With the withdrawal of the Spanish Banco Santander as the sponsor of the Yamaha Motor Italia World Superbike squad last year - despite the relative health of the Spanish banking system - and the signing of the American Ben Spies, one of the major questions around the paddock was who would be funding what is obviously one of the best-run and most expensive World Superbike programs. Whoever decided to step in would surely be getting a return on their investment, given the fact that Ben Spies has won a race at each of the four World Superbike rounds held so far.
This fact has not been lost on Sterilgarda, as the Italian food giant has decided to step in to take a major sponsorship role for the Yamaha World Superbike team. Starting from Monza, the Sterilgarda brand will feature large on both the fairings of the Yamaha R1 race bikes, as well as the leathers of Tom Sykes and Ben Spies. In a press release, Yamaha boss Laurens Klein Koerkamp said "It's very positive to have such a well known brand in the paddock recognize how successful the Yamaha World Superbike Team is and want to be part of it. We're looking forward to working together and this being the start of a long term relationship," while Nando Sarzi, owner of Sterilgarda Alimenti said "We are really happy to be able to link our brand with The Yamaha World Superbike Team. We're really excited to be able share the racing emotions and success with the team, starting with Monza this weekend, the home race for both the team and our company."
While the signing of major sponsorship for the Yamaha team is to be applauded, the question which remains is where this leaves the current Sterilgarda Ducati team. The team has already had to cut down from two riders to just one, dropping Alex Polita to be able to retain Shane Byrne. And since Byrne's results have been frankly disappointing after his strong results during preseason testing, it must be feared that Sterilgarda's decision to sponsor Yamaha marks not so much an expansion of their program, and more a reallocation of their resources. The future of Borciani's team would look a good deal bleaker should Yamaha's Sterilgarda deal signal an end to the food giant's sponsorship of the Ducati squad.
But Byrne will be heading into the Monza round of World Superbikes with a little more hope than previously. At last weekend's round of the Italian championship, held at the Monza circuit, Byrne dominated the race, winning by over 16 seconds. If Byrne can be as good at Monza this weekend as he was last, Sterilgarda might just stick around the Ducati team.