The volcanic ash cloud that caused the cancellation of the Motegi MotoGP round has had only a very limited effect on this weekend's World Superbike round at Assen. With nearly all of the material already in Europe, and most of the riders being based here as well, the World Superbike field will be nearly complete at the historic track of Assen.
Despite it being nearly four weeks since the World Superbike paddock last convened at Phillip Island, the weekend - and the runup to that weekend - is having knock on effects on the rider lineup of the series. Before the weekend had even started, Australian rider Broc Parkes broke a tibia during training, and was replaced on the Echo CRS Honda by fellow Australian Josh Brookes. Parkes is still not fully fit to race, and so will be replaced by South African Sheridan Morais at Portimao.
Morais was a substitute rider last year, taking the place of Makoto Tamada in Paul Bird's Kawasaki World Superbike squad. The South African has switched manufacturers this winter, and is currently campaigning an Aprilia RSV4 in the South African Superbike series.
BMW has been making a big push in the marketing of its new sportbike, the S1000RR. Facing the difficulty of persuading the public that their products are more than just long-distance tourers or specialist curiosities, the German manufacturer has concentrated its efforts on racing, hiring Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus to contest the World Superbike championship and give them a presence on the global stage.
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.