Preparations for the 2021 World Superbike Championship (WSBK) season are now well underway, with the first round scheduled to take place on May 7-9.
The campaign was due to begin at the Assen circuit in the Netherlands during April, but this has subsequently been pushed back to July.
The Portuguese round at the twisty Estoril track will serve as the season opener, with Spain and Italy set to host the following two events.
Read on as we take a look at some of the latest news and updates from around the WSBK scene.
Kawasaki test new ZX-10RR
Much like jockeys and horses on the equine front, it is imperative that WSBK riders feel like they are at one with their machine.
That has certainly been the case for Jonathan Rea over the past few years, with the British superstar winning the championship in each of the last six seasons.
He looked in excellent shape during testing at Portimao on Thursday, completing 48 laps and posting an impressive best time of 1’41.472 on the 2021 Kawasaki ZX-10RR.
The bike features numerous performance upgrades, including new winglets on the tail, which the team believe will significantly improve Rea’s straight-line speed.
Promising start for Vinales
Spanish rider Vinales was also in Portimao as he stepped up his preparations for his debut campaign in the WSBK.
The 27-year-old spent the last two seasons in the Supersport World Championship, finishing 7th and 8th in the championship.
He has joined the Orelac Racing VerdNatura team for 2021, and the two-day test will give him the chance to familiarise himself with his bike.
He posted a best lap time of 1’43.631s on his Kawasaki, highlighting that he has plenty of work to do if he wants to be competitive next term.
Redding ready to rumble
Scott Redding made a huge impression during his debut season in the WSBK, winning five races on his way to second place in the standings.
The 2019 British Superbike Championship winner is expected to improve significantly this year as he attempts to knock Rea off his perch.
The 28-year-old will be much more familiar with the tracks this time around, while he should have a far better understanding of his Ducati bike.
Redding finished 55 points behind Rea in last season’s championship, but it would be no surprise to see him close the gap on his compatriot this year.
Laverty laying down roots
Eugene Laverty has had something of a nomadic existence in the WSBK, riding for three different teams in each of the last three seasons.
He has linked up with the new RC Squadra Corse outfit this year, although he will be riding a BMW bike for the second successive campaign.
The new BMW M 1000 RR machine is expected to shine on flowing circuits such as Phillip Island but could struggle on the more twisty tracks.
However, with increased power and new winglets boosting the bike’s performance, Laverty could produce some fireworks this year.