Yamaha's World Superbike Team: De Angelis, Crutchlow Or Both?

As in MotoGP, so in World Superbikes. In both series, the Japanese manufacturer is suffering an embarrassment of riches when it comes to riders, and with the MotoGP factory squad complete, Yamaha Motor Italia, who run the World Superbike squad, are considering their options for 2010. Their problem depends in part on Ben Spies, and whether he stays in World Superbikes or goes to MotoGP with the Tech 3 satellite squad, but even without Spies, the WSBK team has decisions to ponder.

With a glut of outstanding riders on the market, Yamaha's WSBK boss Massimo Meregalli has put out feelers to Alex de Angelis, to test his interest in switching to the World Superbike series. Meregalli told GPOne.com that he had spoken to De Angelis about joining the Superbike squad in 2010. "I spoke with Alex to check his availability," Meregalli said. "Nothing has been decided at the moment, but it's clear that the riders in MotoGP want to stay there, and the market is finished there yet. But De Angelis is an interesting rider."

De Angelis isn't Yamaha's only option, however. Current World Supersport leader and revelation of the series Cal Crutchlow is also considered to be a serious candidate for Yamaha's World Superbike team. The young Briton has a two-year deal with Yamaha, which includes a clause offering him a World Superbike ride if he wins the World Supersport title, as he looks set to do this season. If Spies does decide - and is permitted - to go to MotoGP, then Meregalli's decision-making process will be made a good deal easier, and both De Angelis and Crutchlow could end up on board a Yamaha R1 in 2010.

But World Superbikes aren't Crutchlow's only option. So impressive has Crutchlow's performance been this year that he has also attracted a great deal of interest from the teams building a Moto2. Potential Moto2 team bosses who have spoken to the young Briton have been very impressed with his maturity, and Crutchlow is being widely linked with the Gresini Moto2 effort for 2010. 

Moto2 is proving to be a thorn in the side of both World Superbikes and especially World Supersport. Moto2 teams are looking further than just the traditional talent pool of the 125cc class for riders, and their gaze is increasingly falling on the World Supersport paddock. The parallels are blindingly obvious - 600cc four-stroke engines, for a start - and for riders in both World Supersport and World Superbikes, it offers the chance of an alternative route into MotoGP, which remains the aim of almost every serious motorcycle racer. Moto2 offers better TV coverage and the chance to share a paddock with the MotoGP teams, and a much better chance of appearing on MotoGP team managers' radar screens. The threat of a talent drain into Moto2 next season is all too real.

Returning to World Superbikes, the advent of either Crutchlow or De Angelis means the end of the road for Tom Sykes. Sykes has so far failed to score a podium on the bike that is leading the championship, but arguably, his only sin is one of timing. Whoever got to share a garage with Ben Spies was always going to end up in the shade, and the Texan has exceeded even the wildest expectations placed upon him by enthusiastic fans who had seen Spies race in the AMA series. If Sykes had been teamed with almost any other rider in the paddock, he would be much less likely to be fighting for his job.

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I'd really like to see Crutchlow go to the Superbike team as opposed to a Moto2 team next year. While Moto2 would give him an opportunity to shine in front of the MotoGP decision makers, I can't help but feel that Moto2 needs one completed year to determine which teams are capable of building a competitive chasis.

Against what I said, I have to say that of all the teams signed up for Moto2, the Gresini team (which looks as if they are holding Crutchlow's interest) does indeed look like it will be one of the more competitive ones since they will be using the chasis that Moriwaki has been developing for some time now.

After being also-ran's for much of their WSBK history, Yamaha are quickly turning into quite the power-house. Time will tell how it all pans out, but it's certainly looking promising at the moment.

Gotta feel for Tom. The poor guy gets one shot at WSBK and gets saddled with the most productive teammate in the history of the series. Hard to look good under those conditions. To his favor he has 19 top 10 finishes this season. Most would consider that a good run. At this point there are so many people after his job I doubt his future lies in his own hands.