While silly season has been at boiling point over in MotoGP, things have been fairly quiet in the World Superbike paddock. Three factors have held up movement in the series: Firstly, the Lorenzo Saga, which had a direct bearing on the future of WSBK title candidate Ben Spies, who was in line to move up to the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha MotoGP team to await his turn at Fiat Yamaha. Secondly, the incipient arrival of the Moto2 class has a host of riders in both the World Superbikes and World Supersport series thinking about switching, seeing the new class as a possibly entry to MotoGP, which remains the series that almost every rider wants end up in at one point or other. And thirdly, despite the fact that the World Superbikes series is considerably cheaper than MotoGP, the global economic crisis has struck the World Superbike paddock just as hard as it has hit the MotoGP series, and a host of teams are holding off on the 2010 plans, and even struggling with finishing out the year.
With the rider line up in MotoGP starting to take shape, there are signs of movement in the World Superbike series as well. Perhaps the most though-provoking switch is not one that a rider will be making, though, but rather the switch by the Stiggy Racing team from Honda to Yamaha. According to the Italian magazine MotoSprint, the Sweden-based team run by former 250 GP star Johan Stigefelt is disillusioned with the level of support the team has received from Honda this season, and as we predicted earlier in a column for the American magazine Road Racer X, the team will make a dramatic switch to Yamaha.
The deal has reportedly come about with backing from a number of sources. Yamaha is keen to expand the number of R1's on the World Superbike grid, and the Stiggy Racing team have made a very impressive debut in their first year of World Superbikes. Monster is reportedly also backing the effort, providing the bulk of the funds to run the team, which will feature current riders Leon Haslam and John Hopkins in the World Superbike class and Ant West and one other rider in World Supersport, and Sterilgarda, sponsors of the factory team, will also provide financial support.
The Supersport bikes are a boost for Stiggy Racing, as they will be taking over Yamaha's factory effort in the class, helping Yamaha to drastically cut its direct expenses in the series. The question of who is to partner Ant West is a tricky one: The obvious choice would appear to be the favorite to win the 2009 World Supersport championship, Cal Crutchlow. But Crutchlow has an option to go to both the factory World Superbike team if he takes the title, and a couple of offers in Moto2 for next year. Crutchlow's most discussed option is with Fausto Gresini's squad, but Crutchlow has also reportedly been in talks with Tech 3 to star alongside a French rider, with Mike di Meglio or the outstanding privateer Jules Cluzel.
With the World Superbike paddock assembled once again at the Nurburgring in Germany, after a very long summer break, no doubt that the Silly Season will start to take off again in the production-based series as well. It looks like there could be a deluge of news this weekend, in both World Superbikes and MotoGP.