Latest World Superbike News
Regis Laconi's condition continues to improve, as he recovers from the surgery required after his horrific crash at Kyalami. The Frenchman is awake again after surgery, and has already exchanged a few words with the medical staff at the Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg, where he is undergoing treatment. More importantly, Laconi is moving all of his limbs independently, confounding earlier reports that the Frenchman had shown signs of paralysis in his left leg.
The reports of Laconi's recovery was also confirmed by Ducati boss Davide Tardozzi. In a post on Ducati's blog, the Italian refuted earlier reports of Laconi's paralysis. "I spoke this morning to his technical chief who has remained in Johannesburg to support his rider and fortunately the rumours that have spread in the press about Regis' loss of mobility in his left leg are wholly untrue. Regis is a wonderful man who has always given 110%," Tardozzi wrote.
In defense of the press, the reports were more than rumors. MotoGPMatters.com received confirmation from three independent sources that Laconi had signs of paralysis. Of course, the problem is that all of those sources came from inside the World Superbike paddock, and as anyone who has ever had the privilege of spending any time there will be aware, that paddock is a like a miniature Italian village, where everyone knows everyone, and what's more, where everyone gossips with everyone. Try as we might, it is not always easy to distinguish gossip from distortion from fact.
If Regis Laconi's recovery continues as it is, the Frenchman is due to be flown back to France for further treatment in a specialist clinic in France. Once again, we send our best wishes to Regis Laconi, and wish him a speedy and full recovery.
Last year, we complained about the silly season starting early, yet in 2009 it seems to have started even earlier yet. With a host of young riders on the verge of entering MotoGP, there is already a veritable tsunami of speculation concerning who will be filling which seats next year. Marco Simoncelli and Alvaro Bautista look almost certain to move up to the premier class from 250s, and over in World Superbikes, Ben Spies is widely tipped to move across to MotoGP, while there are even whisperings of a couple of the standout young British riders - such as Leon Haslam and Johnny Rea - taking a chance.
With all these young guns getting ready to kick the door down, and any increase in the numbers of bikes on the grid extremely unlikely - whether or not the Grand Prix Commission decides to go to a single bike for 2010 - that means that some of the riders already in the series are going to have to make way. Some are safe by virtue of their nationality - James Toseland's seat in MotoGP is safe (though not necessarily his seat at Tech 3) for as long as the BBC has a deal to televise MotoGP, or until another British rider can be found to take his place, and Yuki Takahashi is safe as long as Hiroshi Aoyama decides to stay in the 250cc / Moto2 class next year - but others are less fortunate.
One possible candidate for the transfer list is Colin Edwards. Despite the fact that the Texan is having a pretty good year and is a fair bet for at least one podium this season, the Yamaha veteran is simply becoming too expensive to maintain. The economic downturn has hit motorcycle sales in the US very hard, and as Yamaha is paying for most of Colin Edwards' considerable salary, it looks unlikely that they will be able or willing to do a similar deal for 2010.
More news of replacements at the US round of World Superbikes at Miller Motorsports Park. After Regis Laconi's horrific crash at Kyalami, an incident in which the charismatic Frenchman fractured two vertebrae and leaves him likely to be out of racing for remainder of the season, speculation naturally turned to who would replace Laconi at subsequent races.
With a host of talented riders currently available due to a dearth of sponsorship, forcing teams to pull out of already signed deals, the list of possible replacements for Laconi is long. The two prime candidates for the ride are former BSB champion Gregorio Lavilla, who filled in for the injured Brendan Roberts at Kyalami, and the Italian Lorenzo Lanzi, who was scheduled to race a KTM for Stefano Caracchi in the Italian Superbike championship, but withdrew after Lanzi claimed he was close to securing a ride in World Superbikes.
It now looks like Lanzi will be getting the ride. According to GPOne.com, DFX Corse manager Daniele Carli told the Italian TV program "Paddock, Uomini e Corse" (Paddock, Men And Racing) that he was already engaged in contract talks with Lanzi to take Laconi's place. Lanzi is very familiar with the Ducati 1098R, having raced one for the R.G. team last year in World Superbikes.
This does not mean that Gregorio Lavilla is definitely out of World Superbikes, however. Rumors have been growing that Guandalini Racing want to drop their current second rider Brendan Roberts, the reigning Superstock 1000 champion having difficulties adapting to the World Superbike spec version of the bike he won his title on last year. According to the paddock gossips, Lavilla is still very much in the frame for Roberts' ride.
As MotoGPMatters.com revealed last week, Jamie Hacking has been confirmed as Makoto Tamada's replacement at PBM Kawasaki for the US round of World Superbikes at Miller Motorsports Park, Utah. The American - born in Oswaldtwistle, in the north of England - has seen action in the World Superbike series before, running as a wildcard in 1998 and 1999 at Laguna Seca, his best result a 7th place finish. However, Hacking has been one of the few riders in the world to make the Kawasaki ZX-10R truly competitive in Superbike racing, and Miller is a track where Hacking has an outstanding record. Hacking has a tough act to follow, after South African Sheridan Morais scored a 13th and 11th place finish in his World Superbike debut in Kyalami, and beating his team mate Broc Parkes.
Hacking won't be the only AMA rider acting as a replacement, as Jake Zemke has been called up to sub for John Hopkins. Hopper's recovery from the horrific crash at Assen - the second year in succession he's been savaged by the Dutch track - is proceeding well, but it is far too early for the American to start racing again. As a consequence, American veteran Zemke will be riding Hopkins' Stiggy Racing Honda. Zemke is currently riding a Honda CBR600RR in the AMA Daytona Sportbike class, and is the reigning champion in the now defunct AMA Formula Xtreme championship. Zemke raced a Honda CBR1000RR in AMA Superbikes from 2004 to 2007 with American Honda.
Regis Laconi's condition continues to improve. Since his horrific crash at Kyalami's Mineshaft turn on his very first lap out of the pits, Laconi has been in Johannesburg's Sunninghill Hospital, where he has been kept under the watchful eye of the medical specialists there. At first, the Frenchman was kept in a medically-induced coma, but he was brought out of the coma on Sunday morning to be assessed before surgery to fix the cracked vertebrae he suffered in his neck in the crash. Laconi responded well to being awakened from the coma, even cracking jokes about the state he found himself in.
With the signs boding well for surgery, Laconi underwent an operation to fix a plate in his neck to stabilize the fractured vertebrae. The operation was lengthy and difficult, but afterwards, Dr. Maurizio Zorio, the surgeon who performed the procedure pronounced the surgery a success, and that Regis Laconi would not require any further intervention. Laconi was then moved to the intensive care unit to recuperate from the operation.
Though the surgery was said to have gone without complications, Laconi may yet be left with a problem. GPOne.com is reporting that according to Laconi's friend and lawyer Paul-Louis Coulignon, there is some paralysis in Laconi's left leg. It is too early to say whether this is permanent or just temporary, this will only become clear in the course of time.
Laconi now begins the long process of rehabilitation. The Frenchman is due to remain in South Africa until the end of the month, after which he will be flown back to Paris to continue his recovery in a specialist clinic there.
Laconi is a deeply charismatic figure in the World Superbike paddock, the kind of person who commands a presence wherever he goes. We wish him a speedy and full recovery, and hope to see him back in the paddock very soon.
The good news from South Africa is that Regis Laconi's condition is slowly improving. He has been brought out of the medically-induced coma, and can move all his limbs independently. The team issued the following press release this morning at 9am, which stated the following:
Regis Laconi’s medical status has improved slightly. The French rider, having fallen on entering a fast left-hand curve in the first minutes of the free practice session on Friday morning, is now in intensive care in Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg. The process of slowly awakening the rider from his drug-induced coma went well and Regis is able to move his arms and legs without assistance. This positive news means that surgery will now go ahead to insert a plate to support the two fractured vertebrae. After the operation, which will take place on Tuesday 19th May, there will follow two weeks of bed rest in the same hospital. If all goes to plan, at the end of the month and with the help of Europe Assistance, Regis should fly to Paris where he will continue his recovery. The other neurological problems that he suffered as a result of the impact are also being treated with positive results. Daniele Carlo (Team Manager), Lucio Gomez (Technical Director) and the rest of the DFX Corse Team want to once again thank all of those people whose professionalism has helped during this difficult time. Thanks also to the staff of the Clinica Mobile, to the medical personnel of the Kyalami circuit and to the team of doctors at the Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg for everything they have done.
The World Superbike paddock has been welcoming an increasing number of Americans this year, with several riders following where Ben Spies has led. John Hopkins ousted Roby Rolfo at Stiggy Honda earlier this year, and after Hopper suffered a serious leg injury for the second year running at Assen, he was replaced by another American, Jake Zemke at Monza.
After the first corner pile up at Monza took out Brendan Roberts, Troy Corser, Max Neukirchner and Makoto Tamada, the need for replacement riders has become pressing, and yet more opportunities are being opened to American riders, especially with the US round of World Superbikes due to take place at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah two weeks from now. Jake Zemke looks to be almost certain to take the place of John Hopkins again, Zemke only missing from Kyalami because of a calendar clash with the AMA at Infineon Raceway this weekend.
Zemke and WSBK regular Ben Spies are to be joined by another American at Miller Motorsports Park: According to sources close to the PBM Kawasaki team, Jamie Hacking will replace Makoto Tamada in Utah, as the Japanese rider is still recovering from having a metal plate inserted in his hand after sustaining a wrist fracture at Monza. Hacking already has international experience, having replaced John Hopkins at Kawasaki during the 2008 USGP at Laguna Seca. More significantly, he is one of the very few riders on the planet capable of making the Kawasaki ZX-10R competitive, having campaigned it with relative success against Mat Mladin and Ben Spies in AMA Superbike last year. Elsewhere, the bike has had huge problems just scoring points, completely outclassed by the other bikes from both Japan and Italy.
Regis Laconi's horrific crash at Kyalami's frightening Mineshaft corner (a fast left downhill kink) left the French DFX Corse rider seriously injured. Immediately after the incident, he was admitted to the Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg, where he was diagnosed with fractured vertebrae and cranial trauma.
After further checks last night, the team issued an update to his condition. Laconi has broken two cervical vertebrae (C3 and C5, the bones supporting the head), severe concussion and a contusion of the lung, and is being kept in a medically-induced coma. Initially, he was scheduled to have surgery to fix the vertebrae, but Dr. Maurizio Zorzi, a senior South African neuro-surgeon decided to postpone any surgery for a few days.
The Frenchman will have to remain completely immobilized for the next three weeks before a clearer picture of his condition can be obtained. A new medical update is expected sometime on Saturday.
Regis Laconi has been seriously injured in a crash at Kyalami. The Frenchman, riding for the DFX Corse team, had just taken to the track when he crashed in a fast left hander, suffering injuries to his head and torso. It was immediately clear that Laconi was badly hurt, and after the medics had stabilized his condition, he was taken first to the trackside medical center, where it was decided to fly him to the nearby Sunninghill Hospital in Sandton for further examination.
At the hospital, they found suspected fractures in 5 vertebrae, fortunately without any damage to the spinal cord, and a CAT scan showed a severe cranial trauma, though it appears that were no neurological complications. Regis Laconi was moving his limbs, and is currently being kept in a clinically induced coma, and for this reason he has been placed on the danger list. He is due to be operated on early this evening to have two plates inserted to support his cracked vertebrae.
In a press release, the team wished him a speedy recovery, to which we add our own best wishes. Laconi had started the season very strongly, taking three fourth places at Phillip Island and Valencia, and looked capable of improvement. Hopefully, he will be back riding soon.
The first-corner carnage at Monza had created a host of opportunities for replacement riders, with so many of the regulars injured. Kawasaki's Makoto Tamada was among the injured, fracturing a wrist bone and unable to ride at Kyalami this weekend. Unlike the other injured riders, Kawasaki had not planned on replacing Tamada, but a last-minute opportunity forced a change of heart.
South African Superbike champion Sheridan Morais will be riding the PBM Kawasaki bike instead of the injured Tamada this weekend, after the team reached a deal with Morais some time last night. The South African was already scheduled to ride at the meeting as a wildcard in the Supersport class, but that wildcard will instead go to his team mate Rob Portman.
Morais, South Africa's youngest ever Superbike champion when he first took the title in 2005, already has experience in the WSBK paddock, having previously ridden for Team Pedercini in the FIM Superstock 1000 championship. The South African managed a podium at Brands Hatch in 2008, a track he was familiar with from BSB, and so at his home track, a circuit he is very familiar with from racing in the South African championship, Morais should prove to be a formidable replacement.
Thanks to reader Bentley Mtafu for the tip off.
The World Superbike field for Kyalami just lost another regular. We reported earlier that Nieto, Lavilla and Laverty would be in for Neukirchner, Roberts and Harms, and just a few hours later, we learn that Troy Corser is to sit out the South African round of World Superbikes as well. The Australian was already riding with a hand injury, but the first-corner pile-up at Monza added a nasty bang to the head as well. After another tumble through the gravel in the restarted race one, Corser decided that caution was the better part of valor and sat out race two.
Now the team has decided that it would be better for Corser to miss the Kyalami round as well. "Kyalami is a very physical track, very bumpy in places and this would've not have helped Troy's hand get any better," the press release stated. Taking Corser's place will be World Superbike veteran, Le Mans 24-hour victor and BMW test rider Steve Martin.
Hopefully, this will be the last of the replacements, and the physical nature of Kyalami won't produce any more injuries. With two weeks between South Africa and Miller Motorsports Park, at least some of WSBK's regular riders may be fit enough to make a return.
Monza's Disney-style first chicane has decimated the World Superbike field after the multi-rider crash at the start of race one last weekend. Makoto Tamada seemed to clip Brendan Roberts' back wheel, sending the Australian's Guandalini Ducati up the rode to take out the Alstare Brux Suzuki of Max Neukirchner, while Tamada's Kawasaki veered off to hit Tommy Hill's Althea Honda, which in turn took out the BMW S1000RR of Troy Corser. After the dust had settled, Neukirchner was left with a broken femur and broken bones in his foot and ankle, Tamada suffered a fractured wrist, and examination in the local hospital found that Roberts had come away without broken bones, but was very severely bruised.
And so the World Superbike series heads to Kyalami with a host of new - or rather, different - faces filling a range of seats. For in addition to Neukirchner, Tamada and Roberts, Veidec Res Software's Robbin Harms didn't make it out of the first free practice session for the World Supersport class at Monza, and will also be missing in South Africa.
The biggest loss to the series is undoubtedly Max Neukirchner. The German was tipped as a prime candidate for the title before the season began, and entered Monza in 5th place in the World Superbike championship. The severity of Neukirchner's injuries will mean that in addition to Kyalami, the German is likely to miss the race at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, and even a return at Misano in mid-June must be considered doubtful.
The first corner mayhem at Monza has proven very expensive for the talented young German, Max Neukirchner. Neukirchner entered the first chicane in 3rd place, but a pile up behind him meant that Brendan Roberts' bike slid across the track and slammed into the side of the German's Suzuki. Worse news was to follow, for after examination in the Clinica Mobile, Neukirchner was found to have a twisted ankle and a broken femur.
Neukirchner is likely to undergo surgery this afternoon to remedy the situation, but despite the rapid treatment, the German is likely to be out until the Misano round on June 21st, six weeks from today, and forced to miss the races at Kyalami in South Africa, and Miller in Utah, USA.
Makoto Tamada and Brendan Roberts were also injured in the crash. Tamada fractured a hand, and will miss next week's race in Kyalami. The extent of Roberts' injuries are as yet unknown, GPOne.com is reporting a suspected fractured leg, but no official word has been released. A leg fracture would be a major setback for the reigning 1000cc Superstock champion, as rumors have been swirling around the paddock that Lorenzo Lanzi could replace Roberts on the Guandalini Ducati.
Bikesportnews.com is reporting that Roberts is only badly battered and bruised. The Australian did not take part in either the restart of race 1 or the delayed race 2, but with only bruising to deal with, Roberts may be able to race at Kyalami next weekend.
With the withdrawal of the Spanish Banco Santander as the sponsor of the Yamaha Motor Italia World Superbike squad last year - despite the relative health of the Spanish banking system - and the signing of the American Ben Spies, one of the major questions around the paddock was who would be funding what is obviously one of the best-run and most expensive World Superbike programs. Whoever decided to step in would surely be getting a return on their investment, given the fact that Ben Spies has won a race at each of the four World Superbike rounds held so far.
This fact has not been lost on Sterilgarda, as the Italian food giant has decided to step in to take a major sponsorship role for the Yamaha World Superbike team. Starting from Monza, the Sterilgarda brand will feature large on both the fairings of the Yamaha R1 race bikes, as well as the leathers of Tom Sykes and Ben Spies. In a press release, Yamaha boss Laurens Klein Koerkamp said "It's very positive to have such a well known brand in the paddock recognize how successful the Yamaha World Superbike Team is and want to be part of it. We're looking forward to working together and this being the start of a long term relationship," while Nando Sarzi, owner of Sterilgarda Alimenti said "We are really happy to be able to link our brand with The Yamaha World Superbike Team. We're really excited to be able share the racing emotions and success with the team, starting with Monza this weekend, the home race for both the team and our company."
The new Superpole format introduced in World Superbikes - three sessions of 12 minutes, with 12 riders eliminated during the first two of those sessions - has generally been met with much enthusiasm. The sessions are much more exciting than the former single-fast-lap format, and have thrown up several surprises. Most of those surprises have been caused by the tire rules: In a twist to the format, the riders are only allowed to use two super-soft qualifying tires. With two tires to spread over three sessions, qualifying has been a bit of a gamble, with riders as prominent as Max Biaggi and Max Neukirchner finding themselves knocked out of the first session, and forced to start from the fifth row of the grid.
The qualifying tire rule has come in for a lot of criticism, from fans, teams and journalists alike, who point to the fact that slower riders have been able to get through the early superpole sessions by throwing in a qualifier at the start, while nominally faster riders who choose to save their qualifiers for an attempt at the front row are being knocked out.
As manager of the Alstare Brux Suzuki team, the flamboyant Francis Batta has also railed against the qualifying tire rule, and according to Motorsport Aktuell, he will be tabling a proposal to change this at Monza. "Superpole has been a lottery," Batta told MSA, who has also complained of the top riders being knocked out. "My proposal is this: the soft qualifying tires will only be given to the last eight riders in the third Superpole session. That way, the top riders will be able to fight with equal equipment."