With the uncertainty surrounding the World Superbike series easing up, the outlines of the 2014 season are starting to become clear. The test after the final round of the 2013 season at Jerez turned into an audition for some of the riders, with riders still searching for a team for next season.
In the days since that test, news has been emerging of rider signings and team plans for 2014. While both the Pata Honda and factory Kawasaki line ups were known, the future of the Aprilia and Ducati teams was still uncertain, with doubts over whether one or both of the Italian factories might pull out of World Superbikes. Ducati confrmed their intention to continue in 2014 earlier this week, while today, Aprilia have also stated their intention to keep racing next year. Aprilia have also confirmed the signing of Marco Melandri, something which had long been expected. Melandri will line up alongside Sylvain Guintoli for the 2014 season.
The Pata Honda team today issued the following press release, containing an interview with Jonathan Rea. In it, Rea discusses the leg injury he suffered in Germany, watching races at home, why he chose to remain with Honda, and his hopes for 2014:
Rea raring to go for 2014
Q&A with Pata Honda World Superbike rider Jonathan Rea
By his own admission, Jonathan Rea’s 2013 World Superbike season was not all that he would have wanted and, in spite of maintaining his record of scoring at least one race win in each of his five SBK seasons to date, it ended prematurely.
The 26-year-old was well-placed in race one at the Nürburgring in Germany on 1 September when he crashed at high speed on an expired machine’s oil. Rea broke his left femur in the crash and his season was over.
It was the second serious rider injury that the Pata Honda team suffered this season after Rea’s team-mate Leon Haslam broke his left tibia and fibula at Assen in The Netherlands in April.
Haslam returned to riding just four weeks later but his injury and its after-affects influenced the rest of his season and his own contribution to the development of the 2013 CBR1000RR.
Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam will return to the Pata Honda team for the 2014 World Superbike season. Both men have extended their contracts for one more season, giving the aging CBR1000RR what is expected to be its last season before a new bike makes an appearance.
The pairing has been plagued by injury this season, and despite increased support from HRC for 2013, the results have not been as the team had hoped. The problems had caused Johnny Rea to look elsewhere for 2014, the Ulsterman having held talks with Forward Racing about riding one of the Yamaha machines, as well as having spoken to Ducati about replacing Ben Spies in the Pramac team. In the end, the Pata Honda team was his best option for 2014.
One disappointment has been the lack of the expected V4 Honda superbike. Honda had been expected to reveal the bike at the EICMA show this November, but the Japanese manufacturer appears to have postponed the release of the new bike due to the dismal market for sports bikes. Whether the delay will turn into a cancellation is as yet unknown.
The Pata Honda press release appears below:
Pata Honda confirms 2014 SBK line-up
The Pata Honda World Superbike team has announced that it will retain the same rider line-up of Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam heading into the 2014 world championship season.
With all of the prototype seats occupied for 2014 - barring a contractual bust up between Ducati and Ben Spies, which is only an expensive theoretical possibility at the moment - battle has commenced for the rest of the MotoGP seats regarded as being most competitive. While the factory bikes - the bikes in the factory and satellite teams being raced as MSMA entries - are all taken, the privateer machines - using Dorna spec ECU software and extra fuel - are still mostly up for grabs.
The three most highly sought after machines are the 2013 Yamaha M1s to be leased by the NGM Forward squad, Honda's production racer (a modified RC213V with a standard gearbox and metal spring instead of pneumatic valves) and the Aprilia ART bikes, which are an increasingly heavily modified version of Aprilia's RSV4 superbike. Of the three, only the ART machine is a known quantity, with Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet having raced the bikes with some success in 2012 and 2013, joined by Yonny Hernandez and Karel Abraham this year. Teams and riders will have to guess about the performance of the Yamahas and Hondas, though given the basis of the two machines, it is a safe bet they will be relatively competitive.
The most popular machine among riders is the Yamaha M1, naturally enough. The bike is a near complete 2013 machine, with a few parts excluded, such as the fuel tank, and will utilize the spec ECU software from Dorna, being developed by the current CRT teams. Given just how good the 2013 M1 is - Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi have won races on it, Cal Crutchlow has scored regular podiums - it is expected to be the best privateer machine on the grid next season, and anyone hoping to advance in the series is angling for a ride on it.
And so Giovanni Cuzari, the team boss of Forward, is a very popular man with the riders. He has had talks with almost everyone who is anyone, including current Pata Honda World Superbike rider Johnny Rea, Aspar's Aleix Espargaro, now rideless Nicky Hayden, current BMW World Superbike man Marco Melandri, IODA Came's Danilo Petrucci, as well as current Forward riders Colin Edwards and Claudio Corti, and Forward's Moto2 rider Alex De Angelis.
The Pata Honda team issued the following press release at the end of their test at the Motorland Aragon circuit:
With the first full test for the World Superbike class behind us, and the first test of the MotoGP grid about to get underway at Sepang at the end of this week, it is time to take a look at motorcycle racing's preseason, and evaluate where we stand so far. Just what is the state of play for both MotoGP and World Superbike in 2013?
The question is even more pertinent now that both series have been taken under the wing of Dorna, much to the consternation of World Superbike fans and, to some extent, the WSBK paddock as well. It was feared that Dorna would either kill off World Superbike entirely to strengthen the position of MotoGP, or impose such stringent technical regulations on the series as to dumb it down to Superstock spec.
Fortunately, neither of those options looks likely. World Superbikes will continue as a separate series, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta was keen to explain when quizzed about the takeover at Ducati's Wrooom launch event early in January. The aim is to build a strong WSBK series to stand alongside MotoGP, preserving the unique identity of the two series - WSBK as a place to race production bikes, MotoGP as the series for racing prototypes.
The WSBK teams issued the following press releases after the test at Jerez:
Pata Honda Reveal 2013 World Superbike Livery for Rea, Haslam, Van der Mark and Zanetti (With Photos)
The Pata Honda World Superbike team unveiled their 2013 colors at the Verona motorcycle show on Saturday, showing off the colors which Johnny Rea and Leon Haslam will be defending in the World Superbike championship, and Michael van der Mark and Lorenzo Zanetti will be wearing in World Supersport. The team issued the following press release, complete with a selection of photos:
Pata Honda team unveiled at Verona
The new Pata Honda team was finally unveiled at Verona in Italy this afternoon, as it prepares for its dual assault on the World Superbike and World Supersport championships.
New sponsor, snack manufacturer Pata, supported by Tonello Energie, has joined forces with Honda, the world’s largest and most successful motorcycle manufacturer to target this season’s two principal production-based world championship titles.
Sporting all-new livery on their Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade machinery, World Superbike riders Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam, both from the UK, took to the stage in front of a big crowd at Motor Bike Expo, Verona’s annual motorcycle exhibition.
They were joined by two World Supersport debutants, Dutch flyer Michael van der Mark and Lorenzo Zanetti from Italy, who will compete on Honda’s multiple championship winning CBR600RR.
The Pata Honda World Superbike team today announced they have signed a sponsorship agreement with Barracuda, an Italian provider of motorcycle accessories, for the 2013 season. The press release announcing the deal is shown below:
Pata Honda gets added bite with Barracuda
Team Pata Honda has announced that its World Superbike and World Supersport championship campaigns for the 2013 season will be supported by Italian motorcycle accessories manufacturer Barracuda Moto.
Based in Florence and founded just over 10 years ago by current chief executive officer, Alessandro Giardina, Barracuda has quickly established itself as one of Europe’s most exciting, progressive and successful manufacturers of motorcycle accessories.
The Honda World Superbike press office issued the following press release after completing their test at Jerez:
The Honda World Superbike team issued the following press release after a wet test at Aragon, where Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam tested new parts for the 2013 WSBK season. The uprated electronics package, put together with the help of HRC and hoped to have a major impact on performance, is due to arrive for the next test of the team at Jerez. The press release appears below:
Jonathan Rea On The Difference Between MotoGP And WSBK Electronics: "It Is Such A Huge Part Of MotoGP"
The chance to substitute in the Repsol Honda team for the injured Casey Stoner was a great opportunity for Jonathan Rea to get a feel for a MotoGP bike and demonstrate his talent and potential, objectives in which he succeeded admirably. But it was also a chance for MotoGP journalists to grill the Ulsterman on the differences between various aspects of MotoGP and World Superbikes, Rea having shown he was both fast enough to feel the difference, smart enough to understand the difference and articulate enough to explain it to reporters.
At Aragon, the subject turned to electronics, and the difference between the systems used in the two series. The topic was broached as Rea was explaining what had happened to him during the race. He had got caught up cycling through the various electronics strategies the Honda RC213V is equipped with, looking for one that would help him as the tire wore throughout the race. A lack of dry track time getting to understand how the electronics affected the bike as the tires begin to wear left him confused and struggling to find a setting that would work, Rea told reporters.
With the MotoGP paddock assembled at the Motorland Aragon circuit, the press got their first chance to gauge rider reaction to the proposal of a spec ECU which Dorna is looking to introduce into MotoGP, most probably from 2014. The reaction was guardedly positive among the MotoGP regulars, though all five riders questioned in the pre-event press conference raised concerns over safety. Only Jonathan Rea, standing in for Casey Stoner in the Repsol Honda team for probably the last time, dissented, believing that MotoGP should be a pure prototype series.
"If everyone has the same electronics, this will be positive for everyone, more positive for the ones who do not have the best electronics," Jorge Lorenzo told the press conference. He was the first to voice safety concerns. "I think we have to try it and to see if we still have the same security on the bike. Because now we avoid a lot of crashes, especially highsides, and maybe with the standard electronics the bike is a bit more dangerous. Because now, the bikes are more powerful, we have more than 250 horsepower, so we have to be careful of these things."
Honda finally ends speculation on Jonathan Rea's future, announcing that he will be the lynchpin of the Ten Kate team in 2013 with Leon Haslam as his team mate, riding the aged Honda Fireblade in Pata colours for its last year of racing. Rumours of a full-time MotoGP ride next year are well and truly crushed with this announcement, but with talk of a V4 Honda replacing the Fireblade for 2014, Rea's input into making it competetive will earn him even more goodwill at HRC.
The full text of the press releases from both Honda and BMW follow:
The main protagonist in Friday's action was the weather. Like a hormonal teenage girl, the rain simply could not make up its mind whether it was going to fall properly or not, light drizzle blowing in for ten minutes before blowing out again five minutes later. (Hormonal teenage boys, it should be noted, know exactly what they want, and apart from the obvious, what they want is the opposite of whatever they have just been told). The weather left the track in that awful half-and-half condition, too cold and damp for slicks, too dry for wets, and the track conditions left the MotoGP men mostly sitting in the pits.
Dani Pedrosa explained it best. "Too wet, so you cannot push, so the tire cools down immediately after you go out, and in or two laps you have to stop, because there is no temperature in the tire. And with the wets, it's completely the opposite, the tire is immediately out of the working range, and one or two laps and it is gone." Even in the short period you could go out, there was nothing to be learned, Pedrosa said. "If the tire has too much temperature or too little temperature, the bike feels completely different. There's no meaning in going out."