WSBK Silly Season Update: Haga With Aprilia, Sykes With Kawasaki, Toseland To BMW, Biaggi To Retire?

After the final World Superbike round of the 2010 season, news has inevitably started to filter out of Magny-Cours about the shape of 2011. There were official announcements, cryptic hints and barroom gossip concerning who will be doing what for next year in World Superbikes and World Supersport. A round up of the latest rumors is given below:

Noriyuki Haga
Nori has not been very "Nitro" at all this season, and his less-than-explosive form may have helped contribute to Ducati's decision to scrap the factory team, but despite that, Haga has found sanctuary with the newly assembled Pata Racing Team Aprilia. The team consists of the former DFX Corse squad, the CEO of Pata (the Italian snack company who funded Jakub Smrz this year), and Marco Borciani, who ran the Pata B&G team for Smrz. The team is to field a single Aprilia RSV4R for Haga, and many believe that a return to riding a four-cylinder bike is just what Haga needs. The Aprilia is clearly competitive, so Haga will be hoping for a better season in 2011.

Tom Sykes
Sykes - like every other Kawasaki rider this season - has struggled miserably with the ZX-10R, struggling to finish in the top 10. Until he wildcarded at the Brands Hatch round of the British Superbike championship, taking a double win for his trouble. Since then, Sykes has been on fire, and has been unlucky not to have got a much-deserved podium. His work has not gone unnoticed - especially after putting a lot of development work into the 2011 Kawasaki, while Chris Vermeulen has been recovering from an injured knee - and Sykes now looks like being rewarded with a ride as with Paul Bird's PBM team, alongside factory riders Vermeulen and Joan Lascorz, who has done so well on a Kawasaki in World Supersport. According to the WSBK insiders over at Bikesport News, Paul Bird has confirmed that Sykes will be staying with the team for 2011, though the exact details of the arrangement have not yet been announced. With the 2011 version of Kawasaki's ZX-10R looking to be light years ahead of the 2010 version, Sykes could be a contender again next year.

James Toseland
No official news has been announced about the future of James Toseland, but his name has been linked for a while with BMW, after a difficult year with the factory Yamaha WSBK squad. Doubts had arisen over the veracity of the BMW rumors after the factory team announced they had signed Leon Haslam to race alongside Troy Corser, but it is now becoming clear that Toseland will be racing on a satellite BMW squad. Toseland's manager Roger Burnett told one inquisitive fan that Toseland will be racing in the satellite BMW Italia squad alongside Ayrton Badovini, and that the team were waiting to make an official announcement. Toseland will have one more year to recover his confidence and regain the form which he showed in winning two World Superbike titles.

Max Biaggi
With Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo finally signed, Biaggi becomes The Last Of The Holdouts, the freshly-crowned 2010 World Superbike champion having still not signed the contract Aprilia have deposited in his in tray. The terms of the contract are generous, though vicious paddock rumor insists that Biaggi is holding out for a bumper payday of a million and a half euros for next year. Whatever the truth of the matter, Biaggi has still not signed, and his title may even be giving him pause for thought. "Now I must make a difficult decision, which I will do as soon as I am away from here, switched off from the racing world. To me, signing a contract means 100% dedication to a project," Biaggi was quoted as saying by GPOne.com. The Roman Emperor will be 40 in June of next year, and with one young child and a fifth title under his belt, Biaggi may feel he has little left to prove, and it may be time to retire. Or, as the paddock cynics like to suggest, it could just be a way of putting pressure on Aprilia to concede to his salary demands. After all, the sight of the Aprilia with the #1 plate on has to be a valuable commodity to the Noale factory.

Onboard Cameras
While the racing in World Superbikes has won almost universal praise, the television coverage has been greeted with disappointment by many fans. Despite being shot in HD, the camera angles, shot selection and especially the lack of onboard camera action have all contributed to a lackluster TV package, failing to capitalize on the spectacular action the close racing has afforded. At Magny-Cours, Infront CEO Paolo Flammini addressed the most important of those points: from 2011, all factory bikes will be fitted with onboard cameras, capturing the best of the action from the bikes at the front, according to GPOne.com. The fans will be very grateful indeed.

World Supersport
With the two main players from the WSS series moving on to other things - Eugene Laverty to Yamaha's World Superbike program, and Kenan Sofuoglu to an as yet unnamed team in Moto2 - the 2011 World Supersport championship looks like being wide open. Replacing Eugene Laverty at Parkalgar Honda will be BSB Supersport champion Sam Lowes, who dominated the BSB class this year. Lowes will be racing on the world stage for the first time, however, and will be faced with a lot of tracks to learn, so aiming for a championship is rather too much to ask. A better candidate may be Broc Parkes, who subbed for the injured Joan Lascorz for the final three rounds of 2010, and whose results (a 3rd, a 4th and a DNF) were strong enough to secure him a contract with Kawasaki's World Supersport squad for 2011 and 2012. With the three best riders gone from the class (Lascorz is being kicked upstairs into the World Superbike team), the 28-year-old Australian must be in with a shout of the WSS crown for the next couple of years.

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Comments

I wonder if InFront has given any thought at all to bringing back Online race-viewing of their races, either live or with a delay.

If you're in the United States, you know that you are doomed to watch it on SpeedTV where the races are heavily interrupted for commercials, rarely if ever broadcast live, and for "special events" they bring out the nascar announcers who know absolutely nothing about motorcycle racing apart from it doesn't involve an oval track. It would be one thing if SpeedTV offered an online viewing option for those who do not want to shell out $80/mo for a premium cable-tv package just to view the channel, but they don't.

I wish Infront would take a cue from Motogp.com and offer, if not for free like they did in years past with WSBK-TV, a subscription fee-based option to watch the races online.

I found la7 website (italian channel already mentionned by David) very useful, and even without understanding italian comments, they are lively...plus I guess they know what they're talking about. Races are not available live but a few hours after the race, usually the first superbike race will be online before the disastrous broadcast by speedtv on sunday while the supersport and the 2nd superbike race would be online later on sunday night or monday morning EST.
Picture quality matches speedtv blurry images (though supersport image quality is always a little lower).
Of course you also have the option to watch races live online via various websites displaying live sports...

"Despite being shot in HD, the camera angles, shot selection and especially the lack of onboard camera action have all contributed to a lackluster TV package, failing to capitalize on the spectacular action the close racing has afforded. "

Does the US get this HD feed on Speed channel? When i have watched MotoGP and WSBK back to back, it is night and day when it comes to the feed, WSBK just seems to be in standard definition.

I had Speed in HD just to watch WSBK but got rid of all of my cable because as you say, the feed was SD. It was garbage in comparison to HD. I stopped watching SD television years ago. If it is SD, I will get it for free online or pay for live coverage online. Speed has no business doing motorcycle coverage. They are disastrous.

Agreed, the TV coverage is very poor quality. The lousy sound also contributes to the malaise being vague & muffled and seemingly not linked to specific camera shots.
However, the worst aspect of WSBK coverage here in Australia is the commentary by Jonathon Green. The man is a joke, continually embarrassing himself with stupid, ignorant comments and childish arguments with Steve Martin – who by the way is the one saving grace in the whole coverage. Green comes from the school of shouting equals exciting (not) and regularly opens his mouth before thinking. Truly appalling.

I agree - it's like listening to an idiot at the pub. He *never* says anything enlightening, and *always* gets it wrong - how hard can it be to watch what the riders are doing before opening your trap? Jonathon, when it's a front-on shot with two bikes going for the same corner - WATCH THEIR SHADOWS... it's not hard to figure out.

Thank the deity that we have Steve Martin on board for WSB. He is a commentator worth his pound of salt.

On coverage quality - WSB in Oz is on Foxtel/Austar (i.e. PayTV) and Austar is analog, so my lovely Toshiba 46" LCD - which I forked out for specifically for bike racing, I barely watch any other tv crap - simply amplifies every blurry defect in the image. I may not bother with paytv for next year, which would be a shame, but until I get decent footage why bother? I get MotoGP in glorious HD...

And now we hear that SpeedTV is coming to Australia as part of the Foxtel package...no news about Austar taking it though. About the only thing that might save it would be if we retain the World feed and the local announcers, otherwise the Sports package is dropped pronto

Agreed on the hilarity of what comes out of Johnathan Green's mouth, but the issue for me watching WSBK is that you can barely hear what Steve Martin is saying. Combine his softer voice with audio recording settings that are always out to lunch you can never, or rarely hear a word of what he's saying! That drives me nuts more than anything else about WSBK on Speed.

TV coverage is the most interesting part of the silly season. A bit sad, but it's mainly b/c I don't find Biaggi's antics terribly enthralling these days. Although the thought of withholding the #1 plate from Aprilia is a bit intriguing.

Anyway, I'm glad to hear the TV coverage will improve. I kind of wondered why the moved away from onboard shots b/c they had onboard in the 750 era (not great quality though). As nice as onboard will be, it's the camera positioning and the use of the cameras that makes a huge difference. Dorna have really done an amazing job of improving MotoGP and it's stunning to see how far they've come in just the last 3 or 4 years in terms of the presentation of the race. IMS must do the same.

P.S. Hayden needs to quit wasting his time in WSBK and see if he can politic his way into a factory WSS ride. He's quite good on a 600cc machine. I'll retract that statement if Pedercini actually gets some support from Kawasaki next year.

Biaggi ought to retire. Unless he's hoping to make it back to MotoGP when they switch to bigger bikes, that is.

Ala John Hopkins -- remember him? -- Toseland appears to be finished; just don't think he has what it takes to make it back to his earlier high level. Nice guy, though; likeable, multi-talented.

At the beginning of this year Hopkins doctors told him he'd never be able to race again, late spring he found a surgeon who offered a new alternative treatment and he has feeling and movement in his hand again. it's been a long way back but by the end of the AMA season he was running with the front guys and putting the bike on the podium

Toseland is young and has plenty of time to make a comeback, at least on the superbike level

Agree with previous comments.Jonathan Green makes no worthy input.Merely gives Steve Martin a mountain to climb by having to correct him every time he opens his mouth,which is non stop.TV Feed...Supersport in South Africa.
Same with F1.We get Martin Brundle giving great commentary and that other bloke...well !!! MotoGp is thoroughly enjoyable with Nick Harris and Gavin Emmet.
Back to the end of silly season.Haga should grab a new lease on life with Aprilia.
Max,great job accomplished.Smart move for him would definitely be to retire on a huge high point.If in doubt,he can always have a chat with Troy Bayliss.

@cejay - I wonder if that is why SpeedTV has been airing V8 Supercars in the US this season? Not that I'm complaining; it's entertaining stuff. Loved watching the exhausts during the Abu Dabi night race. Anyway, it's a shame you guys might get SpeedTV out there as it's just awful.

@eah - Believe it or not, Hopkins is on a bit of revival in the AMA. Now his wrist has been rebuilt he's on the podium again and looking like recapturing some of the form he used to have. Who knows what's going on with Toseland? Hopefully Crutchlow won't experience the same fortunes.

P.S. Can someone tell me why SpeedTV now does their "expanded pre-race coverage" before the MotoGP races? Now we don't get to see the post-race interviews. I like Gavin Emmet's little clips and all, but give us back the interviews.

The pre-race coverage is there because they are now broadcasting the races live. The actual races don't start on the hour, rather 5 minutes or so after the hour, which gives SpeedTV a little time to fill and hence the pre-race coverage.

Previously, the races were pre-recorded and then edited/cut to include the post race press interviews in their broadcast. You'll find that they do this for Moto2, 125 and even WSBK races.

WSBK is rarely (if ever it could only be Miller?) broadcasted live on SpeedTV and they use the same annoying trick as they use for MotoGP. In order for the race to end in the end of the hour allocated on the program grid, they fill with interviews and analysis in the beginning of the program WHILE THE RACE IS STARTING!

I could not believe it, but I've consistently seen this disgrace every sunday morning I wake up at 8am to watch any MotoGP race in Europe...for MotoGP they are on air on time for the race, which would make sense for a live broadcasting, but instead they choose to broadcast the race with a 15 min delay on purpose! I couldn't think anyone would want to do that, yet it's confirmed at every race. In the end they could absolutely broadcast live MotoGP but they choose not to...

I'm beggining to wonder if it's a common thing to broadcast a football/basketball/baseball game with 15 min delay on US tv or if this lack of interest/respect is reserved only to motorcylce racing?

I completely agree that the WSBK coverage on Speed is disgraceful. I no longer watch MotoGP on Speed, as I purchased the online package and couldn't be more pleased. I believe that In Front should strongly consider a similar option, particularly as their competition with MotoGP for viewership could only be strengthened by such a move. Of course most U. S. viewers would still be stuck with the terrible nature of Speed TV coverage. Not a good situation for In Front. I have turned off the races in disgust at the terrible audio and constant ill-timed commercial breaks.
MotoGP's full online, non-interrupted coverage with knowledgeable and entertaining commentators, beautiful HD, and pre and post event activity is the new standard. Even F1 could learn from it.

I agree, image quality is so bad that my wife said at Magny Cours "I can't even tell who's who if I didn't know the running order". US coverage just sucks in everyway.

they broadcast AMA at 12PM 1AM??? and they never show any politics, interviews or decent coverage of any MC races. We get nascar chef, next nascar pro, Nascar interviews. Who got talent (nascar judges). It sucks F1 covers practices??? Why not a 1 hour block for MC only on say at 8PM tuesday for race only coverage.