The WorldSBK grid at Jerez will be full of replacement riders, as injury takes its toll, not just on the regular riders, but also on possible replacements. Sylvain Guintoli is to step in and replace the still injured and departing Randy Krummenacher in the Kawasaki Puccetti team for the rest of the season, the Swiss rider having previously fractured his wrist. Guintoli will ride for the Puccetti team in both the remaining rounds this year, at Jerez and at Qatar.
Being a replacement rider is never easy. Being asked to replace a factory MotoGP rider is always an honor, and one which nobody wants to turn down, but it also means being thrown in at the deep end, with a new bike, new tires, and sometimes even new tracks to learn with little or no testing.
Bearing all that in mind, experience can make the world of difference. So when Suzuki were forced to replace Alex Rins, after he broke his left arm in Austin, they turned to one of the most experienced riders around. Sylvain Guintoli spent five seasons in 250s and two full seasons in MotoGP, before heading off to World Superbikes, where he won the title in 2014. He is currently racing the brand new Suzuki GSX-R1000 for Bennetts Suzuki in the BSB championship.
In Barcelona, I found myself alone at Guintoli's debrief, and had a chance to spend fifteen minutes talking to the Frenchman. We had a wide-ranging conversation, covering topics as diverse as the changes to the bikes and tires since 2008, the character of the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP bike, and how it compares to Suzuki's production GSX-R1000.
Q: What’s it been like having to come back into the paddock and obviously totally different tires from when you were racing?
Sylvain Guintoli: It’s been a blast so far, to be honest. It’s been honestly a great opportunity, a great experience to back riding the GP race. The Suzuki is a beautiful bike to ride. But it’s also been challenging. Like you said, the tires obviously, the last time I rode Michelins was 2002.
It is not often that journalists get to speak to team managers at length, but test days provide the perfect opportunity to do just that. So it was that a small group of journalists attending the tests sat down with Suzuki team boss Davide Brivio to discuss progress so far.
There was a lot to talk about. There have been rumors that Andrea Iannone is not fitting in well with the ECSTAR Suzuki team, and is currently engaged in talks with Aprilia about moving there for the 2018 season. Some of Iannone's issues are down to his problem adapting to the bike, and trying to fix his feeling with the front end.
Brivio spoke to us about Iannone's situation, and the development of the GSX-RR. He also talked about the benefits of a satellite team, what Suzuki is doing to improve the spec electronics package, the test program at Barcelona, and the return of Alex Rins for the test. It was a long discussion, but there was plenty to go over.
Question: How did you hear these rumors about Andrea talking with Aprilia and some people say that there is no very good climate in the garage? How is your reaction on this?
Davide Brivio: I heard through journalists and I read on a website. Of course, I heard this, but the situation is very simple and very clear. We have two years’ agreement with Andrea Iannone and I don’t think the atmosphere is strange at all. Of course, we are having a difficult moment, a difficult time because we don’t get results. We just keep working and try to follow Andrea, he has some, let’s say, requests. He has some problem riding this bike, which is not only Andrea, also Sylvain Guintoli in these races. He felt some problems, which is we should improve the rear grip. This looks like the same for everybody probably. It’s quite a common problem.
Sylvain Guintoli is to replace Alex Rins at Suzuki from the next race at Le Mans onwards, until Rins is fit to return. To help him prepare for his return to MotoGP, Guintoli will test the Suzuki GSX-RR on Monday, at the official test.
Top ten lists are by their very nature subjective; beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. From the moment the season started in Australia until the very end there was a great scrap for the title, with the fight going down to the wire in Qatar. But who was the best rider of 2016? This is the MotoMatters.com top ten riders of the 2016 WorldSBK season.
While the MotoGP grid is as good as settled, Silly Season for World Superbikes is in full swing. With the Kawasaki riders' contracts settled before the summer break, attention has turned to the other seats, most of which are up in the air. In addition, there could be some changes in machinery, with some teams eyeing a switch of manufacturers.
The biggest news – still unofficial, but widely believed to be a done deal – is that Marco Melandri is set to make a return to the World Superbike paddock, this time in the factory Aruba.it Ducati team alongside Chaz Davies.
Good clean racing or overstepping the mark? That was the question being asked on Sunday night in Thailand after a thrilling race long duel between Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea.
For many the sight of Sykes fighting tooth and nail and refusing to cede the win to his teammate was something that was hoped for but not expected this year. The Kawasaki teammates fought a war of words over the winter but after Rea's dominant title victory last year, many expected something similar this year.
Press release previews from the WSBK and WSS teams, as well as the organizers, ahead of this weekend's Thai round of World Superbikes:
WorldSBK: Chance for Change at Chang International Circuit?
Next is the MOTUL Thai Round, with Buriram the scene of Rea’s first double win last year
We are racing at last. The first round of World Superbikes at Phillip Island means we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The long, dark winter is over, and motorcycles are circulating in earnest once again.
What to make of the first weekend of World Superbikes in the new format? Those who worried that spreading the racing over two days would hurt attendance and ruin the series have not seen their fears realized. Attendance at Phillip Island was around 75% of the MotoGP attendance there, really strong figures for the track.
Press releases from the teams after qualifying for World Supersport and Race 1 of World Superbikes from Phillip Island:
WorldSBK 2016: This Is War
Rea reigns as another battle breaks out on the Island
Jonathan Rea has kicked off his title defence with an incredible last lap victory over Ducati rider Chaz Davies, the Kawasaki rider pulling a move around the outside to beat Davies over the line by 0.063 seconds.