Johan Stigefelt's adventure into World Superbike racing is at an end. The team today issued a press release announcing that the financial situation in which they found themselves meant that they had been forced to call it a day, and that therefore the Stiggy Racing Team would not be competing in either the World Superbike or World Supersport championship next year.
The press release left no doubt as to where the team felt the blame lay. "The decision has been made after a close evaluation of the team's poor economic situation which was created during this year's expanded venture by participating in both Championship classes. A huge financial project that was poorly executed by the team's investors as a result of failure to [fulfil] their financial commitments for the 2009 season." So went the explanation from Stiggy. The reference is to the split between Stiggy and their financial partners S2 Racing, which occurred amidst much acrimony on October 1st of this year.
The loss of the Stiggy Racing team is a blow for the World Superbike series. The team's parlous financial state came about as a result of their ambitious move to field riders in both the World Superbike and World Supersport championships. That decision was made after previous success in the World Supersport class, where the team punched well above their weight in terms of the equipment they had at their disposal. The 2009 season saw the team start with big names in both the World Superbike and World Supersport class, with Leon Haslam and Roby Rolfo in WSBK and Ant West and Gianluca Vizziello in WSS. But signs of financial problems surfaced early, as Stiggy let Rolfo go to slot John Hopkins into the team, officially because Rolfo was still recovering from shoulder surgery, though Rolfo was vocal in his denial of injury problems. As the year went on, those money problems continued to grow, with Vizziello being dropped for the last three races of the year and Hopkins missing much of the year through injury. Despite these problems, Leon Haslam had an outstanding year, finishing 6th in the World Superbike championship and taking 4 podiums along the way.
The Stiggy team's ability to organize and run a World Superbike effort was never in doubt. Their problem, as is so often the case in motorcycle racing, is the ability to raise sufficient money to finance the whole operation. Stiggy are not alone in this: the reigning British Superbike championship team GSE Racing have so far failed to find the funds to race in BSB in 2010; Hayate were forced to pull out of MotoGP when it became clear they could not raise the necessary funds to continue in 2010, and switched to Moto2 instead; the Guandalini and Borciani teams have been forced to merge to be able to run 1 and maybe 2 riders in World Superbikes next year; and a raft of Moto2 teams are still unsure of being able to participate next season unless they can raise the money in sponsorship. Until motorcycle racing as a whole can start to capitalize on its undoubted popularity, it will continue to struggle in all of its many forms.