Latest World Superbike News
After the burst of activity leading up to last week, things have once again calmed down in the world of international motorcycle racing. Neither MotoGP nor World Superbikes are testing – though BSB are preparing for their season by testing in Spain – and as a consequence, news is thin on the ground. But not completely absent, so here is our weekly round up of what is happening in MotoGP and WSBK. And in this case, further abroad.
Casey Stoner to make a sort of return?
The fact that Casey Stoner spent a few days lapping at Sepang at the request of HRC came as no surprise. Stoner is, after all, a fully paid-up Honda test rider, and has been put to work to help develop the Honda RC213V for this year and next. When HRC issued a press release casually mentioning that Stoner had put in a few laps on the Suzuka 8 Hour CBR1000RR endurance bike, that raised an eyebrow.
Troy Bayliss is to race again in World Superbikes. The Australian will once again replace the injured Davide Giugliano in the Aruba.it Ducati squad at the Thai round of WSBK at the Chang circuit. Whether Bayliss will also replace Giugliano at Aragon and Assen is yet to be decided.
Official confirmation came as rumors started to emerge this morning, after Bayliss posted a rather coy status update on his Facebook page, stating only "See you soon." Unsurprisingly, that set Social Media ablaze with speculation, with various news sources claiming with varying degrees of confidence that the decision had already been taken. Their eagerness was vindicated earlier, when Ducati finally issued an official press release confirming Bayliss' return.
It has been a busy week for racing, with the World Superbike season opener at Phillip Island followed by the MotoGP test at Sepang, including the extra day of testing on Michelins. There has been a lot of news, but between MotoMatters.com's star WSBK reporter Jared Earle and I, we got most of it covered, with an extra bonus of photos from top Australian shooter Andrew Gosling.
But there have been one or two things we may have missed, so here's our weekly round up of racing news.
Scratching the itch: Young Gun vs Old Master
There were a lot of happy faces at the Australian round of World Superbikes. Troy Bayliss, three-time World Superbike champion and arguably, WSBK's last superstar, made a return to the series, replacing the injured Davide Giugliano on the Aruba.it Ducati Panigale. The replacement was at very short notice, Giugliano having crashed during the test which preceded the opening round and fractured a couple of vertebrae.
Almost without realizing it, we find ourselves in the midst of a glut of motorcycle racing action. For 11 days, bikes and teams are testing, racing, and being introduced to the public at large. On Monday and Tuesday, the World Superbike teams had their last test of the pre-season at Phillip Island. From Tuesday to Thursday, the Moto2 and Moto3 teams are testing at Jerez. On Friday, the 2015 World Superbike season gets underway Phillip Island, culminating in the races on Sunday, featuring shock substitute Troy Bayliss. Then, from Monday, MotoGP returns for three days of testing at Sepang, followed by an extra day with Michelin tires, with the factory riders at the helm.
In between, we have seen the launch of the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, the CWM LCR Honda team is set to be launched on Wednesday, and there is even a presentation here in Holland by Eurosport, in which they will reveal their plans for MotoGP coverage in The Netherlands for 2015. There is so much going on that there are barely enough hours in the day to actually write about it. Enjoy the cornucopia while you can.
Crash! Bang! Wallop!
Troy Bayliss is to swing his leg over a World Superbike Ducati again. Ducati today shocked fans and media by announcing that the three-time WSBK champion is to take the place of the injured Davide Giugliano, who is out for three months after injuring two vertebrae in a crash during testing. Currently, Bayliss will only replace Giugliano at Phillip Island, with Ducati test rider Michele Pirro pencilled in for the remaining races the Italian is likely to miss.
The decision to replace Giugliano with Bayliss came at the request of the Australian himself. In a press release, Ducati said that Bayliss had asked the factory to be allowed to race as a wildcard at Phillip Island, and when injury forced Giugliano out, Ducati were happy to agree to his request. The factory had not originally planned to replace the injured Italian, as test rider Michele Pirro is due to start the second MotoGP test at Sepang on Monday, taking the Desmosedici GP15 out for its first full laps on a proper race track. That currently has a higher priority than replacing Giugliano, so Bayliss' offer was serendipitous.
Before the 2015 World Superbike season gets underway, just seven days from now at Phillip Island, the WSBK and WSS riders get a final chance to prepare their bikes for the flag drops next Sunday. For the first time this year, all of the riders and bikes will be on track at the same time, and we will get a hint of the season to come.
As intriguing as it is likely to be, a note of caution should be sounded. Phillip Island is arguably the best track in the world for motorcycle racing, but all the reasons that make it such a great track for racing mean it is very far from being a very good yardstick to measure performance by. The track flows beautifully, a succession of high-speed corners demanding the utmost of the skill and courage of the rider.
But precisely because it flows, it levels the playing field a little. Bikes with less outright top speed, or which are down on horsepower and acceleration, can go just as fast as a bike which is a rocket ship out of corners. A brave rider can carry more corner speed through the turn and drive smoothly out, ending up just as fast as the rider on the quicker bike.
This is the first in a series of weekly round ups of motorcycle racing news from around the world. Every Wednesday, we will bring a brief summary of stories that did not warrant a full article of their own. So here are some stories you may have missed, for the week preceding 11th February 2015.
Ducati Desmosedici GP15 to be presented on line
It is becoming something of a tradition among the MotoGP factories: launching their MotoGP teams online. Two weeks ago, the Movistar Yamaha launched their 2015 livery in Madrid. On Monday 16th February, Ducati will be officially presenting their bikes and riders to the fans and media live on the Ducati website.
The Ducati launch is a little more significant than Yamaha's presentation, however. While the Movistar Yamaha presentation was mostly about showing off the new color scheme the factory team is to use in 2015, Ducati will be presenting the Desmosedici GP15 online. The first bike to come from the pen of Gigi Dall'Igna, this is the machine which Ducati hope will finally allow them to be fully competitive with the factory Hondas and Yamahas. The bike is expected to feature a new, more compact engine, though still a 90°V4 using desmodromic valves, fitted in a smaller chassis.
The presentation starts at 11am CET on the Ducati website. Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone will get their first ride of the bike on 23rd February, when the second Sepang test gets underway.
Should Melandri stay or should he go?
Given that Aprilia's return to MotoGP was both earlier than anticipated, and embarked upon at a very late stage, their initial times at the Sepang test could be regarded as acceptable. The new engine – with an 81mm bore and pneumatic valves – proved to be reasonably reliable, and though still down on power, at least closer to the fastest bikes. The new chassis was much less of a success, both Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri preferring to stay with the 2014 bike, rather than switch to the new RS-GP, as it has been dubbed.
The World Superbike calendar has been reduced to 13 events. The Russian round of WSBK, scheduled to be held at the Moscow Raceway on 5th July has been canceled, after the event organizer, YMS Promotion, failed to provide the contract guarantees required by the contract. As a further consequence, the Yakhnich Motorsport Team have also lost their slot on the 2015 World Supersport grid, which was tied in with the Russian round.
The cancellation of the Russian round did not come as a surprise. The Russian WSBK round is a legacy of the last years of Infront running the series. Infront and YMS signed a ten-year deal to organize a World Superbike round in Russia, but continuing political instability in Russia, tensions between Europe and Russia over Ukraine, and murky regional politics have made it impossible to stage a race there. The round was placed on the calendar automatically, because of the existing contract, but it was never expected to actually take place.
The Russian round of World Superbikes will not be replaced. Instead, the series will run 13 rounds in 2015. Below is the press release and updated 2015 WSBK calendar.
2015 WSBK Calendar update
The FIM today announced the provisional rider line up for the 2015 season. The grid will see up to 26 riders line up for the start, on motorcycles from 7 different manufacturers. The list includes one TBA, in the Pedercini Kawasaki team, which could end up going unfilled. The other question mark is over the JR Racing Team of Toni Elias and Ayrton Badovini. Though the team is on the entry list, persistent reports of financial problems suggest that they will struggle to race at all this year. They will not be present in Australia for the season opener, and suppliers report not having been paid.
The provisional rider line up is as follows:
The FIM today announced the provisional line up for the World Supersport class. The field will see 24 riders line up on the grid, with one name still to be announced in the Yakhnich team. Kenan Sofuoglu and Jules Cluzel are likely to be the title favorites, while American rider PJ Jacobsen will be hoping to capitalize on a strong rookie year to mount a challenge.
The provisional line up appears below:
The weather continues its stubborn refusal to cooperate with preparation for the 2015 World Superbike season. After rain and cold conditions plagued the earlier test at the Motorland Aragon circuit, the rain halted testing for the best part of two days at Portimao. Wednesday was a complete washout, while a wet track hampered progress on Thursday morning.
Despite the cold, the assembled teams were able to ride almost continuously after lunchtime, until the track closed at 6pm. Cramming two days of testing into an afternoon was difficult, the teams concentrating on working with the 2015 version of their machines, incorporating the major rule changes new for this year. The conditions were not conducive to fast lap times: the quickest time reported was set by Leon Haslam on the Red Devils Roma Aprilia, but that was still over a second slower than the race lap record set by Tom Sykes back in 2013. Suzuki's Alex Lowes was half a second behind Haslam, matched by Ducati's Chaz Davies. Davide Giuliano and Sylvain Barrier were a couple of tenths behind Lowes and Davies, while Randy De Puniet was nearly a second slower than Barrier, and only a fraction quicker than World Superbike newcomer Jordi Torres.
The weather has not been kind to the World Superbikes who headed to Aragon for testing. The first day was lost to a wet track, and while the track dried on the second day, cold temperatures limited the usefulness of the test. 2013 world champion Tom Sykes did not bother going out at all, not wishing to risk injury on a cold track just for the sake of turning some laps.
Sykes' Kawasaki teammate Jonathan Rea did spend some time on track, though for him, too, conditions meant that lessons were limited. Rea spent time working on gearshift set ups, and clutch strategies for race starts. It was important for Rea to spend some more time on the Kawasaki ZX-10R, after having spent so many years on the Honda CBR1000RR with the Pata Honda team. It wasn't just bikes that Rea is switching, the Ulsterman showing off his Monster Energy colors for the first time, leaving Red Bull behind. That is a major change for Rea, who has been backed by Red Bull almost from when he first started racing motocross, before switching to circuit racing.