Latest World Superbike News
The addition of the EVO category to the World Superbike class has had the hoped-for effect on the grid. From a modest entry list of 19 riders last year, the grid is up to a healthy 27 entries for 2014. The number of manufacturers has increased as well, up to 9, with MV Agusta, EBR (Erik Buell's latest venture) and Bimota all taking part, racing this year under the EVO banner. Bimota's entry is still provisional, subject to homologation of the BMW-based BB3 being approved.
The gamble of introducing a cheaper, lower-spec form of racing appears to have paid off, with 12 riders entered in the EVO category. Like the CRT class in MotoGP, the EVO category makes competing cheaper, with tuning restrictions closer to Superstock levels on engines, while chassis regulations remain the same as for the full SBK class entries.
The expansion in the World Superbike class has been partially at the expense of World Supersport, with teams such as Team Toth and Yakhnich using the opportunity to move up to WSBK. The World Supersport field is down to 23 entries, after years of fields of 30+ riders. The list of manufacturers in WSS is shorter, with just Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and MV Agusta represented. The World Superbike and World Supersport entry lists are shown below.
World Superbikes will be easier to watch for fans around the world this year. The World Superbike series has announced that it is to make an online video pass available to fans this season, making it possible to watch WSBK races live on the WorldSBK.com website, or rewatch them at leisure. The update comes as part of revamping of the series website, bringing it closer inline to the MotoGP.com website, now that the series is firmly in Dorna's hands.
The influence of Dorna is clear in the WorldSBK.com redesign. The layout has been adapted to echo the structure of the MotoGP.com website, and the video player is now identical to the one used on the MotoGP.com website. Using a single player, and Dorna's existing video infrastructue is what has made it possible for the World Superbike series to offer the online video streaming of races and archive of past videos. Though the announcement on the WorldSBK.com website is light on details, it promises live coverage of every weekend, including streaming of races, interviews with riders and 'exclusive video content'. It will likely feature a similar service to that of MotoGP.com video subscribers, which includes an extremely comprehensive archive.
The long wait for motorcycle racing fans is over. The winter test ban for the World Superbike ends today, and a number of teams will take to the track in Spain and Portugal over the next four days, weather permitting.
The World Superbike paddock is split between Portimao in Portugal and Almeria in southern Spain for the next few days, with Aprilia, Pata Honda and Ducati heading to Portimao, while Kawasaki and Voltcom Suzuki start at Almeria. Suzuki will pack up after two days at Almeria and join Aprilia, Honda and Ducati at Portimao until the 20th of January. The Yakhnich MV Agusta team will also be testing at Portimao, as will the World Supersport teams of PTR Honda and Mahi Kawasaki.
Kawasaki and Honda will be back in southern Spain in early February, with the factory Kawasaki team being joined by the Pedercini squad and Pata Honda for two days at Jerez. Everyone then packs up and heads much further south, to Australia, for the season opener at Phillip Island on 23rd February.
Below is the preseason testing schedule for the World Superbike, World Supersport and Superstock teams for the next few weeks:
Alex Lowes is to leave BSB and race for the Voltcom Suzuki team in World Superbikes in 2014. The move had been widely expected, after Lowes had tested the GSX-R1000 at Jerez in November, with unofficial reports suggesting Lowes had already signed a contract to move to WSBK. Today, the Voltcom Suzuki team confirmed officially that Lowes would be racing for them this season in WSBK, alongside Irishman Eugene Laverty.
Lowes' switch means both Lowes twins will be racing at world championship level, with reigning World Supersort champion Sam joining the Speed Up Moto2 team. Like his brother, Alex also clinched a title last year, becoming BSB champion with the Samsung Honda team.
Below is the press release issued by the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team announcing Lowes' signing:
British Champion Lowes joins Voltcom Crescent Suzuki for 2014
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki is thrilled to announce that it has secured the signature of 2013 British Superbike Champion Alex Lowes to ride the Suzuki GSX-R1000 in this year’s eni FIM Superbike World Championship.
Ratthapark Wilairot is to return to racing, and will compete in the 2014 World Supersport championship. The Thai rider will be joining the PTR Honda team for the 2014 season, racing a CBR600RR alongside Jack Kennedy and Nacho Calero.
Wilairot's return comes after an announcement in August last year that he would be retiring from racing, stepping down from the Gresini Moto2 team with immediate effect. That announcement was met with a good deal of incredulity, especially as the decision was made by the team, at the behest of Thai Honda, who had backed Wilairot until that point. Reports from Thailand suggested that the decision had been involuntary, coming as it did mid-season, and after a string of mediocre results. But Wilairot's successor, Thitipong Warokorn, fared worse than Wilairot, raising even more doubt about the reason for the announcement.
Althea Racing Return To The Ducati Fold: Will Field Niccolo Canepa As EVO Entry In 2014 WSBK Campaign
The Althea Racing team is to switch back to Ducati from Aprilia for the 2014 World Superbike season. After their split with Ducati over development of the Panigale at the end of 2012, the Italian team are to return to the Bologna factory fold and race the Panigale in 2014.
They will do so on a different footing to their previous relationship with Ducati, however. Next season, Althea will race the Panigale 1199R as an EVO entry in WSBK, the subclass set up to allow a more affordable entry into World Superbikes. With WSBK looking set to switch completely to EVO rules in the next few years, having a strong partner to help develop the Panigale within the restrictions set by the EVO rules - basically, a Superstock-spec engine in Superbike-spec chassis - will help Ducati prepare for the future. Given how well the Panigale has performed in Superstock form wherever it has been able to use the Ducati ECU, the bike should suit the EVO rules well.
The signing of Niccolo Canepa to race the Panigale with Althea is indicative of how close the cooperation with Ducati is likely to be. Canepa has a long history with Ducati, having functioned as a test rider for the Italian factory for a number of years, and having won the Superstock 1000 title on a Ducati in 2007, and raced Ducatis for the majority of his career.
Erik Buell Racing have officially confirmed they will be competing in the World Superbike championship in 2014. Today, EBR announced that they will be fielding Geoff May and Aaron Yates in the WSBK class, racing Erik Buell's EBR1190RX, an 1190cc 72° V twin, which has its roots in the Rotax-built machine produced when Buell was still part of Harley Davidson. Both May and Yates are long-term veterans of the AMA Superbike series, May having already raced for EBR in the AMA in 2013.
The EBR team will be backed by Hero, the Indian motorcycle manufacturer which is a minority shareholder in the EBR manufacturer. As a small manufacturer, EBR will need all the help they can get from Hero, as the homologation quantities required to be accepted for World Superbikes are sizable. EBR must have already produced 125 units before offering the EBR1190RX for homologation for the WSBK series. They must have produced a total of 500 bikes by 30th of June 2014, and 1000 in total by the end of 2014. They then have to produce another 1000 by the end of 2015, averaging three bikes a day, a real challenge for a small manufacturer. They also have to sell these units, and though the EBR1190RX has been favorably received by the press so far, there is no official word on sales figures at the moment. For more details on the homologation process and how it affects EBR, see this story on Asphalt & Rubber.
At long last, the FIM and Dorna have released a calendar for the World Superbike and World Supersport classes for 2014. The calendar features fourteen World Superbike events, but it is still very much a provisional list, with three of the fourteen still subject to contract, and the final race still marked as to be confirmed, with neither the location nor the country known.
The season kicks off as always in Australia, the World Superbike and World Supersport classes headed to the Phillip Island circuit for the opener on 23rd of February. There follows another WSBK tradition: the interminable wait for round 2. In 2014, there are seven weeks between the first and second rounds, with the second event taking place at the Motorland Aragon circuit just outside of Alcañiz. The WSBK circus then takes off for a tour through Europe, heading to Assen, Imola and Donington Park, before heading overseas again to Sepang, and a Malaysian round. Two rounds in Europ follow, at Misano and Portimao, before the World Superbike class heads to Laguna Seca, taking the slot vacated by the MotoGP class.
It's been a busy time for motorcycle racing in the south of Spain. With the winter test ban about to commence, and now in force for both MotoGP and World Superbikes, the teams are heading south to get some development work done while they still can. For the World Superbike and MotoGP Open class teams, their destination is Jerez, while Moto2 and Moto3 are at Almeria, in Spain's southeastern corner.
At Jerez, Suzuki has just wrapped up a test, and Yakhnich Motorsport are taking the MV Agusta F4RR out for its first spin. The Jerez test was Eugene Laverty's first opportunity to ride the GSX-R1000, after the Irishman had signed for the Crescent Suzuki team, who have swapped title sponsors from Fixi to Voltcom. The move is a step down from the full factory Aprilia team for Laverty, but it is a long-term investment for the Irishman. Speaking to German language website Speedweek.com, Laverty explained that he believed that it was easier to move development on a project forward with a smaller group of people than inside a large organization.
WSBK Rules Update: Testing Restricted, Superpole Scrapped, MotoGP Qualifying And Penalty Points Adopted
The World Superbike championship remains in a state of flux, despite the good news emerging today about the 2014 grid (Feelracing taking on the Ducati factory team, MV Agusta expanding into World Superbikes, and Michel Fabrizio joining Grillini). The Superbike Commission met at Valencia to agree further rule changes to the series for 2014, as part of the push to revitalize the series. Some of the rules are cost-cutting measures, others are aimed at making the series a more attractive TV package, while some are aimed at providing a more homogenous set of basic rules between the World Superbike and MotoGP series.
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.
Ducati has announced their World Superbike line up for the next two seasons. For 2014 and 2015, Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano will race the Ducati 1199 Panigale for the Italian factory, though details of the team structure are still pending. Testing is due to start for Davies and Giugliano at the end of October, initially with the Ducati test team.
After Alstare split from Ducati after the final round of 2013, there has been much speculation on who would take over the running of Ducati's World Superbike squad. It is believed that it will come down to a choice between Feel Racing, who ran BMW's WSBK entry in 2013 and have a long association with Ducati, or an internal Ducati team. The internal team is rumored to be the preferred option at the moment.
Below is the Ducati press release announcing Giugliano and Davies as riders:
Ducati announce 2014 World Superbike riders
After just one year of a two-year deal, Alstare and Ducati have agreed to terminated the contract the Belgian team has to run Ducati's factory World Superbike effort. Today, the two parties made it known that they would not be continuing their collaboration, citing financial problems for Alstare and the loss of a major sponsor.
The split had long been expected. Alstare team boss Francis Batta had made no secret of his unhappiness with both the collaboration with Ducati, and the performance of the Ducati 1199 Panigale. Alstare had former WSBK champion Carlos Checa and highly rated Italian Ayrton Badovini in their ranks, yet after a solitary pole at Phillip Island, results have been very poor. Ducati ended the season without a win in World Superbikes for the first time in the history of the series. Batta had asked Ducati many times throughout the year to be allowed to do more development work, but Ducati had rejected his requests. Motorcycle technology had advanced to such a point that it had become almost impossible for a private team to have the resources to be successful, Ducati had told Alstare, and it was now the task of the manufacturer to do the development of a racing motorcycle.
Carlos Checa is to retire from racing. The 41-year-old Spaniard had been forced to skip the last four rounds of the 2013 World Superbike season after crashing heavily during practice at the Istanbul Park circuit in Turkey, fracturing his pelvis. That injury and the lack of a strong offer for the 2014 season caused Checa to decide to retire.
Checa's final season had been a very hard one, the Spanish veteran struggling to get to grips with the Ducati Panigale, while the Alstare team battled Ducati over the lack of development for Ducati's flagship superbike. After a solitary pole at the first race of the year in Phillip Island, Checa's season proved to be fruitless, not managing a single podium and scoring just 80 points, putting him currently 15th in the standings. Checa had held talks with both his former team Althea Racing and with Kawasaki, but after Kawasaki re-signed Loris Baz to race alongside Tom Sykes, Checa felt his best option was to retire.
Checa's career had been a long one. Checa first entered Grand Prix racing in 1993, where he spent half a season in 125s and then in 250s. Checa soon graduated to 500s with some success, winning two Grand Prix and scoring a total of 24 podiums. His best championship finish was 4th place in 1998, riding a Movistar Honda.
After wrapping up the 2013 World Supersport title, Sam Lowes is heading for Moto2. In a brief statement on the Yakhnich Motorsport website, posted on Sunday night, Yaknich announced that they would be stepping up to compete in both the World Superbike and World Supersport classes in 2014, and that Lowes would not be joining them. Instead, Lowes has signed a two-year deal to race in Moto2, though the statement did not mention who Lowes had signed with.
The announcement comes after weeks of negotiation between the Yakhnich team and Lowes. Lowes had originally signed a deal with the team to race for another two years, stepping up to World Superbikes for 2014. But the decision by Yakhnich to switch to MV Agusta in both classes left Lowes worried that the bike would not be competitive, and that he would not be able to challenge for a WSBK title to go with this WSS championship. At first, Lowes looked like being stuck with Yakhnich unless he paid a hefty penalty, but an agreement has been reached which will release Lowes from his contract, while retaining a promotional role with the team.