After just one year of a two-year deal, Alstare and Ducati have agreed to terminated the contract the Belgian team has to run Ducati's factory World Superbike effort. Today, the two parties made it known that they would not be continuing their collaboration, citing financial problems for Alstare and the loss of a major sponsor.
The split had long been expected. Alstare team boss Francis Batta had made no secret of his unhappiness with both the collaboration with Ducati, and the performance of the Ducati 1199 Panigale. Alstare had former WSBK champion Carlos Checa and highly rated Italian Ayrton Badovini in their ranks, yet after a solitary pole at Phillip Island, results have been very poor. Ducati ended the season without a win in World Superbikes for the first time in the history of the series. Batta had asked Ducati many times throughout the year to be allowed to do more development work, but Ducati had rejected his requests. Motorcycle technology had advanced to such a point that it had become almost impossible for a private team to have the resources to be successful, Ducati had told Alstare, and it was now the task of the manufacturer to do the development of a racing motorcycle.
The Alstare Ducati team issued the following press release after two days of testing at Misano:
The Alstare Ducati World Superbike team issued the following press release after their two-day test at Jerez:
Team SBK Ducati Alstare completes a positive two-day test at Jerez
Jerez (Spain), Wednesday 17th April 2013: Team SBK Ducati Alstare has today concluded an encouraging two-day test session at the Jerez circuit in Spain.
Having travelled directly from MotorLand Aragon after Round 2 of the world championship last Sunday, the team’s riders Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini worked hard with their technicians as they concentrated on refining the set-up of their 1199 Panigale bikes. In very warm conditions (32˚C approx), with track temperatures in the region of 55˚C, the team had time to test all of the solutions available in terms of bike set-up, focusing particularly on identifying settings and improving traction in preparation for upcoming races.
Carlos Checa: ‘These were two very important days that we used to better understand the bike’s reactions. The weather helped us this time around too. We worked on different solutions for both the front and rear setting and in the end I’m happy with what we were able to get done. We’ve found a set-up that I like and this is important in order to have a good base from which to start at Assen.’
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams, as well as the series organizer, after qualifying on Saturday at Phillip Island:
The Alstare Ducati World Superbike team issued the following press release after the conclusion of their test at Jerez:
The 2013 season has gotten off to a very damp start for Ducati. The Bologna factory had booked the Jerez circuit for a three-day test, for both the Alstare Ducati World Superbike team and the Ducati MotoGP test team with Michele Pirro and Franco Battaini, but the rain meant that they only got a few hours of testing done, and all of that was on Monday.
Despite only managing a few laps, the test counts as successful for the Alstare Ducati team. Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini both managed some forty laps, with Checa quickly up to speed and bettering his time from the last visit to Jerez at the end of November last year by over a second, according to times posted by the respected Italian site GPOne.com. Badovini's progress was much more limited: the Italian was just a couple of tenths quicker than his time from November, and over a second and a half slower than Checa's lap time, the Spaniard having set his fastest time on a set of soft tires.
Ducati today confirmed that they have signed an agreement the Francis Batta for the Belgian to run their World Superbike team for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The announcement had been expected for some time, as Batta had been linked to the deal almost immediately after the shock announcement that talks between Althea and Ducati had collapsed.
The team will be contesting the 2013 World Superbike Championship with the Ducati 1199 Panigale. Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini have signed up for the team, and will ride the Panigale in Alstare colors next season.
Below is the press release announcing the deal:
Ducati and Team Alstare together in World Superbike for two years as "Team Ducati Alstare"
It has been clear for some time that 2012 would bring a major shake up in World Superbikes. With Yamaha announcing their withdrawal from the series and Althea looking doubtful of continuing, all the way up until Sunday afternoon at Portimao, it has been very difficult to sketch the outlines of a rider line up for next season. But after the hectic round of negoiating at the final round of the 2011 season in Portimao, at least part of the equation has become clear, and a relatively healthy-looking WSBK grid is starting to take shape.
It took some last-minute haggling - and the direct intervention of Ducati Corse CEO Claudio Domenicali - to get the situation straight, but on Sunday afternoon, between race 1 and race 2, the future of the Althea Ducati squad was assured. The situation was helped by the threat of losing the #1 plate of newly-crowned World Champion Carlos Checa to BMW, where he had been offered a seat in the BMW Italia team wth factory support, but Checa and Althea team boss Genesio Bevilacqua wanted to extend the partnership which has proven so successful this year. The Althea team will be expanded to two riders, with Superstock 1000 champion Davide Giugliano slotting alongside Checa.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after qualifying on Saturday at the Motorland Aragon ciruit near Alcañiz in Spain:
The brand new Superpole format adopted by World Superbikes for the 2009 season threw up a great many conundrums at Phillip Island on Saturday, as well as a few surprises. But perhaps most of all, it also threw up confirmation of what some had suspected, and many had hoped.
The format is relatively simple, and borrowed from Formula 1:
- The 20 riders who set the fastest times during the two ordinary qualifying practice sessions go through to the new Superpole;
- At the end of the afternoon, Superpole is run, consisting of three 12 minute sessions, with a 7 minute break between the sessions. The riders are given two qualifying tires, which they can use at any time during any of the three Superpole sessions. But only two super-soft qualifiers spread over three sessions means that they will have to use race tires only in at least one of the sessions;
- At the end of the first Superpole session, the 4 slowest riders are excluded, and grid positions 17 through 20 assigned in order of time;
- At the end of the second Superpole session, the 8 slowest riders are excluded, and grid positions 9 through 16 are awarded in order of the time set in the second session;
- In the third and final Superpole session, the 8 remaining riders compete against each other in a straightforward fight for grid positions, with places awarded based on the times set in this third and final session.
Easily understandable, but the subtleties and difficulties arise in the interplay between the number of qualifying tires and Superpole sessions. And those subtleties claimed their first victims in the very first session: both BMWs failed to make it through to the second session, after gambling on a soft race tire, and saving their qualifiers for later on. As it happened, neither Ruben Xaus nor Troy Corser ended up using them, the race tires leaving them just short of making the cut. They were joined by Roberto Rolfo and Tommy Hill, Hill victim of an earlier blown engine, and not enough laps to set a fast time.
After MotoGP went four stroke, there was never any doubt about which was the premier class of motorcycle racing. Coinciding with the flight of the Japanese manufacturers from World Superbikes, the combination of Valentino Rossi's charisma and roaring, smoking, sliding 990cc bikes solidified the series' position as the pinnacle of two-wheeled racing which would brook no competition. But as the Japanese manufacturers started to slowly creep back into World Superbikes, and MotoGP switched to an 800cc capacity, the balance of power has started to shift.
During the off-season, that movement has started to snowball: The combination of 35 entries in World Superbikes and Kawasaki's withdrawal from MotoGP has switched the spotlight from the Spanish-run series to the Italian-based championship. Once jokingly referred to as the Italian Open Championship, the ten nationalities which fill the 2009 World Superbike paddock has laid that old chestnut very forcefully to rest. World Superbikes are in the ascendancy, and with the might of the marketing organization which runs FIFA behind them, the Flammini brothers are preparing to take on the pomp of Carmelo Ezpeleta's Catalunyan power base.
They have everything going for them: While Kawasaki was pulling out of MotoGP, two new manufacturers, BMW and Aprilia, were joining World Superbikes, with KTM warming up their RC8R in the supporting Superstock class. What's more, and probably more importantly, this season looks like being one of the most open contests there has been for a very long time. Ask one WSBK fan who they like for the title and they will give you a long list of favorites, and ask a couple more fans and you end up with a list of possible champions almost as big as the entire MotoGP field.
But force them to make a choice, and you soon whittle it down to a manageable list of names in with a serious chance of lifting the title this year. The bookies' favorite and heir apparent to Troy Bayliss' throne is Noriyuki Haga. The Japanese veteran is after all on Bayliss' bike, and as Haga came surprisingly close to preventing the Australian from running away on the factory Xerox Ducati last year, now that he's on the 1098R, he is surely a force to be reckoned with. The only problem with this scenario is Haga's undoubted ability to beat himself. Always fast, and always spectacular, too often Haga is also prone to throw the bike up the road, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. If Haga is to finally secure the championship he has been chasing for so many years, he will need to be a little more considered, and a little more consistent.
For Haga has some very serious competition, from rookies and veterans, young riders and old. It is unusual for one rookie to be tipped for the title, but for three of them to be in the mix is truly remarkable. And it is a remarkable crop which will be entering World Superbikes this year. The newcomer whose name is generating the most debate is Ben Spies. The triple AMA superbike champion is revered in the US for beating the relentless Mat Mladin three years in a row, while elsewhere around the world, there is much scepticism about the depth of Spies' talent. Such doubts are understandable, as the AMA series gets very little exposure outside of North America, and it is perceived as a two-horse affair between whoever happens to be aboard the field-destroying Yoshimura Suzukis.