As the captain in Cool Hand Luke said, "What we've got here is failure to communicate." Stiggy Racing today announced that they were severing their relationship with Partner S2 Racing stating, "that they (S2) failed to fulfill their commitments with the team throughout the year." In the last 3 races of the season, Stiggy has been forced to reduce their rider line-ups to one per class amid pronouncements of financial calamity by team principal Johan Stigefelt.
It has been increasingly clear that James Toseland is on his way out of MotoGP, with Roger Burnett tacitly acknowledging in the Motorcycle News that Toseland's only option in MotoGP is the second seat at Pramac. And so Toseland's manager is currently at Imola, hoping to find a seat with one of the many leading World Superbike teams which have expressed an interest in having the former two-time WSBK Champion ride for them in 2010.
Despite the interest, it may not be as easy as Burnett and Toseland have been hoping. Speaking to Italian TV channel La7, Alstare Suzuki team boss Francis Batta admitted he was interested in signing Toseland, but thought it was unlikely to happen. "James' demands are a bit too high," Batta said. "In times like these, maybe other teams have more money than I do."
The reason for Batta's refusal could be that he already has a second rider in place to race alongside the German Max Neukirchner. According to GPOne.com, Batta may already have signed Leon Haslam. The young Briton is known to be chasing a factory ride in World Superbikes, and as rumors of Stiggy Racing's withdrawal from the Superbike class due to a lack of funds continue to circulate, it is entirely credible that Haslam may already have a done a deal for 2010. If Haslam has already signed, then he could be aboard the bike as soon as the post-race tests after the final race at Portimao.
It's no secret that the wretched global economic crisis has taken its toll on motorcycle racing. Unfortunately, teams dropping out of series or curtailing their involvement have become distressingly commonplace. The latest casualty of this war of attrition in the WSBK paddock is reportedly the Stiggy Racing Team. Already reduced to 1 rider in superbike and supersport for the rest of the season due to tight money woes, Stiggy, according to caradisiac.com, will not field a superbike squad in 2010. This is an especially cruel blow for the team who had been rumored to be switching over to Yamaha machinery and, according to some conjecture, taking over the Yamaha factory squad. However, Stiggy will reportedly be fielding the Yamaha R6 in WSS next season.
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:
During the deluge of stories about the Kawasaki catastrophe and the fate of Marco Melandri with the Hai-Karate, sorry, Hayate bike, there was always one question left unanswered: What about Hopper? For though the news was full of the fate of Kawasaki, Michael Bartholemy, Marco Melandri, Jorge Martinez, Carmelo Ezpeleta and a host of other characters, the one name that seemed always to be missing was that of John Hopkins.
That was mystifying for more than one reason, but most of all, because of money. Though Melandri is a big name in Italy, it was unclear what the Italian's role was in bringing sponsorship to the Kawasaki project. As for Hopper, on the other hand, it was an open secret that the Monster Millions came to Kawasaki through the link to the American. Though it was also said that once you took Hopkins' salary away, there wasn't a whole lot left to fill Kawasaki's coffers. It seemed that the combination of the more marketable Melandri and Hopper's PR faux pas at Misano last year - where the American went missing for a day - had swung the scales in Melandri's favor, leaving Hopkins out in the cold.
Fortunately for Hopkins, he wasn't left entirely out in the cold. There was one rumor that emerged a couple of times, and that was that Hopper was about to make the switch to World Superbikes. There were rumblings that Hopkins would replace Makoto Tamada at Paul Bird's Kawaski WSBK team, but as this flew in the face of Kawasaki's traditional demand for a Japanese rider, this was widely disregarded. But the one rumor that proved more difficult to quell was talk of Hopkins' joining Stiggy Racing, to ride a Honda alongside Leon Haslam.
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:
After MotoGP went four stroke, there was never any doubt about which was the premier class of motorcycle racing. Coinciding with the flight of the Japanese manufacturers from World Superbikes, the combination of Valentino Rossi's charisma and roaring, smoking, sliding 990cc bikes solidified the series' position as the pinnacle of two-wheeled racing which would brook no competition. But as the Japanese manufacturers started to slowly creep back into World Superbikes, and MotoGP switched to an 800cc capacity, the balance of power has started to shift.