Despite the loss of the factory Yamaha team, the World Superbike series is still in relatively good health, considering the financial crisis. Though the days of 30+ rider grids are gone, grid size has stabilized at around the 22 rider mark, 1 up from last year, while there are still 6 manufacturers present, Aprilia, BMW, Ducati and Kawasaki in an official capacity, Honda unofficially via Ten Kate, and Suzuki absent, with Crescent working with Yoshimura on their own bikes.
The field has seen some changes, though most of the title favorites are staying with the teams they were with in 2011. Carlos Checa remains with Althea Ducati, though the effort expands to include 2011 Superstock champ Davide Giugliano, while Max Biaggi is in the second year of his 2-year contract with Aprilia, and Johnny Rea is staying with the Ten Kate Honda squad. Championship runner up Marco Melandri has been forced to move, joining Leon Haslam at BMW, while his erstwhile teammate Eugene Laverty has been paired with Biaggi in the factory Aprilia squad. The factory Kawasaki rider contingent is cut from 3 to 2, Chris Vermeulen losing his slot, while Tom Sykes remains alongside Joan Lascorz.
Though many of the riders are staying, the teams themselves have seen a few major changes. The biggest of the changes is at Kawasaki, with control of the factory effort being taken away from Paul Bird's PBM effort (who will be switching to race an Aprilia CRT machine in MotoGP) and handed to the Spanish Provec squad, who previously ran the Motocard.com World Supersport team. Ichiro Yoda remains at the head of the program, but Provec will be running the team.
The departure of Yamaha has seen a lot of changes at BMW as well. Several former key Yamaha personnel have moved into the factory BMW garage, including former Yamaha team manager Andrea Dosoli. Rumors persist of a switch of electronics at BMW, with both Magneti Marelli and Cosworth being linked to the factory, though BMW insist that they will be sticking with the system they developed in house.
Though Suzuki have pulled factory support from both MotoGP and World Superbikes, there will be GSX-R 1000s on the grid in 2012. The remnants of Suzuki's Rizla MotoGP squad have joined their sister Crescent Suzuki BSB squad, bringing 2011 BSB runner up John Hopkins back to World Superbikes, and Leon Camier making the switch from Aprilia to join the Californian. Hopkins proved his ability last year with Crescent, but the team believe that their bikes will lag a little way behind the factory-backed efforts of Aprilia and Ducati especially, despite support on bike development from Yoshimura Japan.
Perhaps the two most interesting changes on the grid are the additions at Aprilia, with Eugene Laverty joining Max Biaggi, and 2011 World Supersport champion Chaz Davies moving up with his ParkinGO team to race an RSV4. Laverty set the fastest time on race tires at the last WSBK test of 2011 at Portimao, beating his new teammate into the bargain. Having spent several years aboard both a 250 and a WSS bike should give the Irishman an advantage on the Aprilia, which is the nearest thing to a Grand Prix machine on the WSBK grid. Much the same can be said for Davies, who ended his first test aboard the bike just half a second slower than Laverty.
Some of the names on the list remain uncertain, including the fate of fan favorite Noriyuki Haga. Rumors persist that Haga will be on the grid aboard an Ducati 1198, on a new team put together by parts of the DFX organization. But an official announcement is yet to appear. If Haga should be forced to retire, the World Superbike series will lose one of its most remarkable characters. With Troy Corser also hanging up his helmet, that would be a major loss for the series to bear.
Below is the 2012 WSBK entry list so far:
|1||Carlos Checa||Ducati 1198R||Ducati Althea|
|2||Leon Camier||Suzuki GSX-R 1000||Crescent Suzuki|
|3||Max Biaggi||Aprilia RSV4R||Aprilia Corse|
|4||Hiroshi Aoyama||Honda CBR1000RR||Ten Kate Honda|
|17||Joan Lascorz||Kawasaki ZX-10R||Provec Kawasaki|
|21||John Hopkins||Suzuki GSX-R 1000||Crescent Suzuki|
|33||Marco Melandri||BMW S1000RR||BMW Motorrad|
|34||Davide Giugliano||Ducati 1198R||Ducati Althea|
|41||Noriyuki Haga?||Ducati 1198R||New Team?|
|50||Sylvain Guintoli||Ducati 1198R||Effenbert Liberty|
|58||Eugene Laverty||Aprilia RSV4R||Aprilia Corse|
|59||Niccolo Canepa||Ducati 1198R||Ducati Roma|
|65||Johnny Rea||Honda CBR1000RR||Ten Kate Honda|
|66||Tom Sykes||Kawasaki ZX-10R||Provec Kawasaki|
|84||Michel Fabrizio||BMW S1000RR||BMW Italia|
|86||Ayrton Badovini||BMW S1000RR||BMW Italia|
|91||Leon Haslam||BMW S1000RR||BMW Motorrad|
|96||Jakub Smrz||Ducati 1198R||Effenbert Liberty|
|121||Maxime Berger||Ducati 1198R||Effenbert Liberty|
|?||Chaz Davies||Aprilia RSV4R||ParkinGO|
|?||Leandro Mercado||Kawasaki ZX-10R||Pedercini Kawasaki|
|?||Lorenzo Zanetti||Aprilia RSV4R?||Pata Aprilia|
Items marked with ? are either unknown or uncertain as yet.
You can find the latest version of the 2012 WSBK rider entry list here.