After lying dormant for much of the summer, the World Superbike Silly Season has suddenly been kicked into top gear at Imola, with a spate of contract signings and rumors emerging from the WSBK paddock over the weekend. At the heart of the various moves and switches has been the fate of the Alstare Suzuki team. Doubts have hung over the future of the team for some time now, with Suzuki apparently unwilling to continue to back the team at their current level. After a meeting last week in Japan, Alstare team boss Francis Batta came away with more questions than answers. "Even though I didn't receive any concrete guarantees, I'm still encouraged that Suzuki showed some attachment to the team," Batta told GPone.com's Claudio Porrozzi. Suzuki is likely to have the budget to run just a single rider next season, though the level of support available from Hamamatsu is uncertain.
The outcome of Batta's meetings with Suzuki left Leon Haslam free to pursue contracts elsewhere, despite having another year on his deal with Alstare. Haslam is now certain to go to BMW alongside Troy Corser. The young Briton reportedly signed a contract with BMW earlier this week, subject to receiving approval from current boss Batta. An official announcement could be a few days away, giving Batta some time to finalize the plans of Alstare Suzuki, but it is believed the confirmation will come before next weekend's WSBK round at Magny-Cours, allowing Haslam to test the BMW directly after the final round of World Superbikes.
Haslam's signing with BMW fills one more factory seat, leaving very few open. Aprilia, BMW, Yamaha and Kawasaki are all pretty much accounted for, as is one seat at Ten Kate Honda (Johnny Rea). With no factory Ducati squad next year, Noriyuki Haga has had to look elsewhere, and has found shelter with a new team, combining the DFX Corse squad and Marco Borciani, half of the B&G Pata team currently fielding Jakub Smrz. Haga has been offered factory support for an Aprilia RSV4 with the team, and reports indicate that Haga has already signed the deal.
Haga still has another option outside of the DFX-Borciani squad. BMW is to field a satellite squad in WSBK, running under the BMW Italia flag. Current FIM Superstock 1000 Cup champion Ayrton Badovini will be aboard one of the S1000RRs the team is to field, but the second seat is as yet unfilled. Many names are being linked to that ride - including current Sterilgarda Yamaha rider James Toseland, Xerox Ducati's Michel Fabrizio and another former Superstock 1000 champion Niccolo Canepa, currently running in Moto2 - but Haga has reportedly also been offered a spot on the team.
With so many riders switching seats, stability on the World Superbike grid is to be formed by Carlos Checa, who has extended his deal with the outstanding Althea Ducati squad for next season. Althea is to receive even more support from Ducati next season, with Ducati having withdrawn its factory team. The team will once again run two riders, and though Checa's current teammate Shane Byrne remains a strong candidate for the job, the rich rider pickings on offer leave the Althea squad with plenty of alternatives.