Can you ever have too much motorcycle racing? You can if the amount of racing over one weekend actually exceeds the number of hours in each day. That was pretty much the case last weekend, when we MotoGP at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina, World Superbikes – including World Supersport, FIM Superstock 1000, the European Superstock 600 Championship, and the European Junior Cup – at Assen, British Superbikes at Brands Hatch (the very short, very fast Indy circuit, not the longer GP layout), the second round of the inaugural MotoAmerica series at Road Atlanta, and the 24 hour race at Le Mans in France. Looking beyond motorcycle road racing, there was also the fourth round of the MXGP motocross world championship at Trentino in Italy, and a Formula One race at Bahrain.
Although the constraints of long seasons mean that there will always be clashes, this was a little ridiculous. Racing series are not completely free to set their calendars as they wish – they are tied down by a host of factors such as track availability, the weather, other events organized at the circuits, local government permission and many, many others – this weekend was one of the more spectacular scheduling SNAFUs. Let us hope this can be avoided next year.
For the upcoming weekend, the calendar is much more limited. The FIM Repsol CEV championship – what we used to know as the Spanish championship – has its first race at Portimao in Portugal. The field is as varied as ever, with riders from all over Europe and Asia, as well as an Australian and an American in Moto3, an even more varied field in Moto2 – including exotica such as the Vyrus, ridden by British youngster Bradley Ray – and Barcelona-based American rider Kenny Noyes defending his title in the Superbike class. Their Italian counterpart, the CIV championship, also kicks off this weekend with their first races at Misano. Both series will be streamed live, CEV on their Youtube channel, and the CIV via a specialist Italian motorsports channel called Sportube.
World Superbike calendar for 2016 and beyond
The German website Speedweek had a lot of news on WSBK this weekend, after their correspondent Ivo Schützbach spoke to Dorna's head of WSBK, Daniel Carrera. For next year, the WSBK calendar looks set to be very similar to 2015, with all of the current tracks except for Jerez already having a contract for next year or longer. Carrera also announced that Monza is to make a return for 2016, bringing the total number of WSBK rounds in Italy to three. That could even rise to four: Dorna today announced that Vallelunga is to serve as a reserve circuit for 2015 and 2016. Should circumstances prevent one of the races not happening this year or next, then Vallelunga will take its place. The press release explicitly stated that they did not expect to lose a race, but after the problems with India and Russia, and a little longer ago, the failure of the Balatonring to stage a race, having a reserve circuit is a good idea. Russian SBK organizer Yakhnich still has a contract to run the Russian round for the foreseeable future, but have neither a circuit nor the funds to do so. Whether Vallelunga would take the place of a Russian race is uncertain.
The more intriguing announcement by Carrera was that World Superbikes intends to return to India in 2017. The previously restrictive customs regulations have been dropped, making it possible to hold a race there without lodging a security fee covering the full value of all of the equipment shipped in and out of the country. There are still some hurdles to be taken, but it seems like that WSBK will be racing at the Buddh International Circuit in 2017. If World Superbikes goes there, then MotoGP is sure to follow, in 2018 at the earliest. India and Thailand are key markets for the motorcycle manufacturers.
Melandri's misery to end?
The idea that Marco Melandri should leave World Superbikes and make a return to MotoGP has turned out even worse than almost everyone expected, Aprilia and Melandri included. The Italian is deeply uncomfortable on the Bridgestone tires, and Aprilia's RS-GP bike, and has circulated consistently several seconds off the pace, and a second or more off his teammate, Alvaro Bautista. The relationship between Melandri and Aprilia is exploring new depths, with neither side having anything positive to say about the other.
At Assen, serious rumors started emerging about a possible return to World Superbikes in 2016 for the Italian. Melandri's name is being linked with Yamaha, who are due to make a full return to the series next year. Though officially, Yamaha are refusing to confirm they will be in WSBK next year, their Superstock and national programs are being stepped up ready for a full-on assault in 2016.
The reason for Melandri's name coming up is that Andrea Dosoli, who has worked with Melandri at Hayate, Yamaha and BMW, is tasked with coordinating Yamaha's racing efforts with the all-new YZF-R1. Dosoli is rumored to be keen on another link up with Melandri, according to some sources in the WSBK paddock.
Just how much truth there is to the rumors remains to be seen. Melandri will be 33 this year, and if his poor season continues, question marks will linger over how much longer he has. He can be fast on a competitive bike, but if the bike needs development, will Melandri be willing to put in the work?
It is not as if Yamaha would not have any other options. It is likely that at least one relatively competitive MotoGP rider will be out of a ride at the end of this year, making the switch to Yamaha in WSBK a strong option. There will be riders in BSB who may be suitable, such as the pairing of Josh Brooks and Broc Parkes currently racing for Milwaukee Yamaha. And Dorna would love to have a top American in the series, with plenty of talk at Austin of Cameron Beaubier, and even Jake Gagne. The line for a shot at the Yamaha R1 ride will be very long indeed.
Oh Dani boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling...
Will Dani Pedrosa be back at Jerez? As of this moment, it is uncertain, but the signs are looking positive. Pedrosa wrote on his blog on the Repsol website that his recovery is going well, and that he has already had some of the stitches removed. According to Catalan reporter Damià Aguilar, Pedrosa has been doing strength exercises with his right arm, and is due to try to ride a motorcycle for the first time this week, to see if he is capable. A decision about actually racing at Jerez has not yet been made, and is likely to be left right until the last minute. If he does not race, then Hiroshi Aoyama is likely to fill in for him again. Aoyama will be present in Jerez anyway, as there is a test on the Monday after the Jerez race.
EBR – Racing or bust?
The sad demise of Erik Buell's latest motorcycle operation, EBR, has left many people with an uncertain future. Not least for the many employees at the factory building the EBR1190RX. But it also raised a question mark over the future of the World Superbike team. At Assen, neither Larry Pegram nor Niccolo Canepa – who has been outstanding on the EBR – had any idea what their future would hold.
As of right now, the future remains unclear. Speaking to GPOne.com, Canepa was uncertain whether he would be racing at the next round at Imola or not. He heard nothing from EBR, after Larry Pegram, who also runs the team, had flown back to the US. Plans are being made in the background for a worst-case scenario, should the team also fold, with Canepa looking around for a ride. With Nico Terol out through injury, after crashing heavily at Assen, Canepa could take the place of the Spaniard, at least temporarily. Given his experience with the Ducati Panigale 1199, he would make the ideal replacement.