WSBK Silly Season Update: Haga With Aprilia, Sykes With Kawasaki, Toseland To BMW, Biaggi To Retire?
After the final World Superbike round of the 2010 season, news has inevitably started to filter out of Magny-Cours about the shape of 2011. There were official announcements, cryptic hints and barroom gossip concerning who will be doing what for next year in World Superbikes and World Supersport. A round up of the latest rumors is given below:
Nori has not been very "Nitro" at all this season, and his less-than-explosive form may have helped contribute to Ducati's decision to scrap the factory team, but despite that, Haga has found sanctuary with the newly assembled Pata Racing Team Aprilia. The team consists of the former DFX Corse squad, the CEO of Pata (the Italian snack company who funded Jakub Smrz this year), and Marco Borciani, who ran the Pata B&G team for Smrz. The team is to field a single Aprilia RSV4R for Haga, and many believe that a return to riding a four-cylinder bike is just what Haga needs. The Aprilia is clearly competitive, so Haga will be hoping for a better season in 2011.
A variety of Italian sources are reporting that WSBK championship points leader Max Biaggi will extend his stay at the factory Alitalia Aprilia team until 2012. A move to a rival team was never really considered a serious possibility, but the parties were said to be haggling over compensation. All that has been resolved, according to reports, with Biaggi agreeing to a salary of one million Euro per annum, which would probably make the Roman Emperor the highest paid rider in the series. All that remains is for Biaggi to sign on the dotted line. Aprilia is also reportedly keen to retain the services of the current BSB champion Leon Camier.
With MotoGP due to head to Assen in just over a week, here's a taster from the World Superbike round back in April. Friend of MotoMatters.com Michel Hulshof of Sports Photography used his expert local knowledge to grab some beautiful shots from the two WSBK races. Michel grew up just a stone's throw away from the iconic Dutch circuit, and it shows. You can see more of his work on his website, or you can follow him on Twitter, under the user name @ProNikon.
The latest in the long line of World Superbike riders to be interviewed by the assembled press in the run up to the US round of WSBK at Miller Motorsports Park at the end of May was Max Biaggi. Unfortunately, MotoMatters.com was not able to participate, as we were on a flight to Qatar at the time the call was scheduled. We weren't missed, and the people who could attend came up with some pretty interesting questions for Biaggi to answer. In the interview, Biaggi talks about his two wins at Portimao, evaluates the relative strengths and weaknesses of the top teams in World Superbikes, explains why he decided against switching to F1 despite having had a test in a Ferrari, and admits that he still misses the two-stroke 500cc Grand Prix bikes. Well worth a read:
Moderator: Good morning, everybody. I'm John Gardner, the Media Manager at Miller Motorsports Park. This is the fourth in our series of teleconferences with riders in the HANNspree World Superbike Championship leading up to the Utah USA round, which will take place here at Miller Motorsports Park on Memorial Day weekend, May 29th to the 31st.
We are very pleased today to have with us Max Biaggi, who rides for the Alitalia Aprilia team and swept both rounds of the recent race in Portugal. He's currently second in the championship and is a legend in this sport. We're very honored to have you here, Max. Welcome.
Max Biaggi: Hi. Thank you.
Moderator: It was a big weekend for you in Portugal. How are things looking for you coming into Valencia this weekend?
Max Biaggi: Well, first of all, I'm very, very happy with the result we did in Portugal. And Valencia, I think, is going to be a good weekend for us. We'll be competitive with everybody there and possibly in the top three all the time. So, I'm quite confident for that.
The news has been leaked, announced and reported for the last couple of weeks, but finally today Aprilia announced its partnership with Alitalia, to act as title sponsor for the Noale factory's World Superbike squad. At the bike launch - held rather spectacularly at Rome's Fiumicino airport - Aprilia's new head of Product Development and Strategy, Maurizio Roman, unveiled the Aprilia's new livery, flaunting the Italian tricolor red, green and white as used by the Italian flag carrier. The actual financial details of the deal were not discussed, though as both Alitalia and the Piaggio Group are owned in part by Italian tycoon Roberto Colaninno, it is hard to regard the deal as outside sponsorship of the industry.
After yesterday's instalment of Scott Jones' fantastic images from Qatar, today we have more, from the heart of Utah's stunning landscapes. The World Superbike paddock went to Miller Motorsports Park, and Scott Jones captured it all on film. With such a breathtaking backdrop, Scott is at his best. Savor round 7 of the World Superbike series all over again, and remember that you can help out by supporting MotoMatters.com in 2010.
2009's Nearly Man: Nitro Nori, and Mr March in the MotoMatters.com 2010 Racing Calendar
Testing concluded at Valencia for the World Superbike riders today, and it was Max Biaggi who finished the test on top of the timesheets. Biaggi broke Noriyuki Haga's existing lap record by some eight tenths of a second on his final lap of the test, before climbing off the bike and heading off to the airport to fly back home. Biaggi finished ahead of yesterday's fastest man Leon Haslam, the young Briton confirming his excellent pace on the Alstare Suzuki. Third fastest was Sterilgarda Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow, just a tenth off Haslam's time. The reigning World Supersport champion has taken no time at all to adapt to the World Superbike machines, and continues to be very quick.
Crutchlow finished ahead of both Johnny Rea and James Toseland, the Ten Kate Honda man working on new suspension, while Toseland concentrated on electronics and chassis setup for his Yamaha R1. Reigning British Superbike champion Leon Camier finished some way off the pace, after crashing a couple of times during the day. He was joined in the gravel by Ten Kate Supersport rider Michele Pirro and James Toseland, though all three riders walked away uninjured.
Unofficial times from day 2 at Valencia:
Alstare Suzuki's Leon Haslam was the fastest of the World Superbike paddock on the first day of testing at Valencia. The young Briton was quickly up to speed on the new Suzuki GSX-R1000, taking two tenths of a second off Noriyuki Haga's race lap record at Valencia. That was exactly the same margin by which Haslam was faster than Max Biaggi, the Aprilia rider continuing his development of the RSV4, the bike continuing to show potential.
James Toseland had a strong outing at his second test of the bike, and pronounced himself pleased to be riding at a track he knows so well, after initially making his debut on the Yamaha R1 at Portimao, a tough track to master, without also having to get to grips with a new bike and tires. Toseland and his team mate Cal Crutchlow spent their time working on a new electronics package, the necessity of which was demonstrated by an early crash for Toseland. The Englishman locked the rear of his Yamaha up on a cold tire, while changing down between Turns 4 and 5.
Johnny Rea set the 4th fastest time of the day, just ahead of Crutchlow. Crutchlow was 0.7 faster than the second Ten Kate Honda rider Max Neukirchner, Aprilia's Leon Camier and Aprilia's test rider Alex Hoffman.
As has been widely supposed here on MotoMatters, and nearly everywhere else in the racing press, 2009 BSB champion Leon Camier has signed to race alongside Max Biaggi on the Factory Aprilia Racing Team in 2010. Aprilia's recent withdrawal with extreme prejudice from Moto2 to concentrate on WSBK and the proposed 1000cc 2012 MotoGP regulations, leaves open the possibility that the Noale based manufacturer will field a satellite team in WSBK in 2010 with MotoGP refugee Alex de Angelis as a possible rider next to Guandalini Ducati/Aprilia's Jakub Smrz.
~~~ UPDATE ~~~
A variety of sources are reporting that 2009 British superbike champion Leon Camier has or will shortly sign a deal that will see him ride alongside Max Biaggi on the factory Aprilia team in the World Superbike championship. Camier will test with the team at Misano Wednesday and Thursday and some sort of announcement may be made by the team at that time. The young Brit has been considered a front-runner for the vacant seat after riding for the team at Magny Cours and Portimao. At Portimao, Camier finshed a creditable 6th and 7th after mechanical issues sabotaged his French appearance.
San Marinan Alex de Angelis had also been considered as a leading candidiate for the ride but his reportedly high salary demands allegedly tipped the balance in Camier's favor. de Angelis is a contender for a ride on an Aprilia satellite team that will reportedly be a mash-up of the Guandalini and Sterilgarda Ducati teams but his ability to bring funding to the team is thought to be a prime factor in whether he gets that ride.
Althea Ducati has announced that Shane "Shakey" Byrne will team with Carlos Checa on the squad in the World Superbike championship in 2010. Althea ended a relationship with Honda at the end of the 2009 season that had lasted the last two years in favor of the Bologna based manufacturer. Byrne brings extensive experience with the 1098 Superbike to Althea, having won the 2008 British superbike championship and placing eighth in the 2009 WSBK season astride the Italian machine. Byrne had been previously thought to be in contention for a factory ride with Kawasaki and Aprilia, but Kawasaki opted to sign Chris Vermeulen and Tom Sykes. Aprilia is thought to be considering Leon Camier and Alex De Angelis to team with Max Biaggi.
With Shinya Nakano returning to the fold at Portimao after an injury plagued rookie season in World Superbike, Aprilia Racing will dig deep and field a third bike for newly-crowned British Superbike champion Leon Camier. The ride for Camier is a second audition for a seat on the team after his debut with the squad at Magny Cours showed flashes of promise but was marred by technical difficulties. Nakano, who has had difficulties both with injuries and a self-admitted problem adapting his 250 based style to superbikes, is widely believed to be on his way out of the factory squad.Alex DeAngelis had been linked to the second seat but rumors are increasing that the San Marinan will take a ride with Scot Honda in MotoGP. Sterilgarda Ducati's Shane "Shakey" Byrne is also considered a contender for the Aprilia ride.
Motorcycle racers, journalists and fans tend to talk about the sport in terms of a physical struggle. Riders and teams are always fighting or battling for the lead, championship or what have you. To be sure, there are parallells between the sweet science and racing; fighters and racers both spend endless hours training to be in top condition and both have to ply their trade hurting as often as not. Strategy is important too, as the combatants look to defend their position or deliver a knock-out blow that will defeat their opponent. The two men that are left in the ring in the 2009 World Superbike series championship, Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga, came into the next to last round at Magny Cours, nearly too close to call on points, each looking for the advantage that would KO their rival or serve to let them live to fight another day.
Race 1: Don't Look Back, Something Might be Gaining on You
It's been an awfully busy week for Ben Spies. If one admires anything about the young Texan other than his blinding speed, it's the the forthright, no worries way he goes about conducting his business. One imagines that he has a list of tasks to be accomplished and then checked off when done, rather like shopping for groceries or some such other mundane task. This week those tasks have included fielding enquiries from hundreds of journalists, finally being able to talk about his appointment to the Tech Trois Yamaha MotoGP team and making sure that his travel plans to Valencia are changed to a few days earlier than anticipated so that he can participate as a wild card in the season-ending MotoGP race. On top of that extracurricular stuff, Spies still has his day job to do, which this weekend involves qualifying well, winning two Superbike races in France and regaining his lead in the World Superbike championship.