With the uncertainty surrounding the World Superbike series easing up, the outlines of the 2014 season are starting to become clear. The test after the final round of the 2013 season at Jerez turned into an audition for some of the riders, with riders still searching for a team for next season.
In the days since that test, news has been emerging of rider signings and team plans for 2014. While both the Pata Honda and factory Kawasaki line ups were known, the future of the Aprilia and Ducati teams was still uncertain, with doubts over whether one or both of the Italian factories might pull out of World Superbikes. Ducati confrmed their intention to continue in 2014 earlier this week, while today, Aprilia have also stated their intention to keep racing next year. Aprilia have also confirmed the signing of Marco Melandri, something which had long been expected. Melandri will line up alongside Sylvain Guintoli for the 2014 season.
With all of the prototype seats occupied for 2014 - barring a contractual bust up between Ducati and Ben Spies, which is only an expensive theoretical possibility at the moment - battle has commenced for the rest of the MotoGP seats regarded as being most competitive. While the factory bikes - the bikes in the factory and satellite teams being raced as MSMA entries - are all taken, the privateer machines - using Dorna spec ECU software and extra fuel - are still mostly up for grabs.
The three most highly sought after machines are the 2013 Yamaha M1s to be leased by the NGM Forward squad, Honda's production racer (a modified RC213V with a standard gearbox and metal spring instead of pneumatic valves) and the Aprilia ART bikes, which are an increasingly heavily modified version of Aprilia's RSV4 superbike. Of the three, only the ART machine is a known quantity, with Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet having raced the bikes with some success in 2012 and 2013, joined by Yonny Hernandez and Karel Abraham this year. Teams and riders will have to guess about the performance of the Yamahas and Hondas, though given the basis of the two machines, it is a safe bet they will be relatively competitive.
The most popular machine among riders is the Yamaha M1, naturally enough. The bike is a near complete 2013 machine, with a few parts excluded, such as the fuel tank, and will utilize the spec ECU software from Dorna, being developed by the current CRT teams. Given just how good the 2013 M1 is - Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi have won races on it, Cal Crutchlow has scored regular podiums - it is expected to be the best privateer machine on the grid next season, and anyone hoping to advance in the series is angling for a ride on it.
And so Giovanni Cuzari, the team boss of Forward, is a very popular man with the riders. He has had talks with almost everyone who is anyone, including current Pata Honda World Superbike rider Johnny Rea, Aspar's Aleix Espargaro, now rideless Nicky Hayden, current BMW World Superbike man Marco Melandri, IODA Came's Danilo Petrucci, as well as current Forward riders Colin Edwards and Claudio Corti, and Forward's Moto2 rider Alex De Angelis.
BMW Motorrad today issued the following press release, announcing the end of factory involvement in World Superbikes, and a shift of focus to supplying customer teams. Analysis of the announcement will follow, once we have more idea of the full implications of this:
BMW Motorrad continues its strategic realignment in motorsport.
With effect from the end of the 2013 season, BMW Motorrad will terminate its commitment in the FIM Superbike World Championship in order to strengthen the customer sports programme.
Munich, 24th July 2013. BMW Motorrad is continuing its long-term strategic realignment of the brand. This strategy also affects BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s activities, which as a next step will also be restructured.
At the end of the 2013 season, BMW Motorrad Motorsport will terminate its factory involvement in the FIM Superbike World Championship. The main focus and some of the resources of BMW Motorrad’s commitment to sport will switch to other motorsport activities like the successful international customer sports programme from 2014 on.
Marco Melandri has undergone surgery to fix the pain he had been suffering in his right shoulder. The Italian had damaged his shoulder in a crash last year at Portimao, and been treated for the problem over the winter. The initial feeling after testing had been good, but another crash at Phillip Island exacerbated the problem once again, and Melandri elected to undergo surgery on his return to Italy.
The operation - to remove arthritis and other irregularities from the acromion, the part of the shoulder blade where the collarbone attaches - was performed by the renowned Italian shoulder specialist Dr. Giuseppe Porcellini, the same surgeon who fixed Valentino Rossi's damaged shoulder at the end of 2010. The surgery was deemed a success, and Melandri is hoping to be fit enough to ride at the next round of World Superbikes at Aragon, on 14th April. The prognosis is that Melandri will be able to ride free of pain, though his shoulder will probably still be weak.
Below is the press release issued by the BMW press office:
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams, as well as the series organizer, after qualifying on Saturday at Phillip Island:
With the first full test for the World Superbike class behind us, and the first test of the MotoGP grid about to get underway at Sepang at the end of this week, it is time to take a look at motorcycle racing's preseason, and evaluate where we stand so far. Just what is the state of play for both MotoGP and World Superbike in 2013?
The question is even more pertinent now that both series have been taken under the wing of Dorna, much to the consternation of World Superbike fans and, to some extent, the WSBK paddock as well. It was feared that Dorna would either kill off World Superbike entirely to strengthen the position of MotoGP, or impose such stringent technical regulations on the series as to dumb it down to Superstock spec.
Fortunately, neither of those options looks likely. World Superbikes will continue as a separate series, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta was keen to explain when quizzed about the takeover at Ducati's Wrooom launch event early in January. The aim is to build a strong WSBK series to stand alongside MotoGP, preserving the unique identity of the two series - WSBK as a place to race production bikes, MotoGP as the series for racing prototypes.
The BMW Goldbet World Superbike and Pata Honda World Supersport teams issued the following press release after two-day test at Jerez:
The 2013 season has gotten off to a very damp start for Ducati. The Bologna factory had booked the Jerez circuit for a three-day test, for both the Alstare Ducati World Superbike team and the Ducati MotoGP test team with Michele Pirro and Franco Battaini, but the rain meant that they only got a few hours of testing done, and all of that was on Monday.
Despite only managing a few laps, the test counts as successful for the Alstare Ducati team. Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini both managed some forty laps, with Checa quickly up to speed and bettering his time from the last visit to Jerez at the end of November last year by over a second, according to times posted by the respected Italian site GPOne.com. Badovini's progress was much more limited: the Italian was just a couple of tenths quicker than his time from November, and over a second and a half slower than Checa's lap time, the Spaniard having set his fastest time on a set of soft tires.
BMW issued the following press release after the final World Superbike test of the year at Jerez:
The last day of testing of 2012 turned out to be a mirror image of the MotoGP season just finished. As it had so many times this year, rain and wind ruined conditions, making the track far too dangerous for slick tires, and too dry to do any proper testing on wets. And just as they had done so often this year, the few riders remaining at the Jerez combined MotoGP and World Superbike test spent the day sitting in the garage, watching the weather, before calling an early halt to proceedings and heading home.
A few riders did briefly venture out, though to little effect. Nicky Hayden had stayed on for an extra day to help the testing program, after Andrea Dovizioso's neck problem meant that the Italian did only three laps over the first two days of the test. Hayden went out for a few laps to compare the two different wet compounds, and Ducati test rider Michele Pirro put in a few laps as well, but both Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone chose to sit out the final day. Dovizioso's neck problems had not subsided sufficiently, and the conditions were not worth the risk, while Iannone did not feel there was anything to learn on the treacherous conditions.
BMW issued the following press release after completing testing at Aragon:
BMW Motorrad - WSBK - Winter Testing - Motorland Aragón
Alcañiz, 15th November 2012. After the rain-hit test last week at the Spanish Jerez circuit, BMW Motorrad scheduled two more days of testing this week at “Motorland Aragón” near Alcañiz (ESP). There the factory riders Marco Melandri (ITA) and Chaz Davies (GBR) continued the preparation for the 2013 FIM Superbike World Championship yesterday and today. Again the team was not too lucky with the weather conditions. Yesterday, Wednesday, and last night it rained again. This morning the track was still damp, but then it dried up. Therefore, at least this afternoon, the team found good conditions to continue its comprehensive testing programme. The highest air and track temperatures reached 17 degrees Celsius.
BMW Motorrad had taken numerous newly developed components for several areas of the BMW S 1000 RR to Alcañiz, which were evaluated by Marco and the team. His new team mate, Chaz, used the time to further familiarise himself with his RR. In total, Marco and Chaz completed 114 laps or 607 kilometres of testing on their RRs.
BMW Motorrad issued the following press release after their first pre-season test at Jerez:
BMW Motorrad - WSBK -Winter testing
05th to 06th November 2012.
Jerez, 06th November 2012. The preparation for the 2013 FIM Superbike World Championship is in full swing. BMW Motorrad factory rider Marco Melandri (ITA) and his new team-mate Chaz Davies (GBR) conducted two days of winter testing in Jerez in the south of Spain. It was Chaz’s first time working on track with BMW Motorrad. He used the two days to get acquainted with his new environment and with his RR. The test was also a good opportunity for the re-structured team to get to grips with each other.
Over the two days, BMW Motorrad evaluated newly developed components for the RR. Unfortunately, track time was reduced due to the changing weather conditions. Yesterday it was dry in the morning but raining in the afternoon. This morning it was still wet before the rain stopped around noon. The highest air and track temperatures reached was between 16 and 18 degrees Celsius. In total, Marco and Chaz completed 149 laps or 659 kilometres of testing on their RRs. Having raced there once back in 1990, Jerez will again feature on the Superbike World Championship calendar in 2013 when it will host the season finale in October.
Marco Melandri has been given a suspended jail term of one year and seven months for tax evasion by a court in his home town of Ravenna. Melandri was found guilty of trying to evade taxes during the period he lived in Derby, in the UK, the court finding that Melandri's residence for tax purposes should have been in Ravenna, Italy, Melandri's home town.
Melandri was resident in the UK to take advantage of the British non-domiciled resident status, which allows wealthy non-UK citizens with large incomes from sources outside the UK to avoid paying tax on that income. Melandri was one of several riders who had elected to have their residence in Britain for precisely that reason. Valentino Rossi was one such rider, nominally resident in London, but with "non-dom" status to avoid paying tax on his income. But Rossi was an earlier victim of the Italian tax authorities, the nine-times World Champion being found guilty of tax avoidance in Italy and condemned to pay a fine of 35 million euros in 2008.
The BMW press office issued the following press release today, going back over the events of a successful and eventful 2012 WSBK season for the factory team:
A year full of highlights and milestones for Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport.
On winning ways: Team BMW Motorrad Motorsports reviews its best ever season in the FIM Superbike World Championship.
Munich/Stephanskirchen, 11th October 2012. With last weekend’s races at Magny-Cours (FRA), the 2012 FIM Superbike World Championship came to a close. Now, after 14 exciting rounds in eleven countries, Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport can review the season with satisfaction. It was a year full of highlights and milestones. The targets set have been achieved, namely to close the gap to the teams at the very top and to challenge for the World Championship. The squad established itself within the leading teams and fought for both the Riders’ and the Manufacturers’ title to the very last race.
The BMW World Superbike team issued the following press release updating Marco Melandri's status after his nasty crash at Portimao:
BMW Motorrad Motorsport: Update on Marco Melandri
After returning home, injured BMW Motorrad factory rider Marco Melandri underwent further examinations in Italy.
Munich, 26th September 2012. After his heavy crash in Sunday’s first race at Portimão (POR) and preliminary examinations at the local hospital, BMW Motorrad factory rider Marco Melandri returned home to Italy on Monday. During the last few days he has undergone further medical examinations. These checks confirmed the good news that Marco has no internal injuries. But they showed that in addition to the painful contusions he suffered on his back, the Italian cracked the tenth and 12th ribs on the right side of his chest when he was hit by another bike while lying on the tarmac after his fall in the beginning of the race.
Marco will now rest over the forthcoming days before heading to Magny-Cours (FRA), where the final round of the 2012 FIM Superbike World Championship will be held from 5th to 7th October. According to the team’s doctor, Dr. Vincenzo Tota, the injuries will not prevent him from taking part in the last races of the season. The whole Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport wishes Marco a quick recovery.