With the uncertainty surrounding the World Superbike series easing up, the outlines of the 2014 season are starting to become clear. The test after the final round of the 2013 season at Jerez turned into an audition for some of the riders, with riders still searching for a team for next season.
In the days since that test, news has been emerging of rider signings and team plans for 2014. While both the Pata Honda and factory Kawasaki line ups were known, the future of the Aprilia and Ducati teams was still uncertain, with doubts over whether one or both of the Italian factories might pull out of World Superbikes. Ducati confrmed their intention to continue in 2014 earlier this week, while today, Aprilia have also stated their intention to keep racing next year. Aprilia have also confirmed the signing of Marco Melandri, something which had long been expected. Melandri will line up alongside Sylvain Guintoli for the 2014 season.
The signing of Melandri left Irishman Eugene Laverty out of a ride, but Laverty had already held extensive talks with other teams, both in World Superbikes and in MotoGP. After deciding to turn down the second Desmosedici at Pramac Ducati, to be run under the 'Open' rules with more fuel, Laverty now looks set to sign for FIXI Crescent Suzuki for 2014, according to Bikesportnews.com. To sweeten the prospect of a year on one of the less competitive bikes on the WSBK grid, Laverty has been promised a ride with Suzuki in MotoGP when they make their return in 2015. Laverty is an obvious choice for such a role, given that he has experience in the MotoGP paddock, and can help develop the project in 2014 and beyond. The second seat at Suzuki could be filled by Alex Lowes, after the 2013 BSB champion decided against a switch to MotoGP with Paul Bird's PBM team.
The table below shows all of the signings confirmed for the 2014 World Superbike series so far, as well as the two seats at Suzuki as they are expected to be filled. The are still more seats vacant, with talks going on among Althea, Alstare, and Toni Elias over who is to retain the services of the Spaniard. The Pedercini team is also likely to return, possibly racing undr the new EVO rules, a set of regulations which are proving attractive to new teams. PTR Honda's Simon Buckmaster has spoken out in favor of the rules, and expressed an interest in creating a team.
There is also interest from the US in the series. Erik Buell Racing has announced they will be competing in WSBK in 2014 with Geoff May, campaigning the EBR1190RX, Erik Buell's latest sports bike. Bigger news could come in the form of Michael Jordan Motorsports, who have abandoned the AMA series and are currently examining competing in an international series. Given the Jordan team's wildcard at the US round of World Superbikes at Laguna Seca, it looks almost certain that the team is aiming to race in WSBK. The only question mark is over whether they will be able to raise the funding in time.
Here are the signings so far:
|Sylvain Guintoli||Aprilia RSV4|
|Marc Melandri||Aprilia RSV4|
|Tom Sykes||Kawasaki ZX-10R|
|Loris Baz||Kawasaki ZX-10R|
|Jonathan Rea||Honda CBR1000RR|
|Leon Haslam||Honda CBR1000RR|
|FIXI Crescent Suzuki|
|Eugene Laverty?||Suzuki GSX-R1000|
|Alex Lowes?||Suzuki GSX-R1000|
|Chaz Davies||Ducati Panigale 1199R|
|Davide Giugliano||Ducati Panigale 1199R|
Below is the press release issued by Aprilia announcing the signing of Melandri:
MARCO MELANDRI WITH APRILIA IN WORLD SUPERBIKE 2014.
THE ITALIAN RIDER, ALREADY WORLD CHAMPION WITH APRILIA IN 2002, WILL BE ASTRIDE THE OFFICIAL RSV4 NEXT SEASON.
Noale, 2 November 2013 – It's official: Marco Melandri will be racing in Aprilia colours for the 2014 World Superbike season. The rider from Ravenna signed a one year contract with an option for renewal that binds him to the team which just finished WSBK 2013 as Manufacturer World Champion with the RSV4. For Marco this is a "return home": in fact, it was astride an Aprilia that Melandri was crowned 250 World Champion in 2002 after taking a third place finish in 2001.
Born in 1982, Marco Melandri began his career at a very young age in minimoto, becoming Italian Champion in 1992 and 1994. Moving to 125 he became Italian Champion for the category in 1997, a title which allowed him to début in the "eighth litre" MotoGP class. Third in 1998 and second in 1999, Marco moved up a category into the powerful 250 2-strokes with Aprilia and this was the beginning of a path that saw him rank fifth in the rider standings in 2000, third in 2001 and World Champion (with 9 wins and 2 podiums out of 16 races) in 2002.
In the top MotoGP category Melandri immediately confirmed his competitiveness, finishing out the year in second place. In the various MotoGP categories Melandri has won 22 races and been on the podium 62 times.
In 2011 Marco Melandri moved over to World Superbike and was immediately a key player, so much that he was battling for the title from his rookie season, although he had to "settle" for second place at the end of the year. Finishing third in the 2012 season, the rider from Ravenna was also a contender for the title in 2013, finishing out the season in fourth place. In SBK he has taken 13 wins and 38 podiums.
The Aprilia title collection in World Superbike, where they have just taken the 2013 Manufacturer Title, includes five World Wreaths (2 Rider, 3 Manufacturer) with 38 wins and the impressive figure of 93 podiums, in addition to 16 pole positions.
Overall, in its brief history Aprilia boasts 52 World Titles (38 in MotoGP, 5 in Superbike and 9 in off-road disciplines) which make it one of the most victorious brands ever in motorcycle competitions.
Marco Melandri: “Coming back to ride the brand that brought me my first World Champion title is - first and foremost - very exciting. Speaking from a human and personal point of view, there are so many memories that tie me to Aprilia and they are memories of victories.
In all these years Aprilia has demonstrated its worthiness in racing, winning one world title after another, so I am sure that I will find an environment where we are always ready to compete for victory.
From a technical point of I am quite anxious to race on the RSV4, a bike that I have done battle with many times on the track. I think that she and I will... get along well, but the track, the first testing sessions and above all the races to come will give us the answer to that one. And then I think that riding an Italian bike into battle for the world title is amazing for an Italian rider. So follow along with us. It's going to be an exciting and fun season."
Romano Albesiano, Aprilia Racing Manager: “Marco is a rider that we know well. He has already been a part of the Aprilia family, winning a fantastic world championship with our brand. His qualities certainly need no confirmation. He has demonstrated that he is capable of fighting for the title from the first round even in a Championship that is new to him. I'm sure that he'll do well astride our RSV4, a bike that in my opinion is well suited for Marco's riding style. With the signing of Melandri and confirmation of Sylvain Guintoli after his excellent 2013 season, our commitment in World Superbike is confirmed, with the intention of increasing the Aprilia collection of titles. I would also like to thank Eugene Laverty who had a fantastic season astride our RSV4, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors”.