World Superbikes

2009 Portimao World Superbike FP1 Results - Smrz Leads, Haga Ahead Of Spies

Noriyuki Haga drew first blood in the battle for the World Superbike championship at Portimao, finishing ahead of title rival Ben Spies. Spies and Haga had swapped the lead through much of the session, with the Texan looking like getting the upper hand, but a great wave of competitors washed over Spies in the final minutes, demoting the American down to 7th.

Jakub Smrz led the charge, setting the fastest time ahead of Noriyuki Haga, the Japanese Xerox Ducati rider getting off to an excellent start. Yukio Kagayama and Broc Parkes finished 3rd and 4th, both men leaving the series and apparently determined to leave their mark. Leon Haslam and Carlos Checa imposed themselves between Parkes and Spies, leaving Spies down in 7th.

Though the difference between Haga and Spies looks big on the timesheets, in terms of times, it is only marginal. The two title candidates are separated by less than 0.2 seconds, and indeed the entire grid is close. Less than 1 second separates the top 14 riders.

Results: 

Who Needs To Finish Where: The 2009 Championship Permutations

Both MotoGP and World Superbikes are in action this weekend, and a grand total of four titles could be wrapped up on Sunday. At Sepang, Valentino Rossi could secure his 7th MotoGP title on Sunday, while Hiroshi Aoyama could clinch the last ever 250cc world title. Several hours later, at the last WSBK round at Portimao in Portugal, the World Superbike title is likely to go down to the wire, with little to choose between Noriyuki Haga and Ben Spies. Between the two World Superbike races, Cal Crutchlow looks likely to secure the World Supersport championship.

Of course, it's not quite as simple as all that, and so below is a guide to who needs to finish where in which races to wrap up the championship. The 125cc class already has a champion, with Julian Simon clinching the title after beating Aspar team mate Bradley Smith at Phillip Island last weekend.

 

MotoGP

Despite his first-corner pile-up at Phillip Island, an incident which he later described as a "junior's mistake", Jorge Lorenzo is still in with a chance of the MotoGP crown. However, 38 points down to Valentino Rossi with two races to go, Lorenzo needs Rossi to make a mistake. Rossi needs just 12 points to secure the title, which a 4th place, which scores 13 points, would provide. 

Sykes Confirmed At PBM Kawasaki

After a wild rumor appeared last night that Paul Bird was about to sign Scott Redding to join Chris Vermeulen at the factory Kawasaki squad in World Superbike - a rumor that appears to have been a piece of deliberate misinformation from the Bird camp, after promising an exclusive to Britain's Motorcycle News, and was quickly scotched by a look at the FIM regulations, which confirmed that Redding is too young to ride in World Superbike - the team has finally announced their 2010 line up. As predicted by British site Bikesportnews.com over a week ago and reported by our very own Mike Walt, Tom Sykes has been given the nod.

The Briton is currently partnering Ben Spies at the Sterilgarda Yamaha World Superbike team, but Sykes has been completely overshadowed by the sensational debut of his Texan team mate. Spies' rookie season has disguised the fact that Sykes has had a strong year, consistently finishing in the top 8, with a best result of 4th at Assen. Sykes is currently in 8th place in the championship.

The fact that Tom Sykes has agreed to ride for Paul Bird again should be regarded as remarkable. Sykes and former team mate Shane Byrne left Bird's Stobart Honda British Superbike squad at the end of the 2007 season, amid much acrimony and recriminations. Bird then hit out in very bitter terms at both Byrne and Sykes in an outburst in Bikesportnews.com, accusing them of "turning their backs" on the team.

Aprilia to Field 3 RSV4's at Portimao

With Shinya Nakano returning to the fold at Portimao after an injury plagued rookie season in World Superbike, Aprilia Racing will dig deep and field a third bike for newly-crowned British Superbike champion Leon Camier.  The ride for Camier is a second audition for a seat on the team after his debut with the squad at Magny Cours showed flashes of promise but was marred by technical difficulties.  Nakano, who has had difficulties both with injuries and a self-admitted problem adapting his 250 based style to superbikes, is widely believed to be on his way out of the factory squad.Alex DeAngelis had been linked to the second seat but rumors are increasing that the San Marinan will take a ride with Scot Honda in MotoGP.  Sterilgarda Ducati's Shane "Shakey" Byrne is also considered  a contender for the Aprilia ride.

Guintoli To Make WSBK Debut At Portimao

Sylvain Guintoli has had a tough season this year. Forced to switch to the British Superbike series at the end of last season once his tenure with the Pramac Ducati team was at an end, he made a fantastic debut, winning his first two races aboard a Superbike, following that up with a double podium. It all went wrong for him after that, horribly fracturing his leg in a warm-up-lap pile-up caused by Australian Josh Brookes.

His early performance aboard the Crescent Suzuki and the form he showed once he returned to racing at the end of August so impressed Suzuki that he has been rewarded with a ride in World Superbikes next season. The Frenchman is to join the Alstare Suzuki team, racing alongside young Briton Leon Haslam, who has been impressive aboard the Stiggy Honda. In fact, Guintoli is to join the team early, as due to the absence of Max Neukirchner due to continuing problems with cracked vertebrae, the Frenchman has been drafted in to race in the final round of World Superbikes at Portimao this weekend.

WSBK: Checa to Ride Privateer Ducati in 2010 -- CONFIRMED

A variety of sources are reporting that Carlos Checa will ride a privateer Ducati for the Althea team in the World Superbike series in 2010. Checa, who was recently voted off the Ten Kate Island, is still capable of running intermittently at the front, especially around contract time. It had been rumored that Checa was in line for a testing gig for Ducati MotoGP, replacing long-time tester Vittoriano Guaresci, who will be allegedly be taking a rider liason position for the company, but apparently racing pays better, especially when your income comes mostly from personal sponsorships and contingency bonuses, as Checa's reportedly has for the last few years.  It has been previously reported that Althea would switch from Honda  to Ducati in 2010 and were pursuing Jakub Smrz and/or Niccolo Canepa.

UPDATE

WSBK: Neukirchner Confirmed at Ten Kate

Newly sacked German rider Max Neukirchner has quickly found gainful employment,  signing a deal that will see him partnering with Jonny Rea on a Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR in the World Superbike series in 2010. This year, Neukirchner has battled injuries incurred at Monza and Imola and his contract with Alstare Suzuki was terminated in late September by team owner Frankie Batta, allegedly over concerns about his level of fitness. Current Ten Kate rider Carlos Checa, despite a flurry of late season activity, will not return to the Ten Kate team, who are downsizing to two riders in 2010. Checa is thought to be in line for a testing gig with the Ducati MotoGp team. Checa has a history with Ducati, having ridden for the team in MotoGP in 2005, alongside Loris Capirossi.

Kagayama Returning to BSB

In the wake of Sylvain Guintoli's move to the Alstare Suzuki team, The Worx Crescent Suzuki BSB team has announced that soon to be former Alstare rider Yukio Kagayama will return to the British Superbike series and ride for the British team in 2010.

WSBK: Neukirchner out, Guintoli in at Alstare Suzuki? -- UPDATE: Guintoli Confirmed

Amid a recent raft of rumors that Max Neukirchner has left/been fired from the Alstare Suzuki team, owner Frankie Batta has acknowledged that Neukirchner will not be riding for the team in 2010. According to GPone.com, Batta says that the team declined to exercise an option on the German in late September because he wasn't forthright about his physical condition.  Specifically, Batta says that Neukirchner underwent a delicate operation on his back that the team was not informed of and when it was discovered, declined to meet with the team at Magny-Cours and undergo a physical in Belgium, where the Alstare team is located. Batta went on to say that the second seat on the team will be filled by Sylvain Guintoli, currently riding for the Worx Crescent Suzuki team in the British Superbike series. Exactly how the team came to avail itself of Guintoli's services is unclear, as the Frenchman is under contract to the Worx team for 2010.

UPDATE

Alstare has issued a press release confirming that Max Neukirchner's contract has not been extended and their reasons why it hasn't.

WSBK: Haslam Confirms 2010 Alstare Ride

Leon Haslam, speaking to Tony Carter on the Eurosport coverage of the first race of the Oulton BSB round, has confirmed one of the worst-held secrets of the World Superbike silly season, namely that he'll moving over to the factory Alstare Suzuki team in 2010. Haslam didn't speculate on who might be his teammate, claiming that he has no knowledge of who it would be. Recent rampant speculation has placed current Alstare rider Max Neukirchner at odds with team owner Frankie Batta, with the German touted to leave the team and sign with Ten Kate Honda. The Haslam signing also suggests that long-time Suzuki favorite, Yukio "Crash" Kagayama, will not return to the Alstare team. Kagayama, who hasn't had a win since 2006, is widely tipped to return to the BSB.

WSBK: Tom Sykes to PB Kawasaki?

British racing site Bike Sport News is reporting that soon-to-be ex-Yamaha rider Tom Sykes will partner with Chris Vermeulen at Paul Bird Kawasaki in 2010. Sykes, who currently lies 8th in the point standings, has had a creditable year but has had the misfortune of being paired with the best pure rookie in recent times, Ben Spies, and has perhaps unfairly suffered in comparison. Paul Bird, interviewed on the Eurosport coverage of the Oulton BSB round, commented that there was a good chance that Sykes would be joining the team and exactly who would be occupying the seat would be sorted by the middle of next week. Bird also commented that the team's second rider would be British, which doesn't eliminate Shane "Shakey" Byrne, who has been heavily rumored to join the team.  Bird's statement does, however, confirm rumors that Australian Broc Parkes will not return to the team.

WSBK: Neukirchner to Ten Kate?

A variety of sources are reporting that Max Neukirchner will make a shocking  jump to ride alongside Jonny Rea on the Ten Kate Honda team in 2010. Although the young German rider had a contract with Alstare Suzuki for 2010, it is believed that the pact was terminated as early as the first of October  by the team due to fitness concerns based on injuries incurred at the mid-summer Imola test.  Rumor has it that Alstare owner Frankie Batta used the fitness issue to clear the decks so that a  French ex-MotoGP rider (although who that could be is kind of hazy with Sylvain Guintoli already signed to the BSB Worx team for next year) could come aboard the sinking Alstare ship bearing a bucketload of Francs to rescue the cash-strapped team.

Ten Kate had been thought to be on the verge of re-signing current rider Carlos Checa after former riders James Toseland and Chris Vermeulen inked deals with different teams. The Neukirchner/Ten Kate agreement will reportedly be sealed sometime next week.

WSBK: Alstare "Surprised" that Neukirchner Will be Fit to Test at Portimao

Astare Suzuki, on a post on the team's website,  has expressed surprise that Max Neukirchner, who incurred grave injuries to his back at the mid-summer Imola WSBK test, would be available for the apres-season test at Portimao, Portugal. Citing a recent physical exam at Imola, the team claims that "...doctors Costa, Corbascio and neuro-surgeon Professor Bollini all declared that they would not take responsibility for allowing Max to ride a bike again this year. "

Haslam and Stiggy: Amicable Divorce?

The usually well informed Italian site GPone.com is reporting that Stiggy Honda will release rising British star Leon Haslam from whatever contractual relationship they have with the Pocket Rocket immediately after the final round at Portimao. It has been widely rumored for weeks that Haslam will sign (if he hasn't already) with Frankie Batta's Alstare Suzuki team. This release would allow Haslam to test with the team immediately following the Portugese round. Stiggy, whose financial problems have forced the team to cut their involvement in WSBK and WSS to one rider per series for the last three races of 2009 and forced a dissolution of their partnership with S2 Racing, will reportedly divulge which direction the team will take in 2010 at Portimao.

WSBK: 2010 Provisional Schedule

Phillip Island will kick off the year with Portimao to follow in the former Qatar slot.  Magny Cours will regain the season-ending race it had from 2003-2007.

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