As the title was settled last time out, the fight for third place and the manufacturers title were still to be decided.
Sunday is going to be a big day for World Superbikes at Magny-Cours. Not just because the 2012 title is to be settled in what could be a fascinating showdown, helped in no small part by the weather, but perhaps most of all because on Sunday morning at 9am local time, Infront Motor Sports CEO will speak to the media for the first time since the announcement that Bridgepoint, the private equity firm which owns both Infront and MotoGP rights owners Dorna, has decided to bring both series under a single umbrella, and that umbrella is to be Dorna.
That news has sent a shockwave through the motorcycle racing world. The World Superbike paddock is hardest hit of all: the mood there is somber, with everyone from Infront staff to team mechanics fearing the outcome of what amounts to a coup by Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. Optimists are few, especially as Ezpeleta is one of the most reviled characters among denizens of the WSBK paddock, because of what he represents: the perceived arrogance of the Grand Prix paddock, and a culture which is anathema to everything which World Superbikes stand for. MotoGP is truly the Beatles to WSBK's Rolling Stones.
There is some justification to their fears. WSBK, in the person of Paolo Flammini, has been holding out on requests from MotoGP's organizers to impose further restrictions on development of the WSBK machines, bringing them much more in line with the Superstock-style regulations proposed by FIM to harmonize regulations at the national level. He does so with good reason: the manufacturers currently racing in World Superbikes have made it very clear that they have no desire to see any further restrictions on tuning and bike modification put into place. Given WSBK's increasing reliance on manufacturer teams - though blessed with six different manufacturers, teams without some form of manufacturer backing are finding it increasingly hard to survive, leading to shrinking grids and gaps opening between the factory-backed and privateer squads - keeping the factories happy is becoming ever more important. WSBK does at least have the freedom to change the rules without factory interference, something which was until recently unthinkable in MotoGP.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after qualifying for the WSBK season finale at Magny-Cours:
The last Superpole of 2012 held a few surprises with a small error of a tenth of a second or two having potential consequences for what remains of the season.
The rain stayed away all day, ensuring the World Supersport qualifying would be unhampered by weather.
The provisional calendar for World Superbikes has been released. Unsurprisingly, Miller Motorsports is no longer present, being replaced outright by Laguna Seca. Portimao is still on the calendar, but is now subject to contract, meaning they need to show they can hold a race without going broke first.
The first two months hold a single race each, in Australia then India, and the European leg starts in April.
Supersport misses out on racing at Laguna Seca, while the Superstock cup doesn't run in Philip Island, Buddh, Donington, Moscow Raceway or Laguna Seca.
Both Brno and Misano are missing from the list, but there is an unannounced track on June 23rd. With Imola following a week later on the 30th, a return to Brno seems marginally more likely.
Broc Parkes topped the timing sheet above French duo of Jules Cluzel and Fabien Foret. Parkes reeled off quite a few 1'42 laps while Cluzel only managed two. Tellingly, Fabien Foret had a run of seven 1'42 laps in series after his fastest lap. Kenan Sofuoglu and Sam Lowes also put in long runs of 42s and 43s.
As this year has been wracked with weather, it only seems fitting that World Superbikes should be greeted to Magny Cours, the last racer weekend of the season, with overnight rain that left the riders at the morning's free practice sessions to duke it out on a drying track. As the day progressed, the track got drier and riders were able to start getting their elbows down at the sweeping left-handed 180 corner.
Jules Cluzel took advantage of the dried out track to grab a clear provisional pole ahead of Broc Parkes and Fabien Foret in a session split by a red flag.
In the last race weekend of the year, the weather makes one final appearance and caused a slow session as everyone got used to the conditions. Sam Lowes was fastest, showing the form he's brought with him all year as an early riser. Kenan Sofuoglu, crowned world champion last time out, demonstrated that the title doesn't slow him down either as he pipped Jules Cluzel for second fastest.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams, as well as the WSBK press office, ahead of this weekend's season finale at Magny-Cours:
Bridgepoint, the private equity organization has today announced that it has brought MotoGP and World Superbike, the two motorcycle racing series it owns, under a single umbrella organization. The reorganization will see Dorna Sports become the parent organization for both series, though Infront will operate as an independent entity and continue to organize World Superbike under its own banner. Infront has also been named as "marketing advisor and global advisor" for both MotoGP and WSBK.
The implications of this announcement are huge, but not immediately clear. The logic behind the move is impeccable: the two series are spending too much of their time competing against each other instead of working together to promote the sport of motorcycle racing. By combining their marketing efforts, the hope is that both series will be made stronger.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams, as well as the WSBK organizers, after Sunday's races at Portimao in Portugal:
In a weekend where championships could be determined, the weather decided once more that it needed to leave its mark. With wind and rain, the Superstock 1000 race had to be moved to late afternoon and races had to be held with only dry set up time.