With the announcement that the Pedercini team will be back on the grid for 2010, the World Superbike paddock is starting to fill out. The addition of Pedercini brings the total number of entries up to 20 which, while well down on the nearly 30 which started the season in 2009, is still a reasonable size given the current economic climate. One factor that is both heartening and vaguely worrying is that 14 of those riders have been entered by factory (or factory-backed) teams, with 7 manufacturers fielding two-man teams. Having 7 manufacturers in the series is a demonstration of the rude health of the liter sportsbike market, but just 6 privateer entries shows the difficulties in raising sponsorship for teams wishing to take part in the series.
The other factor of note is the very high number of British or British-based riders in the series. Johnny Rea, Cal Crutchlow, James Toseland, Leon Camier, Leon Haslam, Tom Sykes and Shane Byrne are all British citizens, while Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli lives in the UK with his British wife. Add in the three Australians - Chris Vermeulen, Troy Corser and Broc Parkes - and the paddock has an incredibly Anglophone feel to it.
Whether more teams will join the grid or not remains to be seen. It is not inconceivable that several teams already entered in the Italian or German Superbike championships may make the move up to the World stage if they can raise the money, but that depends to a very large extent just how much the the global economic situation improves.
2010 provisional WSBK grid:
|Noriyuki Haga||Xerox Ducati||It it hadn't been for a pesky Texan, Noriyuki Haga would be carrying the #1 plate. Haga has another season with Xerox Ducati to amend last season's errors, and bring the title back to Ducati.|
|Michel Fabrizio||Xerox Ducati||Michel Fabrizio had his best and his strangest season ever in 2009. He proved he is capable of winning races and running at the front, but he also proved he is capable of getting in the way of his teammate and taking points away. Fabrizio will need to show a little more discipline in 2010.|
|Jonathan Rea||Ten Kate Honda||Johnny Rea had an outstanding rookie year in World Superbikes, where he earned a reputation for tough - if sometimes a little wild - racing. With another year of experience and a fraction more discretion in his overtaking moves, Rea will be a serious contender for the 2010 crown.|
|Max Neukirchner||Ten Kate Honda||Max Neukirchner leaves Alstare Suzuki - with whom he still had a contract - under somewhat of a cloud. The German suffered an injury-plagued year in 2009, and though he has been passed fit to race, doubts still hang over just how fit he really is. His talent, though, is not in doubt.|
|Cal Crutchlow||Sterilgarda Yamaha||The reigning World Supersport champion made a devastating debut in WSS in 2009. His performance earned him promotion to the World Superbike class, though he was slightly disappointed with this. He had been working on a move to Moto2, in the hope of quickly moving up to MotoGP. Another strong season could see those ambitions fulfilled fairly quickly.|
|James Toseland||Sterilgarda Yamaha||If it hadn't been for a pesky Texan, James Toseland would still be in MotoGP. Toseland had a miserable year in the premier class, but will be looking to regain his confidence on his return to World Superbikes. He already has two WSBK titles to his name, and is eager to add a couple more.|
|Max Biaggi||Alitalia Aprilia||Max Biaggi just keeps on going. The veteran Italian will be 39 next summer, and shows no signs of stopping. Now reunited with his team at Aprilia, Biaggi is both happy and confident. And fast, as his victory at Brno demonstrated, in the RSV4's first season. A title is probably too much to ask for, but he will be a podium regular in 2010.|
|Leon Camier||Alitalia Aprilia||Leon Camier destroyed the competition in the British Superbike series in 2009. While there can be no doubts about his ability, a large part of his domination was down to the quality of equipment provided to the Airwaves Yamaha team. He won't find it quite so easy going in World Superbikes, but he should still be fast.|
|Tom Sykes||PBM Kawasaki||If it hadn't been for a pesky Texan, Tom Sykes would probably still be in the Sterilgarda Yamaha team. While Spies demolished all before him, Sykes had what would otherwise be regarded as a decent debut season. His switch to Kawasaki is risky, the bike not having been competitive for a long time, but with key personnel changes pointing to big changes in 2010.|
|Chris Vermeulen||PBM Kawasaki||Like Sykes, Chris Vermeulen is taking a big risk with Kawasaki in 2009. Vermeulen had a dismal final season in MotoGP with Suzuki, and is now taking a chance that the development promised by Kawasaki Japan will happen, and get the green bikes back to the front of the grid.|
|Leon Haslam||Alstare Suzuki||Leon Haslam moves up from privateer Honda to factory-backed Suzuki for 2010. Haslam was deeply impressive on the Stiggy bikes, and with better support from Suzuki, should once again be a serious factor in 2010.|
|Sylvain Guintoli||Alstare Suzuki||Sylvain Guintoli is arguably one of the most underrated motorcycle racers in the world. A huge accident early in the BSB season - in no way his fault - put the Frenchman out of action for most of the year, and now fully healed, he makes a return to the world stage. Guintoli is likely to be the dark horse of the series.|
|Troy Corser||BMW||Troy Corser is another veteran who just doesn't know when to quit. Corser is once again back with BMW to continue development on BMW's S1000RR sportsbike, and given the improvement the bike showed over the year, the marque's first podium can't be far away.|
|Ruben Xaus||BMW||Like Yukio Kagayama, you have to wonder how long Ruben Xaus can continue. The Spaniard is incredibly fast and clearly talented, but among his talents are the propensity to tumble through the gravel at high speed and sustain physical injury. As the BMW improves, he should not need to override the bike so much, and therefore be faster.|
|Shane Byrne||Althea Ducati||A very strong case could be made for Shane Byrne deserving to have one of the factory Ducati rides given the strength of his performance in 2009. Ducati are almost certainly helping the Althea team with equipment, which should put Byrne in with a chance of competing next season. Expect at least one podium from the British veteran.|
|Carlos Checa||Althea Ducati||Yet another veteran adding to WSBK's aura of the place motorcycle racers go to finish up their career. Checa lost his ride at Ten Kate for being too erratic, depsite getting on the box 4 times. The Spaniard has a different type of bike to learn, but is clearly still fast.|
|Jakub Smrz||Guandalini Aprilia||In 2009, Jakub Smrz proved that he could be fast in the race as well as in qualifying. He continued to do well in Superpole, taking one pole and regularly starting from the front two rows. But he also followed it up with his first podium in the class, and a couple of 4ths as well. The Czech rider needs to continue his progression in 2010, and could cause a couple of surprises.|
|Broc Parkes||Echo CRS Honda||Broc Parkes has been a promising young rider for just a little too long now. The Australian did well on the PBM Kawasaki, but not well enough to keep his job. The Honda is a more competitive machine than the Kawasaki ever was, but he will need to step it up again if he is to get back into a factory team.|
Yoshimura Suzuki are also expected to make a few wildcard appearances with Yukio Kagayama at the helm.
Update 1, November 25th - initial version.