MotoGP Rider Exodus Into WSBK For Next Year?
There's a host of talented rookies scratching at the gate of the MotoGP paddock, and the veterans are getting nervous. Ben Spies, Marco Simoncelli and Alvaro Bautista are all tipped to enter MotoGP next year, and with the number of available seats unlikely to increase much above the existing 18 (or 19, depending on how you count), the series' current crop of underperformers are looking around for fallback positions.
Right now, their prospects look brightest in the World Superbike paddock, and so the WSBK paddock will be welcoming a couple of extra guests this weekend, in the form of Carlo Pernat and Roger Burnett. Not names the casual fan may be all too familiar with, but key players in MotoGP nonetheless. Pernat manages a large stable of top Italian talent, including Loris Capirossi, Marco Simoncelli, Alex de Angelis and Niccolo Canepa, while Burnett is the personal manager of British rider James Toseland. While Capirossi looks relatively safe at Suzuki, and Simoncelli is a dead cert to move up to MotoGP, the prospects of Alex de Angelis and Niccolo Canepa are far from certain, and Toseland has come in for a barrage of criticism after his dismal start to the season.
And so Pernat and Burnett are in Misano gauging interest for their riders in World Superbikes. Both Toseland and Canepa are familiar faces in the WSBK paddock, with Toseland having won 2 World Superbike titles, and Canepa having been FIM Superstock 1000 champion. And the interest for Toseland is already high. According to the Italian magazine Motosprint, Alstare Suzuki boss Francis Batta has been expressing his admiration for the Brit, and has been in Japan for the past few days talking about his 2010 plans. Batta already has Max Neurkirchner signed for 2010 (despite interest from the BMW team), and is believed to be keen to sign Toseland alongside the young German, in the hope of winning back the world title for Suzuki for the first time since 2005 with Troy Corser.
The pressure has eased a little on Toseland in the past couple of weeks, as Ben Spies has made it clear he is currently very happy in World Superbike, and less inclined to move over to MotoGP, while Marco Simoncelli has admitted that he has been talking to the Gresini Honda team as well as Tech 3 Yamaha. But of the two current Tech 3 Yamaha riders, Toseland is the most vulnerable. According to GPOne.com, Herve Poncharal is very keen to keep Colin Edwards in the team for next year, saying "If it was up to me to decide, I would re-sign with Colin Edwards today."
While the MotoGP stars are exploring options over in World Superbikes, there is also some interest coming from the other direction. John Hopkins - despite only having spent one and a half race weekends with Stiggy Honda - has reportedly been testing the waters with Tech 3 Yamaha, according to Motorcycle News' Matthew Birt. So far, his advances - made through the office of his personal manager, Bob Moore, who also played a key part in Tech 3's deal with Monster Energy - have been rebuffed. With Edwards and Toseland already on the books, and potential deals with Ben Spies and/or Marco Simoncelli, Herve Poncharal is in no hurry to fill seats at the team.