Moto2 is not the only class whose entries continue to grow. To the 23 riders already included in the provisional entry list for World Superbikes can be added two more: Makoto Tamada and Luca Scassa. Tamada has been signed by the Pro Ride Honda team run by Marco Nicotari, at least according to reportsy by the Italian website BikeRacing.it. Scassa, meanwhile, is to be part of a new Ducati effort going by the name of Team Supersonic, according to GPOne.com.
Stiggy Racing may be no more but team owner Johan Stigefelt has reportedly wasted no time in securing gainful employment for 2010. Stigefelt is tipped to step into the role of technical director of the increasingly interesting Reitwagen Racing BMW privateer team. Stigefelt will also bring ex 500GP and WSBK rider Peter Goddard with him from Stiggy racing to fill the role of suspension specialist.
Reitwagen will also bring another rider on board to team with Roland Resch but that individual will likely not be recently retired 7-time AMA Superbike champion Mat Mladin, who allegedly could not agree to terms with team manager Andy Werth. Resch claims that Makoto Tamada and John Hopkins are under consideration, but as far as he knows, no agreement has been formalized.
Makoto Tamada has had a miserable season with the Kawasaki World Superbike squad this year. Dogged by crashes and injury, Tamada has already missed nearly half the season with one injury or another, and his crash in race one at Imola saw the Japanese veteran concussed and suffering amnesia. As a result, the Japanese rider looks set to miss yet another round of racing, with the next round of World Superbikes due to take place this weekend at the Magny Cours circuit in France.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With the season 2006 drawing to a climax, there are still a couple of loose ends to be tidied up for next year. The outcome of such loose ends usually comes as no surprise, but just occasionally, a result comes seemingly from out of the blue. That Colin Edwards would prolong his stay with Yamaha was an open secret, especially after his deft display of teamwork in Portugal. Makoto Tamada, however, is an entirely different story.