One of the big moves in the World Superbike paddock for next season is Max Neukirchner's move to the Ten Kate Honda team. Now that the first test of the 2010 World Superbike season is underway at Portimao, the Ten Kate team have released a video featuring the Ten Kate riders in action at the Portuguese track. Here's how Max Neukirchner's first day in his new team went.
Newly sacked German rider Max Neukirchner has quickly found gainful employment, signing a deal that will see him partnering with Jonny Rea on a Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR in the World Superbike series in 2010. This year, Neukirchner has battled injuries incurred at Monza and Imola and his contract with Alstare Suzuki was terminated in late September by team owner Frankie Batta, allegedly over concerns about his level of fitness. Current Ten Kate rider Carlos Checa, despite a flurry of late season activity, will not return to the Ten Kate team, who are downsizing to two riders in 2010. Checa is thought to be in line for a testing gig with the Ducati MotoGp team. Checa has a history with Ducati, having ridden for the team in MotoGP in 2005, alongside Loris Capirossi.
Amid a recent raft of rumors that Max Neukirchner has left/been fired from the Alstare Suzuki team, owner Frankie Batta has acknowledged that Neukirchner will not be riding for the team in 2010. According to GPone.com, Batta says that the team declined to exercise an option on the German in late September because he wasn't forthright about his physical condition. Specifically, Batta says that Neukirchner underwent a delicate operation on his back that the team was not informed of and when it was discovered, declined to meet with the team at Magny-Cours and undergo a physical in Belgium, where the Alstare team is located. Batta went on to say that the second seat on the team will be filled by Sylvain Guintoli, currently riding for the Worx Crescent Suzuki team in the British Superbike series. Exactly how the team came to avail itself of Guintoli's services is unclear, as the Frenchman is under contract to the Worx team for 2010.
Alstare has issued a press release confirming that Max Neukirchner's contract has not been extended and their reasons why it hasn't.
A variety of sources are reporting that Max Neukirchner will make a shocking jump to ride alongside Jonny Rea on the Ten Kate Honda team in 2010. Although the young German rider had a contract with Alstare Suzuki for 2010, it is believed that the pact was terminated as early as the first of October by the team due to fitness concerns based on injuries incurred at the mid-summer Imola test. Rumor has it that Alstare owner Frankie Batta used the fitness issue to clear the decks so that a French ex-MotoGP rider (although who that could be is kind of hazy with Sylvain Guintoli already signed to the BSB Worx team for next year) could come aboard the sinking Alstare ship bearing a bucketload of Francs to rescue the cash-strapped team.
Ten Kate had been thought to be on the verge of re-signing current rider Carlos Checa after former riders James Toseland and Chris Vermeulen inked deals with different teams. The Neukirchner/Ten Kate agreement will reportedly be sealed sometime next week.
Astare Suzuki, on a post on the team's website, has expressed surprise that Max Neukirchner, who incurred grave injuries to his back at the mid-summer Imola WSBK test, would be available for the apres-season test at Portimao, Portugal. Citing a recent physical exam at Imola, the team claims that "...doctors Costa, Corbascio and neuro-surgeon Professor Bollini all declared that they would not take responsibility for allowing Max to ride a bike again this year. "
The part that Alstare was surprised about was that Neukirchner posted to his personal website on Monday October 5th that he had undergone a "final medical examination" at Chemnitz (Germany) hospital where the examining doctors were "quite pleased" with Neukirchner's recovery and that there were no medical concerns about the Gerrman rider's participation in the October 26 test. This post was ostensibly to quell rumors that Neukirchner's recovery period could be extended by 4-6 months, which would obviate his participation in the test.
Citing nagging back injuries from a disastrous mid-summer Imola test, Alstare Suzuki's Max Neukirchner has ruled himself out for the last two rounds of the season at Magny Cours and Portimao. Neukirchner has reset his goals with the aim of being fit for the end of season Portimao test. Team owner Frankie Batta has stood by the injured German who has a year remaining on his contract with Alstare, publicly stating that Neukirchner has what it takes to be a front-runner in SBK.
Max Neukirchner started the 2009 World Superbike season full of hope, and widely tipped as a potential title candidate. But 2009 has been uncommonly cruel to the Alstare Suzuki rider, and his season has been plagued by injury. A horrific first-corner pile up at the Monza round in May saw the German break bones all the way down his leg, and after a lengthy recovery, Neukirchner made a return to riding at the official Imola World Superbike test this week.
His return was not to be long-lived. Neukirchner crashed heavily on just the second day of testing, losing control of his Brux Alstare Suzuki as he exited the Tamburello corner and highsiding on to his back. Neukirchner was examined at the Clinica Mobile, then taken off to a local hospital for further examination. At first he thought he had escaped relatively uninjured, saying "that was a proper crash, but nothing like Monza." But X-rays revealed fractured vertebrae, further endangering his season.
According to the UK's Motorcycle News, Neukirchner's injuries mean that he will be out for either a month or for the rest of the year, depending on the treatment. Given that Neukirchner has already missed over half the season, it may make more sense for the German to have surgery to correct the problem fully, without risking further injury. But riders being riders, he is more likely to want to return to racing as soon as possible, and get back into racing rhythm.
The success of Ben Spies in the World Superbike series has rekindled interest in American riders, after several years where the lack of cross-fertilization between the series left World Superbike and MotoGP teams wary of signing riders from the AMA. Since Spies' arrival, whe have had a spate of riders racing as replacements and wildcards in the World Superbike series: John Hopkins took the place of Roberto Rolfo, Jake Zemke filled in for Hopkins after his injury at Assen, Jamie Hacking is tearing up the track replacing Makoto Tamada at Kawasaki, and the Miller round saw a host of American and Canadian wildcards running in the World Supersport race.
Now, rising star Blake Young looks set to join their number. The 21-year-old Yoshimura Suzuki rider has been very impressive since becoming Mat Mladin's new team mate, and the veteran Australian AMA champion has tipped Young for success. Young is a protege of Kevin Schwantz, who still has excellent connections to Suzuki worldwide and in both the MotoGP and World Superbike paddocks. According to GPOne.com, it was Schwantz who persuaded Alstare Suzuki's Francis Batta to give Young the chance to replace the injured Max Neukirchner at Donington next weekend.
Fonsi Nieto is currently in for Neukirchner, but Batta is reportedly trying to build a team that could regain the World Championship for Suzuki which they last won in 2005 with Troy Corser. Batta is believed to have been talking to both James Toseland and Chris Vermeulen about a return to World Superbikes, though rumors currently place Toseland back in the Ten Kate garage rather than with Suzuki, and a switch to Alstare would make more sense for Vermeulen. But Batta could also be looking for another young rider capable of making a big impact in the series, and given Young's excellent results in the AMA Pro Racing Superbike series so far, Young could potentially be that man.
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.