It's a busy day for the Yamaha press office: After earlier announcing that Ben Spies was to switch to the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, the Sterilgarda Yamaha squad announced that the seat that Spies is vacating is to be taking by the man making way for Spies at Tech 3. James Toseland, who has struggled to get to grip with the Bridgestone tires this season, will be returning to the World Superbike series, to race once again in the class where he has conquered two titles.
The next logjam in the motorcycle racing silly season looks like it is about to be burst. According to the British sites MCN and Visordown, Ben Spies has made up his mind, and will be making the switch to MotoGP in 2010. Spies is to replace James Toseland at the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, turning Tech Trois into the Texas Two, as the young American will be racing alongside fellow Texan Colin Edwards. Edwards is rumored to have signed a contract with Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal - taking a pay cut of $500,000 - but Tech 3 has yet to make an official announcement.
As in MotoGP, so in World Superbikes. In both series, the Japanese manufacturer is suffering an embarrassment of riches when it comes to riders, and with the MotoGP factory squad complete, Yamaha Motor Italia, who run the World Superbike squad, are considering their options for 2010. Their problem depends in part on Ben Spies, and whether he stays in World Superbikes or goes to MotoGP with the Tech 3 satellite squad, but even without Spies, the WSBK team has decisions to ponder.
With a glut of outstanding riders on the market, Yamaha's WSBK boss Massimo Meregalli has put out feelers to Alex de Angelis, to test his interest in switching to the World Superbike series. Meregalli told GPOne.com that he had spoken to De Angelis about joining the Superbike squad in 2010. "I spoke with Alex to check his availability," Meregalli said. "Nothing has been decided at the moment, but it's clear that the riders in MotoGP want to stay there, and the market is finished there yet. But De Angelis is an interesting rider."
De Angelis isn't Yamaha's only option, however. Current World Supersport leader and revelation of the series Cal Crutchlow is also considered to be a serious candidate for Yamaha's World Superbike team. The young Briton has a two-year deal with Yamaha, which includes a clause offering him a World Superbike ride if he wins the World Supersport title, as he looks set to do this season. If Spies does decide - and is permitted - to go to MotoGP, then Meregalli's decision-making process will be made a good deal easier, and both De Angelis and Crutchlow could end up on board a Yamaha R1 in 2010.
While silly season has been at boiling point over in MotoGP, things have been fairly quiet in the World Superbike paddock. Three factors have held up movement in the series: Firstly, the Lorenzo Saga, which had a direct bearing on the future of WSBK title candidate Ben Spies, who was in line to move up to the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha MotoGP team to await his turn at Fiat Yamaha. Secondly, the incipient arrival of the Moto2 class has a host of riders in both the World Superbikes and World Supersport series thinking about switching, seeing the new class as a possibly entry to MotoGP, which remains the series that almost every rider wants end up in at one point or other. And thirdly, despite the fact that the World Superbikes series is considerably cheaper than MotoGP, the global economic crisis has struck the World Superbike paddock just as hard as it has hit the MotoGP series, and a host of teams are holding off on the 2010 plans, and even struggling with finishing out the year.
With the rider line up in MotoGP starting to take shape, there are signs of movement in the World Superbike series as well. Perhaps the most though-provoking switch is not one that a rider will be making, though, but rather the switch by the Stiggy Racing team from Honda to Yamaha. According to the Italian magazine MotoSprint, the Sweden-based team run by former 250 GP star Johan Stigefelt is disillusioned with the level of support the team has received from Honda this season, and as we predicted earlier in a column for the American magazine Road Racer X, the team will make a dramatic switch to Yamaha.
Infront Motor Sports, the company that runs the World Superbike series, does an outstanding job for the most part of making the races it organizes available online for fans who haven't been able to see the races on TV. Not only do they stream the races live on the internet (though tragically, not to all territories in the world), they also have a Youtube channel where you can find highlights from the recent races.
And the highlights from Assen are worth watching again. Three of the five races of the day were decided on the very last lap, Assen's infamous GT chicane determining the outcome of two of them, so here's the last lap from World Superbike race one, the World Supersport race and the European Superstock 600 race. Enjoy!
Ben Spies' courageous last lap dive up the inside of Noriyuki Haga at the horribly fast Hoge Heide corner:
Eugene Laverty's perfect last corner lunge past Joan Lascorz into the GT chicane:
The brand new Superpole format adopted by World Superbikes for the 2009 season threw up a great many conundrums at Phillip Island on Saturday, as well as a few surprises. But perhaps most of all, it also threw up confirmation of what some had suspected, and many had hoped.
The format is relatively simple, and borrowed from Formula 1: