Latest World Superbike News
Phillip Island will kick off the year with Portimao to follow in the former Qatar slot. Magny Cours will regain the season-ending race it had from 2003-2007.
Motorcycle racers, journalists and fans tend to talk about the sport in terms of a physical struggle. Riders and teams are always fighting or battling for the lead, championship or what have you. To be sure, there are parallells between the sweet science and racing; fighters and racers both spend endless hours training to be in top condition and both have to ply their trade hurting as often as not. Strategy is important too, as the combatants look to defend their position or deliver a knock-out blow that will defeat their opponent. The two men that are left in the ring in the 2009 World Superbike series championship, Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga, came into the next to last round at Magny Cours, nearly too close to call on points, each looking for the advantage that would KO their rival or serve to let them live to fight another day.
Race 1: Don't Look Back, Something Might be Gaining on You
British site Visordown.com is reporting that the last two British Superbike champions, Leon Camier and Shane "Shakey" Byrne, will reunite on a team that will campaign the Aprilia RSV4. Speculation has been rife that the Italian manufacturer would increase their presence in the series in 2010 and Aprilia PR flack Alain Roger stated as much recently in an interview with Caradisiac.com. Byrne and Camier were teammates on the Airwaves Ducati team in 2008, the year that Byrne won the BSB championship. That championship paved the way for Byrne's current ride with Sterilgarda Ducati, a relationship that hasn't gone exactly as planned. Byrne, speaking on Onthethrottle.com has said that he has two offers in 2010 and it has been assumed that he would sign with Paul Bird Kawaski. However, with PBM's recent signing of soon to be ex-Rizla Suzuki rider Chris Vermuelen, it would appear that the postion of lead rider has been filled on the green team.
The tragic accident which came so close to crippling Regis Laconi at Kyalami generated a huge wave of sympathy. The Frenchman had a huge crash on his very first lap during World Superbike practice at the South African track, was knocked out and cracked his C3 and C5 vertebrae. Only surgery to insert a plate to fix the vertebrae in place prevented further injury to Laconi, and after a long and grueling rehabilitation period the Frenchman is almost back to full fitness.
To celebrate his return to rude health, Laconi will take to the track aboard his #55 DFX Ducati, and do three laps of honor at the Magny-Cours circuit at 11:15 am local time, 45 minutes before the first World Superbike race is due to start. The ceremony is meant as a gesture of thanks for the support his fans and friends inside and outside the World Superbike paddock have shown the Frenchman, and also as a sign that Laconi is determined to make his way back into racing.
It's been an awfully busy week for Ben Spies. If one admires anything about the young Texan other than his blinding speed, it's the the forthright, no worries way he goes about conducting his business. One imagines that he has a list of tasks to be accomplished and then checked off when done, rather like shopping for groceries or some such other mundane task. This week those tasks have included fielding enquiries from hundreds of journalists, finally being able to talk about his appointment to the Tech Trois Yamaha MotoGP team and making sure that his travel plans to Valencia are changed to a few days earlier than anticipated so that he can participate as a wild card in the season-ending MotoGP race. On top of that extracurricular stuff, Spies still has his day job to do, which this weekend involves qualifying well, winning two Superbike races in France and regaining his lead in the World Superbike championship.
A completely unfounded rumor on the French site Caradisiac indicates that Ben Spies may be given a wild-card ride at the season-ending round at Valencia. If true (or even if it isn't) this makes a lot of sense. The SBK season will be long over, it would give Spies a chance to ride the M1 in a race setting on a track he knows and, with testing time extremely limited in 2010, it would give him a jump-start on the apres-race test. If Yamaha isn't actually considering this, maybe a little fan chatter will get them thinking...
As reported here yesterday, Chris Vermeulen and Paul Bird Kawasaki were on the verge of inking a deal that would see the personable Australian race the Green Machines for the next two years. According to Colin Young, writing on the SpeedTV website, the deal is done, the contracts signed and will be announced later today.
As the captain in Cool Hand Luke said, "What we've got here is failure to communicate." Stiggy Racing today announced that they were severing their relationship with Partner S2 Racing stating, "that they (S2) failed to fulfill their commitments with the team throughout the year." In the last 3 races of the season, Stiggy has been forced to reduce their rider line-ups to one per class amid pronouncements of financial calamity by team principal Johan Stigefelt.
In the Stiggy Universe, S2 was the financial end and Stiggy was the technical side. Apparently the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing with Stigefelt claiming that he was "left in the dark financially". Even though straits are dire financially this year, Stigefelt feels that he'll be able to field a team next year, although most believe it will be a reduced effort, confined to WSS or one rider in Superbike, depending on what rumor you chose to believe.
Citing nagging back injuries from a disastrous mid-summer Imola test, Alstare Suzuki's Max Neukirchner has ruled himself out for the last two rounds of the season at Magny Cours and Portimao. Neukirchner has reset his goals with the aim of being fit for the end of season Portimao test. Team owner Frankie Batta has stood by the injured German who has a year remaining on his contract with Alstare, publicly stating that Neukirchner has what it takes to be a front-runner in SBK.
In a surprising, if not shocking move, speedweek.eu is reporting that Chris Vermeulen has made a two-year commitment to Paul Bird Kawasaki to ride the ZX-10 Superbike in the World Superbike series. Vermeulen, who will be replaced by Alvaro Bautista at Rizla Suzuki next year, was rumored to be on every team manager in WSBK's short list of desirable riders, but whispers of serious discussions with Kawasaki had just surfaced a few days ago. The ZX-10 package has been a relatively uncompetitive one but wild-card rides by Jamie Hacking at Salt Lake City and by Sheridan Morais at Kyalami indicated that maybe the hardware wasn't the sole culprit.
With the demise of Kawasaki's MotoGP program it is expected that resources devoted to that effort will be reallocated toward the superbike program with the Vermeulen signing the first visable result. Just who will be pairing with Vermeulen is currently unknown but Sterilgarda Ducati rider Shakey Byrne and soon to be former Sterigarda Yamaha rider Tom Sykes have also been thought to be in discussions with the British team.
It's a busy day for the Yamaha press office: After earlier announcing that Ben Spies was to switch to the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, the Sterilgarda Yamaha squad announced that the seat that Spies is vacating is to be taking by the man making way for Spies at Tech 3. James Toseland, who has struggled to get to grip with the Bridgestone tires this season, will be returning to the World Superbike series, to race once again in the class where he has conquered two titles.
Joining Toseland will be the man still leading the World Supersport championship, Cal Crutchlow. Crutchlow has completely dominated World Supersport this season, but a mechanical and a mistake have tightened up the championship considerably. The young Briton had been angling for a seat in the new Moto2 class, as he felt this was his best avenue into the MotoGP series, but the two-year contract Crutchlow signed with Yamaha at the beginning of last season precluded the switch, as Yamaha will not be fielding any official entries in Moto2.
Leon Camier has been looking for a ride in the World Superbike paddock for a while now, and his utter domination of the British Superbike series certainly showed that he has the necessary talent. As we reported yesterday, Camier is to get his chance, taking the place of the injured Shinya Nakano riding the Aprilia RSV4.
MCN is reporting that James Toseland will announce tomorrow that he will be moving to the Yamaha World Superbike team in 2010. There should also be a concurrent or simultaneous announcement that, as has been heavily rumored for weeks, American Ben Spies will ascend to Toseland's old seat at Tech 3. Perhaps Tech 3 will also confirm that Colin Edwards will team with his fellow Texan. As Toseland had been rumored to be in line for a number of "A" list rides in WSBK, this move should set forth a chain reaction of rider placements in the superbike paddock.
With Shinya Nakano out for the rest of the season with an injury, Aprilia are in need of a replacement rider for the World Superbike rounds at Magny-Cours and Portimao. Marco Simoncelli returns to his day job as factory Gilera 250cc rider this weekend at Estoril, and Aprilia test rider Alex Hofmann has duties of his own as a TV presenter for the German-language sports channel DSF at the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Thus Aprilia is taking the opportunity of the two final races of the year to give a chance to candidates for the factory seat next year. Their main target is newly-crowned BSB champion Leon Camier, according to the Swiss magazine SpeedWeek. The Airwaves Yamaha rider wrapped up the BSB title last weekend at Silverstone, and has made no secret of his desire to make the switch to the World Superbike series next season. And so Camier has the Magny-Cours and Portimao WSBK rounds to secure a ride in the WSBK paddock for 2010 with a few good results.
Though Camier's talent is beyond question, whether the Aprilia is the best vehicle for showcasing that talent is another matter altogether. The RSV4 is by far the most compact - even minuscule - of the current Superbikes, and Camier is one of the tallest men in racing. Max Biaggi fits on the RSV4 neatly, but the Roman Emperor is no giant. Marco Simoncelli, at 6' or 1.83m, looked cramped on the bike, so how Camier, at 6'2 or 1.89m will fit on the RSV4 remains to be seen.
Simoncelli has also set the bar high for the young Briton. The reigning 250 World Champion came into the series as a wildcard at Imola, crashing out of 5th in race 1 and getting on the podium in race 2. As reigning BSB champion, Camier will have goals which, if not quite as high, will still be to finish well inside the top 10. Aboard a machine which will make him look like he is riding a pocket bike, that may be a tough ask.
Makoto Tamada has had a miserable season with the Kawasaki World Superbike squad this year. Dogged by crashes and injury, Tamada has already missed nearly half the season with one injury or another, and his crash in race one at Imola saw the Japanese veteran concussed and suffering amnesia. As a result, the Japanese rider looks set to miss yet another round of racing, with the next round of World Superbikes due to take place this weekend at the Magny Cours circuit in France.
Once again, South African Superbike champion Sheridan Morais is set to take his place. No official confirmation has yet been received, but friend of MotoMatters.com Bentley Mtafu bumped into Morais at the airport in Johannesburg, carrying his helmet and leathers and ready to go racing. And so Morais will get another chance to impress the World Superbike scene, after finishing ahead of his temporary team mate Broc Parkes in both races at Kyalami, where Morais filled in for the injured Tamada back in May. If Morais scores points at Magny-Cours - which he is surely capable of - he will overtake the rider he is replacing in the championship standings, both Tamada and Morais currently tied with 8 points, despite Morais only having ridden two races.