undone by his Kawasaki team-mate Loris Baz. The Frenchman refused to yield during the final two races at Losail and instead of making life easy for Sykes, made things very difficult – and ultimately cost him a shot at the title.

Sykes will be happy to note that Baz is no longer with Kawasaki, in fact he's not even in WSBK. However, instead he has last year's third-place finisher Jonathan Rea as his new team-mate and that could be an even tougher challenge.

Rea proved his winning credentials last season with Honda, now it just remains to be seen whether Kawasaki Racing will give him equal opportunity with Sykes to fight Guintoli for wins and the WSBK Championship title.

The trio won't be alone in the battle though.

Last season Ducati found form and this year they have already netted several P1s during testing. Davide Giugliano showed impressive pace but will miss the opening rounds of the season after fracturing his back in the final test while Chaz Davies has also been lapping up at the front.

Cresent Suzuki are also on course for a solid season but whether they will carry through into title-challenging form is a long shot while last year's Supersport World Championship winner Michael van der Mark will be aim for race wins in his first season in the big league.

Throw in challenges from the likes of Leon Haslam, Toni Elias and Sylvain Barrier, and this year's 26-race World Superbike Championship is sure to go down to the very last lap.

Michelle Foster