The two days of practice that the Ducati team had at Mugello earlier this week appears to have paid off, and not just for Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga. The top of the timesheets was awash with Ducatis during the first session of free practice at the Nurburgring, with four of them in the top five positions. But it was not a Ducati in the very top spot, Max Biaggi setting the fastest time on the Alitalia Aprilia, and looking in good shape to lock down the World Superbike title as the series enters its final stages. Fabrizio was 2nd fastest, and just over five hundredths off Biaggi, while Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa interposed himself between Fabrizio and Haga in 4th.
Places 5 through 8 were taken by the British contingent. Althea Ducati's Shane Byrne was the fastest Brit, ahead of Ten Kate Honda's Johnny Rea and Sterilgarda Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow in 7th. Championship contender Leon Haslam could only manage the 8th fastest time on the Alstare Suzuki, nearly two thirds of a second slower than Biaggi.
After the shocking revelation that Ducati is to pull out of the World Superbike championship for the 2011 season, the WSBK organizers Infront Motor Sports were quick to respond. CEO Paolo Flammini was quick to point out that the series has always been open to helping the Italian manufacturer maintain parity with the four-cylinder bikes through balancing the regulations, a response to Ducati's hints that the World Superbike regulations made it difficult for the company to compete. Flammini points out in the press release that just last season, the Ducati was battling for supremacy in the championship in the hands of Noriyuki Haga, the Japanese rider losing out to Yamaha's Ben Spies at the final round in Portimao. Here's the full text of the Infront Motor Sports press release on the Ducati situation.
Infront Motor Sports has learnt with disappointment of Ducati's decision not to participate with a factory team in the 2011 FIM Superbike World Championship.
Ducati have announced that they are to withdraw from World Superbikes for the 2011 season as a factory team. More detail to follow, but here's the text of the press release:
DUCATI WILL FOCUS ITS TECHNICAL RESOURCES ON PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT AND WILL NOT PARTICIPATE IN THE 2011 WORLD SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP WITH A FACTORY TEAM
Borgo Panigale (Bologna - Italy), 27 August 2010 - Ducati, having participated with a factory team in every edition of the World Superbike Championship since it began in 1988, winning 16 Manufacturers' world titles and 13 Riders' world titles along the way, has decided to limit its participation to the supply of machines and support to private teams.
With 13 rider's and 16 constructor's championships, the name Ducati is virtually synonymous with World Superbike. In good times and bad Ducati has exemplified the hoary racing aphorism "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday." Indeed, there were years that the Italian marque's presence was so pervasive in the series that wags called it the Ducati Cup.
A variety of sources are reporting that this active participation will come to an end at the finish of the 2010 season when the factory team will cease to compete in WSBK. A plethora of factors are said to have contributed to this decision, perhaps foremost the recent signing of Valentino Rossi to the MotoGP team and the attendant salary and developmental costs that will presumably entail. Ducati has alao apparently decided that, with the Doctor on board, their PR lira would make more of an impact being spent in GPs.
Another factor is that the 1198 platform, which then team manager Davide Tardozzi had said reached it's developmental apogee in 2009, is long in the tooth and will be replaced by a radical new platform that doesn't really resemble its 916/999/1098 forebearers much at all.
Valentino Rossi's desire to race in World Superbikes is well documented, the seven-time MotoGP champion saying as much at Laguna Seca three weeks ago. And upon his return to the circuit he tested Yamaha's YZF-R1 superbike, to assess his fitness to decide whether he would be fit enough to race at the Sachsenring or not, Rossi once again underlined that he would one day like to race in the series.
Rossi was responding to questions on whether it would be possible to race in two classes in the same season. Rossi said that right now, the Moto2 class held no interest for him, and so it was not a goal worth pursuing. "I think the Moto2 is a great show, and is a great opportunity for a lot of riders," Rossi said, "but is not an impressive bike to ride. When you ride a MotoGP, no meaning to ride a Moto2. Maybe it would have more meaning to ride a 250."
As is their custom, the press office at Miller Motorsports Park organized another teleconference with a top rider from the World Superbike paddock. This time, it was the turn of HANNspree Ten Kate Honda's Johnny Rea to field questions from the press. In the conference, Rea talked about his background, discussed the struggles he's had this year to get up to speed, and about how the new Pirelli tires have affected his Honda CBR1000RR. Here's the transcript of what he had to say.
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.
After another weekend of nail-biting racing in the World Superbike series, the championships in both World Superbike and World Supersport classes have tightened up a little. And as always on the Monday after a weekend of WSBK, the organizers have released another set of highlight clips from the three races on the official World Superbike Youtube channel. So start your week off with a recap of Sunday's action from Silverstone, or if you have a little more spare time - and the ability to either understand or at least enjoy listening to Italian - you can see both race 1 and race 2 in full on the website of Italian broadcaster La7, who show WSBK in Italy.
World Superbikes Race 1
Results and summary of World Superbike race 2 at Silverstone:
Results and summary of WSBK race 1 at Silverstone:
As is common at world championship motorcycle racing events, the Superbike commission - the World Superbike series' rule-making body - gathered to discuss rules to be introduced for the 2011 series. After the meeting, a press release was issued detailing the changes to be made for next season, and they make interesting reading.
The biggest change was the scrapping of the loophole which has allowed Aprilia to drive the camshafts on their RSV4 World Superbike machines using gears instead of the chains fitted on the production bikes. The rule had originally read "The method of cam drive (chain, belt or gears) must remain as on the homologated motorcycle unless a complete kit is available through normal commercial channels" but the last part of the sentence - "unless a complete kit is available through normal commercial channels" - has been dropped.
Results and Summary:
Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa became the first non-British rider to top the timesheets in the World Superbike class during the second session of free practice at the revised Silverstone circuit. The Spanish veteran nudged a trio of Brits off the top spot, beating Alstare Suzuki's Leon Haslam, HANNSpree Ten Kate's Johnny Rea and Sterilgarda Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow into 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively. The gaps remain relatively small, however, as Checa was just a tenth of a second faster than Haslam, and a second covered the top 12. Superpole is to follow at 3pm local time.
Tricky conditions at Silverstone on Saturday morning made it nigh on impossible for the World Superbike field to improve their times, leaving the timesheets virtually unchanged from Friday. Only one rider bettered his time from yesterday, HM Plant's Josh Brookes just sneaking into Superpole and knocking Roger Lee Hayden out of 20th spot.
Of the riders who didn't improve their times, it was Johnny Rea who came out on top, finishing ahead of BMW's Troy Corser, DFX Corse's Lorenzo Lanzi and Corser's teammate Ruben Xaus. The final grid will be settled this afternoon during Superpole.
Combined results after QP1 and QP2: