It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team.
Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory's team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development. The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team's places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia's funding will now keep them in the premier class.
No riders have been announced, but it is widely anticipated that Marco Melandri wil return from World Superbikes to race the Aprilia, where he will partner with current Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista. Gresini may also be looking to retain Scott Redding, but Redding is keen to ride the Honda RC213V stipulated in his contract. With the 2015 Aprilia being an uprated version of the ART machine currently being ridden by Danilo Petrucci, that bike is unlikely to be competitive. For 2016, Aprilia will be bringing an all-new machine, only loosely based on the current ART.
Kawasaki's Tom Sykes leaves the two-day official World Superbike test with his authority firmly stamped on the WSBK field. The Yorkshireman was nearly a quarter of a second faster than Aprilia's Sylvain Guintoli, and nearly four tenths quicker than his teammate Loris Baz. Marco Melandri was six tenths off the pace of Sykes, with the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies setting the fifth and sixth best times.
Neither Sykes nor Baz had much to work on besides further perfecting set up of the Kawasaki ZX-10R. The development work was handed to EVO rider David Salom, who spent time developing the 2015 version of the bike Kawasaki will race next year. Despite the rule changes coming next season, the Kawasaki is still more closer to a Superbike than an EVO bike, Kawasaki manager Guim Roda told German website Speedweek.
MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Homage to Catalunya
In September Scotland will decide whether it wants to split from Great Britain, after three centuries together. Two months later the Catalan people will vote in a referendum to decide whether Catalunya will split from Spain, also after 300 years together, following the conquest of the region by the Bourbon kings.
This is a huge political issue, much bigger than anything to do with motorcycling, but if Catalunya does gain the independence it craves it will become the greatest bike racing nation on earth, even greater than Spain.
Press releases from the series organizer and the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the first day of practice at Imola:
Press releases from some of the World Superbike teams after the latest test at Jerez:
Press releases issued by some of the World Superbike and World Supersport teams present at the Portimao test held over the past few days:
Press releases from some of the World Superbike teams after the test at Jerez:
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.
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.
BMW Motorrad today issued the following press release, announcing the end of factory involvement in World Superbikes, and a shift of focus to supplying customer teams. Analysis of the announcement will follow, once we have more idea of the full implications of this:
BMW Motorrad continues its strategic realignment in motorsport.
With effect from the end of the 2013 season, BMW Motorrad will terminate its commitment in the FIM Superbike World Championship in order to strengthen the customer sports programme.
Munich, 24th July 2013. BMW Motorrad is continuing its long-term strategic realignment of the brand. This strategy also affects BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s activities, which as a next step will also be restructured.
At the end of the 2013 season, BMW Motorrad Motorsport will terminate its factory involvement in the FIM Superbike World Championship. The main focus and some of the resources of BMW Motorrad’s commitment to sport will switch to other motorsport activities like the successful international customer sports programme from 2014 on.
Marco Melandri has undergone surgery to fix the pain he had been suffering in his right shoulder. The Italian had damaged his shoulder in a crash last year at Portimao, and been treated for the problem over the winter. The initial feeling after testing had been good, but another crash at Phillip Island exacerbated the problem once again, and Melandri elected to undergo surgery on his return to Italy.
The operation - to remove arthritis and other irregularities from the acromion, the part of the shoulder blade where the collarbone attaches - was performed by the renowned Italian shoulder specialist Dr. Giuseppe Porcellini, the same surgeon who fixed Valentino Rossi's damaged shoulder at the end of 2010. The surgery was deemed a success, and Melandri is hoping to be fit enough to ride at the next round of World Superbikes at Aragon, on 14th April. The prognosis is that Melandri will be able to ride free of pain, though his shoulder will probably still be weak.
Below is the press release issued by the BMW press office:
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams, as well as the series organizer, after qualifying on Saturday at Phillip Island:
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 BMW Goldbet World Superbike and Pata Honda World Supersport teams issued the following press release after two-day test at Jerez: