The FIM today released the provisional 2016 calendar for the World Superbike championship. There is good news and bad news in the calendar, with Portimao disappearing from the calendar, but Monza making a welcome return. World Superbikes will also be returning to Germany, with the entire circus turning up to the Lausitzring, just north of Dresden. The best news is that there are no direct clashes with MotoGP, but WSBK will be running on the same date as F1 for nine rounds, though only the Donington and Monza rounds happen in the same timezone. Given the different time schedules for F1 and WSBK, bike racing fans should not have to miss any of the action.
The Lausitzring was not the only option considered when WSBK looked at returning to Germany. The series was also in talks with the Sachsenring, as the MotoGP round is immensely popular there. In the end, Lausitz was chosen, WSBK having raced there previously from 2005 to 2007.
It is ironic that now we are getting into the meat of the motorcycle racing season, there should be so little news to speak of. But perhaps it is a matter of perspective: there is plenty of real news to be found in motorcycle racing, but it is to be found and read where you would expect to find it, in the middle of every race weekend. That is especially true now that MotoGP and World Superbikes have returned to a more fan-friendly schedule, the two world championships alternating weekends again, with BSB, the CEV and MotoAmerica filling in any gaps when they appear.
Then again, at this stage of the season, all of the focus is on the coming races, rather than next year. It is too early for silly season, especially as all the factory rides are locked up for 2016, and even Jorge Lorenzo's option to leave early removed. There are plenty of attractive seats to be filled for 2016: the contracts of both Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders are up at the end of the year, Cal Crutchlow is on a one-year contract, Yonny Hernandez has a one-year deal at Pramac, and the seats at Forward and Aspar are all being filled by riders with one-year contracts. Speculation about those seats will only start in earnest around mid-season, once team managers have half a season's worth of results to start drawing conclusions, and see who might be available to make the move up from Moto2.
Press releases from the series organizer and the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after Sunday's races at Imola:
World Superbike race two would start with only twenty riders, Canepa not qualifying and Salom out with an injured wrist and elbow from his crash in race one. It would finish with far fewer.
World Supersport has given us close races all year, and this weekend in Imola would be no different.
An early 22ºC morning in Imola, with a 32ºC track and 21 bikes on the grid.
Press releases from the series organizer and from some of the teams after qualifying for Sunday's World Superbike and World Supersport races at Imola:
The weather in Italy was as one can expect this time of year, with 25ºC sunshine and fluffy Poplar seeds in the air.
Superpole opened on schedule, not affected by the morning's delay from the Superstock 600 qualifying's oil spill. Niccolo Canepa would not make the start as he contracted gastro enteritis, putting him in twentieth place before the session started.
After a delayed start to allow marshals to clear oil from an earlier session at turn eight, Davide Giugliano continued his strong pace into the untimed session, in readiness for qualifying. Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes posted almost identical quickest times while Leon Haslam finally breached the top four, half a second quicker than Chaz Davies.
Kenan Sofuoglu set a time over eight tenths quicker than second-quickest PJ Jacobsen, with Jules Cluzel a second off the pace in third. Sofuoglu was the only rider in the top three able to improve on his times from yesterday.
Davide Giugliano sets the pace ahead of the Kawasakis of Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea with his Ducati teammate Chaz Davies fourth-quickest ahead of Leon Haslam. The top five have been the same all weekend, albeit in different orders in each session.
With the loss of Team Hero EBR, we are left with twenty two entries, leading to only the BMWs of Team Toth not qualifying for Superpole.
Press releases from the series organizers and the teams after the first day of practice at Imola: