Latest World Superbike News
The final test of 2016 for the World Superbike class has already lost two of its participants. Both Ten Kate Honda's Michael van der Mark and Pata Yamaha's Alex Lowes have been forced to withdraw from the test due to injury.
Lowes suffered a dislocated shoulder when he fell heavily at Turn 3 on Wednesday, crashing in the late afternoon. Though he walked away from that crash, and quickly had his dislocated shoulder put into place, a painful shoulder and restricted movement meant there was little sense in continuing. Lowes has returned to the UK for medical treatment, with the objective of being completely fit when testing resumes next year.
What happened to Michael van der Mark is a little more mysterious. The Honda Pro Racing organization posted a brief update on its Facebook page, adding little detail to Van der Mark's withdrawal. Van der Mark was suffering with pain in his right arm on Wednesday, which given his times on the day (Van der Mark was over a second slower than his new teammate Nicky Hayden) appear to have severely affected his speed. Van der Mark has now flown north seeking treatment, and will see a specialist in Antwerp, Belgium for further examinations.
The FIM today released the provisional 2016 calendar for the World Superbike championship. There is good news and bad news in the calendar, with Portimao disappearing from the calendar, but Monza making a welcome return. World Superbikes will also be returning to Germany, with the entire circus turning up to the Lausitzring, just north of Dresden. The best news is that there are no direct clashes with MotoGP, but WSBK will be running on the same date as F1 for nine rounds, though only the Donington and Monza rounds happen in the same timezone. Given the different time schedules for F1 and WSBK, bike racing fans should not have to miss any of the action.
The Lausitzring was not the only option considered when WSBK looked at returning to Germany. The series was also in talks with the Sachsenring, as the MotoGP round is immensely popular there. In the end, Lausitz was chosen, WSBK having raced there previously from 2005 to 2007.
Jonathan Rea leaves the Motorland Aragon circuit as the fastest man from the two-day World Superbike test at the circuit. Rea spent the day working on the engine management and electronics. The 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R has shown itself to be a powerful machine, but the acceleration is not as easy to manage as the 2015 bike. Rea's Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes also lapped Aragon on Tuesday, after choosing to sit out the first day of the two-day test due to the weather conditions.
Chaz Davies was reported as being second fastest, though no official timing was available. According to the German-language website Speedweek, the Aruba.it Ducati rider posted a lap of 1'51.0, 0.7 slower than the time set by Rea. Davies tested electronics strategies, as well suspension components, in search of more precise steering. Javi Fores took the second Ducati out, standing in for the still injured Davide Giugliano.
Alex Lowes was the faster of the two Pata Yamaha bikes, 1.4 seconds quicker than his new teammate Sylvain Guintoli. The Pata Yamaha pair are still working mainly on getting used to the YZF-R1, running a bike basically in BSB spec, development a priority for later.
Nicky Hayden turned his first official laps as a World Superbike rider on Monday, putting the Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR through its paces for the first time. The test did not get off to a particularly auspicious start, the day delayed by a wet track and thick fog, which took a long time to clear. Nevertheless, Hayden took his first laps shortly before one, to try to get a feel for the bike. The first exit was on wet tires, the track still damp, and there was no serious action on the circuit until late in the afternoon, when the sun finally broke through the clouds.
Though no times were released, German-language website Speedweek reports that Hayden's best lap was a 1'53.3, 1.8 seconds off the fastest time of reigning world champion Jonathan Rea, who set a 1'51.5. Hayden spent a lot of time working on his position on the bike and the position of footpegs and seat. He also spent a lot of time with the electronics, trying to set them up to get a better connection between throttle and engine. You can read more of his comments on the Bikesportnews website.
The FIM today announced a radical shake up of the World Supersport series. In an attempt to cut costs, the technical rules are to be changed to bring them in line with the rules used in most major national championships. Those rules are generally much closer to the existing Superstock regulations, though with a little more freedom to make modifications.
The goal of the change is twofold. Firstly, to cut the costs of being competitive. History has shown that this aim is always very hard to achieve, with teams finding a way to spend the money they get in sponsorship. The second aim is to make the championship broader, and attract more wildcards at local rounds. This is a much more reasonable goal, and the fact that wildcard riders will be able to enter on the bike they have spent all season racing on in their national championships should make it easier for them to get up to speed and challenge the established riders for podiums and wins.
With the Supersport rules being revised to bring the technical level of the bikes to a lower spec, the Superstock 600 class is to be scrapped. Instead, a separate category is to be created inside the World Supersport class, open only to riders racing in the European rounds.
The press release from the WSBK press office, containing further details, appears below:
Since Forward Racing boss Giovanni Cuzari was arrested on charges of corruption, money laundering and tax evasion earlier this year, the team's places in MotoGP have been in jeopardy. Yamaha immediately stopped its support for the team, meaning that Forward did not have bikes for the 2016 MotoGP season. After his release from arrest, and, according to his lawyer, the dropping of the charges of corruption, Cuzari was confident he would be allowed back on to the MotoGP grid, and was in talks with both Aprilia and Ducati for the supply of bikes. His fate, Cuzari told us at Misano, was in the hands of Carmelo Ezpeleta.
The head of Dorna appears to have decided that Forward Racing's future does not lie in the premier class, at least for the foreseeable future. Today, Forward Racing announced they will not be racing in MotoGP, but will be turning their focus towards the World Superbike championship. Forward will be working with MV Agusta to assist with their World Superbike and World Supersport efforts from 2016. Cuzari has been appointed Team Principal for the team, and given responsibility for MV Agusta's racing department.
American fans will have a lot of reasons to follow the World Superbike championship next year. After Nicky Hayden confirmed that he will be switching to WSBK with the Ten Kate Honda for 2016 and 2017, today, confirmation came that PJ Jacobsen is to remain in World Supersport for next year to take another shot at the championship.
The American is to stay with his current Core Motorsport Thailand team, riding a Honda CBR600RR. Both the team and the bike will get a major boost next year, however, as Ten Kate Honda have announced they will be partnering the team in 2016. Core and Ten Kate will be running the Honda World Supersport effort together, meaning that Jacobsen will have faster even better prepared CBR600RRs, and faster access to new and upgraded parts.
The goal of the team is to challenge Kenan Sofuoglu and Jules Cluzel for the World Supersport title next year. Since the Kawasaki Intermoto team folded back in May, and Jacobsen replaced Ratthapark Wilairot in the Core Motorsports team, Jacobsen has finished on the podium in every race, including two wins at Sepang and Magny-Cours. In a stable environment and more competitive machinery, the American should be able to give the Sofuoglu and Cluzel a run for their money in 2016.
The press release from Honda announcing the new team structure appears below:
So at last it's official. "This will be my last year in MotoGP. I will be moving to World Superbikes next year with Honda and the Ten Kate team," Nicky Hayden told the press conference at Motegi. The move had been long expected, as Hayden's options of a competitive ride had petered out. "These last two years haven't been so good, I haven't been able to get the results on an Open Honda to really keep a high level bike in MotoGP," he acknowledged.
That had prompted his decision to finally move to World Superbikes. "I've always thought World Superbikes might be something I'd like to try, I've always liked the racing there," Hayden said. "The opportunity just felt like it would be a good fit. Obviously I'm getting a bit older, but I still enjoy the sport and the game, and thought it would be a fresh challenge and a new opportunity, to go there and try to have a bit more fun. Of course I'll miss MotoGP. I had a great opportunity here. Was part of some great teams and worked with some great people. But nothing lasts forever, and that's life. Have to keep moving. Go to Superbike with Honda and hopefully have some fun."
As had been long predicted, Yamaha is to return to the World Superbike championship in 2016 to race the YZF-R1. Yamaha Motor Europe is to throw its weight behind the Crescent team run by Paul Denning, and will field 2014 WSBK champion Sylvain Guintoli and Crescent's current rider Alex Lowes.
Great things are expected of the new R1. Once the teams got it dialed in, the bike has performed exceptionally well in its debut year in the BSB and MotoAmerica championships, as well as in World Endurance. Bradley Smith, Pol Espargaro and Katsuyuki Nakasuga took the bike to victory in the Suzuka 8 Hours race as well.
The Yamaha set up will be very similar to that of the highly successful Kawasaki team, where Crescent receive factory backing from Yamaha, while running the team independently.
The Aruba.it Ducati World Superbike squad is to remain unchanged for the 2016 season. Today, Ducati announced that they will be retaining Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano as their riders for next year, making it three seasons in a row the Ducati line up has remained the same.
The announcement is no real surprise. Davies has excelled in 2015, chasing likely 2015 champion Jonathan Rea all year, and currently beating last year's champ Tom Sykes into third place. Teammate Giugliano has had a much tougher season, suffering a couple of huge crashes which have caused him to miss five of the ten rounds held so far. There was some doubt as to whether Giugliano could continue racing, after crashing and fracturing his vertebrae for the second time in a year. Giugliano is set to sit out the rest of 2015, but hopes to be fit again for 2016. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro will replace Giugliano at the upcoming Jerez round of WSBK.
Below is the press release announcing the re-signing of Davies and Giugliano.
Chaz Davies, Davide Giugliano and the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati Superbike Team together again in 2016
Arezzo/Borgo Panigale (Italy), Thursday 17 September 2015 - The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati Superbike Team confirms the agreement made with both of its current riders, Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano, for the 2016 season.
2015 has not been kind to Davide Giugliano. The factory Ducati rider was already forced to miss the first four rounds of the season after fracturing two lumbar vertebrae in testing crash at Phillip Island, a week before the season began. Now he will be forced to miss the remainder of the season, after scans revealed a fracture of the thoracic vertebra D3, sustained in a crash at Laguna Seca.
Giugliano crashed during race 2 at Laguna Seca, cartwheeling spectacularly through the gravel at Turn 6 when a few spots of rain started to fall at the circuit. Though he was initially only diagnosed with some heavy bruising, upon his return to Italy, the Aruba.it Ducati man decided to have another scan, in part to ensure that no further damage had been done to the vertebrae he injured back in February. The scan turned up a fracture of a different vertebra, however, and Giugliano was told that the recovery period would be three months. That effectively put an end to his 2015 season, ruling him out of the remainder of the races.
It is ironic that now we are getting into the meat of the motorcycle racing season, there should be so little news to speak of. But perhaps it is a matter of perspective: there is plenty of real news to be found in motorcycle racing, but it is to be found and read where you would expect to find it, in the middle of every race weekend. That is especially true now that MotoGP and World Superbikes have returned to a more fan-friendly schedule, the two world championships alternating weekends again, with BSB, the CEV and MotoAmerica filling in any gaps when they appear.
Then again, at this stage of the season, all of the focus is on the coming races, rather than next year. It is too early for silly season, especially as all the factory rides are locked up for 2016, and even Jorge Lorenzo's option to leave early removed. There are plenty of attractive seats to be filled for 2016: the contracts of both Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders are up at the end of the year, Cal Crutchlow is on a one-year contract, Yonny Hernandez has a one-year deal at Pramac, and the seats at Forward and Aspar are all being filled by riders with one-year contracts. Speculation about those seats will only start in earnest around mid-season, once team managers have half a season's worth of results to start drawing conclusions, and see who might be available to make the move up from Moto2.
Four rounds into the World Superbike season and the contours of the 2015 championship are starting to become clear. Some of the things we expected to happen have unfolded much as predicted, but there have also been a fair few surprises. Time to take a quick look at the state of World Superbikes so far.
New technical regulations have been put in place aimed at reducing cost and leveling the playing field somewhat. Their effect so far? Despite the protestations of the Kawasaki and Aprilia riders, all of whom have been complaining of a loss of horsepower, neither top speed nor overall lap times appear to have been affected much. Taking Tom Sykes as perhaps the best example, as he was on the Kawasaki ZX-10R both this year and last, his lap times were half a second slower at Phillip Island, half a second quicker at Assen, the only two tracks at which it is possible to compare. Chaz Davies on the Ducati Panigale was a second quicker at Assen, and eight tenths quicker in race one at Phillip Island, but in race two lapped just as fast in 2015 as he did in 2014. Overall, the Phillip Island track was a little slower in 2015, while conditions at Assen were definitely improved this year over last. The jury is still out on the new rules, but there are definite rumblings audible from the jury room.
Perhaps the biggest effect of the new rules is on the expectations of riders. The Kawasaki is among the most affected of the WSBK bikes by the new rules, with claims that the ZX-10R has between ten and twenty fewer horses than it had in 2014. That has had a bigger impact on Tom Sykes than on his new teammate, Jonathan Rea, Sykes struggling while Rea has come in and cleaned up. Sykes finds himself with a bike that is down on power to what he is used to, a development which is not good for a positive mindset. Rea has come off a bike which he knew to be incapable of winning a championship, and hopped onto one which has been proven capable of doing just that. It's easy to go fast when what you have is better than what you had, and you see opportunity looming.