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Six Superbike riders who could make an impact in MotoGP

Another article from my good friend Phil Armstrong. Follow him on Twitter @weephil56, and read his SBK blog at tractioncontrolblog.wordpress.com

Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images

In this article I hope to put a spotlight on a few stars from World Superbikes (WSBK) and World Superstock (WSS) that some MotoGP fans may not have heard of, but should be keeping an eye on for the future.

1. Michael Van Der Mark

Michael Van Der Mark (or Magic Mike as he is affectionately known) is a Dutch rider currently riding for the Ten Kate Racing Official Honda team. He is widely regarded as Honda’s next big thing - after Marc Marquez - having rode for the Japanese manufacturer his entire career, winning two Suzuka 8 Hours for them in 2013 and 2014.

Van Der Mark’s first full season in the WSS championship was 2013. He was 20 years of age at this time and finished an impressive fourth place. The next year, he won the championship in commanding fashion - only finishing off the podium once, and that was a DNF at the first round in Australia.

In his Rookie season in WSBK he showed flashes of brilliance laced with youthful mistakes, getting his first Podium at his home round he finished the year seventh, just behind his more experienced team mate (and former WSBK champion) Sylvain Guintoli.

This season Van Der Mark is showing that he is not only fast, but a capable title contender, scoring four podiums in the first four rounds and sitting fourth in the championship. There has still been the odd mistake, pushing when perhaps he should have settled for a result but these are youthful mistakes and can be learned from.

What Van Der Mark has, Honda won’t want to risk losing to another manufacturer as they did with another rider on this list (more on that later).

2. Patrick Jacobsen

Patrick “PJ” Jacobsen is a young American Rider currently in the WSS championship, riding for the Ten Kate Racing Official Honda team. PJ first came onto my radar in 2012 when he made a couple of one-off appearances for the TYCO backed Tas racing squad - first in the British Superstock Championship, where he had an impressive debut at Oulton park (where he had never ridden) and then went on to win the Donington round of the championship.

He also took part in the British Supersport championship for one round at Assen - also with the TYCO squad - and won that race having never tested the bike beforehand. The team signed PJ to run the full season on their Superbike the next season, riding alongside Josh Brookes in the team he ended the year in an impressive ninth place.

He then made the move to WSS in 2014 with the Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpres team, claiming two podiums and finishing the year sixth in the championship. He remained with the same team for the 2015 season, but the team ran into some difficulties midway through the season and PJ moved to the Core Motorsport Thailand Honda Team, replacing Ratthapark Wilairot. PJ really clicked with the Honda and went on to finish the season second in the championship.

This season hasn’t started great for PJ with only a fifth and a third to show for his efforts so far. He has shown glimpses of his speed but unfortunately has made errors during races, but the same as Van Der Mark he is still young at only 22 years of age.

I wouldn’t expect PJ to be near GP in the next couple of years. He will likely follow Van Der Mark’s route and compete in a couple of WSBK campaigns, but I believe he will be there sooner rather than later.

3. Cameron Beaubier

Cameron Beaubier is an American Superbike rider currently racing in the Moto America Championship with Yamaha. He was a member of the Red Bull MotoGP Academy, and also competed in the 2007 Red Bull Rookies cup finishing sixth. He took part in the 2008 125cc Spanish CEV championship, finishing in 17th. He also competed in the 125cc World Championship in 2009 finishing 29th.

Beaubier returned to America in 2010 to ride in the 2010 AMA Pro Supersport East Championship, finishing fourth. From 2011-2013 he competed in the AMA Pro Daytona Sportbike Championship finishing sixth, third, and finally as champion respectively.

2014 saw Beaubier step up to the Superbike Championship, finishing the year third overall. He then went on to win the brand new Moto America, beating AMA legend Josh Hayes by winning eight races on his way to the title.

4. Alex Lowes

Alex Lowes - the twin brother of Moto2 star Sam - is currently riding for the Pata Yamaha team in WSBK. Lowes started his career at the age of six, switching from Motorcross to circuit racing in 2001, and racing in multiple championships around England. He raced in the JRA championship in 2002 and despite being only 12 at the time moved into the Aprillia Supertwins championship in 2003. He was racing against riders aged 13-19 here and managed a fourth place in the championship.

From 2004-2006 he continued to ride in different 125cc championships, stepping up to the British Supersport Championship in 2007 on a Honda CBR 600. He was the youngest rider in the championship at the time. His best results were tenth place finishes at Thruxton and Croft.

Lowes moved to the European Superstock 600 championship in 2008, riding for the Kawasaki Italia team, finishing the year 16th in the championship. He stepped up to the Superstock 1000 Championship in 2009, riding for the official MV Augusta team but struggled on the bike - only twice scoring points. 2010 was a rough year with his team folding before the season. He did get a ride with the Seton Tuning Yamaha team, finishing the year 12th in the standings. He also rode in BSB making his debut on a KTM EVO bike. He also made his debut in WSS riding a Yamaha, but failed to finish the race due to an accident.

In 2011 he made the move back to Britain, riding with the WFR Honda in the BSB EVO championship, but after 3 rounds he replaced an injured Stuart Easton in the MSS Colchester Kawasaki team. Lowes also stood in for Jonathan Rea in WSBK, who was riding for the Ten Kate racing team at the time, finishing 15th in Brno but retiring for the other three races he participated in. Upon returning to the BSB championship, he had lost his seat on the MSS Colchester Kawasaki and finished the year on the Motorpoint Yamaha, finishing the year with 60 points and a best finish of fifth.

He returned to the WFR Honda team in 2012, finishing as high as fourth and making it into the final six showdown. This strong showing lead to the Factory Honda team signing him for the 2013 season. He won the championship this year over 3 time champion Shane Byrne.

In 2014 Lowes moved to the WSBK championship, joining up with the Crescent Suzuki squad run by Paul Denning. He had a season high finish of third and ended the year 11th in the championship. He remained with the Suzuki backed squad in 2015 again, getting one third place through the year but struggling to get the aging Suzuki to be anywhere near competitive. He still managed tenth overall in the championship.

2016 saw a change for Lowes and the Crescent team as they became the Official Yamaha representatives in the WSBK championship. The team and Lowes have shown glimpses of the pace that everyone knows the new R1 has, but they are still in the learning process with the new bike.

These next 2 are long shots as they are both 29 years old, but ideally I think they should be in GP as they both have the talent.

5. Chaz Davies

Chaz Davies currently rides for the Official Ducati WSBK team. This is his third year with the team. Davies has had a varied career ranging from AMA right up to MotoGP – he substituted for an Injured Alex Hoffman in 2007 at Laguna Seca, setting steady lap times but not overly impressing.

Davies moved to WSS in 2009 with Triumph, only competing in the final three rounds of the season. He remained with the Triumph team in 2010, getting podium positions throughout the year, finishing fourth. In 2011, he moved to Yamaha Machinery where he claimed the WSS championship, finishing the year with six wins.

In 2012 Davies stepped up to the WSBK grid to ride for the ParkinGO MTC Racing Aprilia team, finishing an impressive ninth place with four podiums and one win in his rookie season. He moved to the Gold Bet BMW team in 2013, building on his good results from his rookie season, recording three wins and six podiums to finish the season fifth in the championship.

In 2014 Davies made the switch to the Ducati WSBK team to spearhead the development of the Panigale Ducati’s brand new superbike. He didn’t manage to record any wins this season but did still manage to record four podiums and finish sixth in the championship.

In 2015, with a full years development and a year’s experience on the Ducati, Davies was able to compete for the title - finishing the year with five wins and 18 podiums. This lead him to a second place finish in the championship, and if it had not been for the dominant performance all year of Jonathan Rea he would have probably have been the champion.

This season has started well for Davies he has scored five podiums so far, with two wins, to currently sit second in the championship behind Rea.

6. Jonathan Rea

Jonathan Rea is the current WSBK champion and sits 45 points ahead of second place in this years championship. He rides for the Kawasaki WSBK team, his second season with the team.

Rea started his career in 2003 after being convinced by his friends Michael and Eugene Laverty to give circuit racing a go. He competed in the 125cc British Championship this year before moving to the Supersport championship in 2004, only for a crash at Knockhill to end his season.

In 2005 Red Bull helped set up a Factory-spec Honda ride for him to compete in the British Superbike Championship, showing his potential by getting his first pole and finishing in 16th in the championship, even though he missed two rounds.

In 2006, Rea really came into his own in BSB, challenging for wins, beating full factory backed teams and more experienced riders. Ultimately he finished the championship in fourth, ahead of the Late Karl Harris.

The Factory backed HM Plant Honda team came calling in 2007 and Rea was placed alongside Ryuichi Kiyonari in the team. Rea recorded his first win at Mondello Park this year. He would eventually finish with five total wins and 16 podiums, coming second in the championship overall. He and Kiyonari competed in the Suzuka 8 hour race on a factory backed Honda, as well as competing in a 3 hour edurance race this season - which they won.

In 2007 Rea signed with the Ten Kate racing team - he signed a 3 year progressive contract to ride for the team in 2008’s WSS. Further cementing Rea’s commitment to the Honda factory, he turned down options to stay in BSB from HM Plant team and the Rizla backed Suzuki team - as well as an offer for a WSBK ride from the Xerox Ducati team. Rea had an impressive debut season in WSS, finishing the year with three wins and six podiums which was good enough for second place behind team mate Andrew Pitt.

2009 saw Rea make his full time debut in the WSBK championship, recording two wins and eight podiums, giving him a fifth place finish in his rookie season. He continued this form in the 2010 season, finishing the year fourth in the championship, recording another four wins and ten podiums.

The 2011 season started out promising, only for a crash at the USA round of the championship to cause Rea to sit out four rounds. He still managed to finish the season with two wins and five podiums for ninth in the championship.

2012 saw Rea return to full fitness and continue to out-perform what everyone agreed was a past-it motorbike, finishing fifth in the championship while recording two wins and six podiums. 2013 was another injury hit season, as he missed the last four rounds, breaking his leg in a crash in Germany. He still finished ninth in the championship.

2014 was his best on the Honda, with four wins and nine podiums, finishing in third again. Rea was having to ride over the limit to get the aging Honda anywhere near his rivals.

It was announced before the end of the season that Rea had signed for the official Kawasaki racing team, ending his 10-year career relationship with Honda. The move was needed by Rea, as he had clearly been overlooked for a MotoGP ride which he had been holding out for.

2015 proved what Rea was capable of when given a bike matched his talent. From the very first round in Australia he was impressive finishing first and second in the two races. He only finished off the podium three times over the full season, ending the year with 14 wins, 21 podiums, and one world championship.

Rea currently sits on top of the championship by 45 points, having a 100 percent podium record through the first four rounds of the season.