Latest World Superbike News
The Spies Saga continues to rumble on. Despite the official announcement by Yamaha that Ben Spies will be racing in World Superbikes next season, rumors persist that the Texan will be riding a Tech 3 Yamaha alongside Colin Edwards in 2010. The persistently half-hearted denials by Yamaha, Spies and his mother and manager Mary serve merely to fan the flames, rather than deliver a decisive verdict on which Spies will be riding in next season. A typical example of this equivocation is below, in the interview posted by the excellent On The Throttle TV website, in which World Superbike commentator Jonathon Green asks Ben Spies about a possible switch to MotoGP, and Spies replies that he is "not at liberty to say what's going on right now," which is about as far from an outright denial as it is possible to get.
So convinced was the leading Italian magazine MotoSprint that Spies is going to MotoGP, that they ran a story on the website that an announcement on the move would be announced directly after Sunday's race at Imola. Sunday came and went, and the announcement never came, and so the story was pulled, but thanks to Google's voracious recording of everything that appears on the internet, the story is still visible through Google's search cache.
Alstare Suzuki and title sponsor Dr Brux, an Italian dentifrice manufacturer, have terminated their partnership due to what Alstare calls a "non-fulfilment of sponsorship obligations". What this means in non-PR-speak is that the check(s) weren't in the mail. This news can't be good for team owner Frankie Batta's quest for a top rider as Suzuki is reportedly cutting direct support to most of their road racing efforts.
The World Supersport race at Imola was red-flagged after 11 laps, when Joan Lascorz' Kawasaki blew up and trailed oil round the track. The Spaniard had just taken the lead from Kenan Sofuoglu, and the engine let go as he got on the gas coming out of a corner. The race is due to be restarted at 2:20pm local time, and the result will be decided by aggregate result.
Sterilgarda and the Yamaha Factory World Superbike team have announced that the sponsorship agreement forged partway into the 2009 season will continue through 2010. This announcement puts a stake squarely through the heart of rumors that the team would cease to exist if lead rider Ben Spies defected to MotoGP, which it is widely believed he will almost certainly do. The Italian dairy giant will reportedly cease sponsorship of the BRC Racing Ducati team, which has failed to produce consistently good results this season.
It has been increasingly clear that James Toseland is on his way out of MotoGP, with Roger Burnett tacitly acknowledging in the Motorcycle News that Toseland's only option in MotoGP is the second seat at Pramac. And so Toseland's manager is currently at Imola, hoping to find a seat with one of the many leading World Superbike teams which have expressed an interest in having the former two-time WSBK Champion ride for them in 2010.
Despite the interest, it may not be as easy as Burnett and Toseland have been hoping. Speaking to Italian TV channel La7, Alstare Suzuki team boss Francis Batta admitted he was interested in signing Toseland, but thought it was unlikely to happen. "James' demands are a bit too high," Batta said. "In times like these, maybe other teams have more money than I do."
The reason for Batta's refusal could be that he already has a second rider in place to race alongside the German Max Neukirchner. According to GPOne.com, Batta may already have signed Leon Haslam. The young Briton is known to be chasing a factory ride in World Superbikes, and as rumors of Stiggy Racing's withdrawal from the Superbike class due to a lack of funds continue to circulate, it is entirely credible that Haslam may already have a done a deal for 2010. If Haslam has already signed, then he could be aboard the bike as soon as the post-race tests after the final race at Portimao.
In a video interview on onthethrottle.com with SBK commentators Jonathan Green and Steve Martin, it was revealed that Xerox Ducati tested a form of "Launch Control" at their recent Mugello test. Historically, Ducati has reportedly never used a starting aid on their superbike. Details of the method of operation of this mechanism were not forthcoming but it could be assumed that a combination of mechanical bits and electronics control the throttle and clutch to make for a smooth wheelie and wheelspin free start. As we have seen in MotoGP, launch control can help someone with poor startiing skills become a consistant fast starter. It is not known if Ducati was satisfied enough with the operation of the system to risk using it in a critical race situation, but with Haga and Fabrizio on the front row, a clean error-free start could concievably give the team a leg up on Ben Spies, who has had trouble at times getting a smooth launch on the R1.
We reported a couple of days ago that Troy Bayliss was seriously considering returning to racing in the World Superbike series. We found that a little difficult to believe, and were keen to find out the truth of the situation. Fortunately for motorcycle racing fans everywhere, Superbikeplanet.com's Dean Adams is at Imola, reporting live from the races, and he cornered Bayliss about retirement.
The upshot is that Bayliss finds it easy to accept his retirement when he's back in Australia, but once he hits Europe, "I need to be in my race routine," he told Superbikeplanet.com. He knows he shouldn't really be thinking about it, but he can't help himself. Given that he could be back to race fitness in "three or four weeks," the temptation is very difficult to resist. For the full story, read Dean Adam's interview with Troy Bayliss over on Superbikeplanet.com.
In the wake of actions by superbike riders protesting an allegedly slippery Imola track surface that some have been likening to a strike or a revolt, the SBK website has issued a press release that essentially blames the riders for the snafu. Without naming names, the release claims that there were some riders and team managers that wanted practice to continue so that a fresh coat of Pirelli rubber could be laid down on the track. The article continues by claiming that after the rewashing of the track conditions hadn't changed as evidenced by the lack of crashes in the subsequent practice sessions. All those who had actually ventured out on track in the first session gave dramatically different accounts of track conditions. To this commentator's eye, these statements, coming from the promotors of this event, are roughly equivalent to the commander of the firing squad telling the condemned prisoner to quit sniveling about conditions.
It's no secret that the wretched global economic crisis has taken its toll on motorcycle racing. Unfortunately, teams dropping out of series or curtailing their involvement have become distressingly commonplace. The latest casualty of this war of attrition in the WSBK paddock is reportedly the Stiggy Racing Team. Already reduced to 1 rider in superbike and supersport for the rest of the season due to tight money woes, Stiggy, according to caradisiac.com, will not field a superbike squad in 2010. This is an especially cruel blow for the team who had been rumored to be switching over to Yamaha machinery and, according to some conjecture, taking over the Yamaha factory squad. However, Stiggy will reportedly be fielding the Yamaha R6 in WSS next season. Lead rider Leon "Pocket Rocket" Haslam has been having a stellar year and should have no difficulty finding a ride for next season and has been rumored to be in discussions with Alstare Suzuki among others. The future in World Superbikes for American John Hopkins, who has had a mostly abysmal injury-ridden year, looks to be in grave doubt.
World Superbikes are currently on track at Imola for their 1st practice session after a track re-cleaning and a WSS practice session. This session will not be termed a Qualifying session. Saturday's "Qualifying 2" will control who will compete in Superpole.
Ten Kate Racing announced this morning that 22 year-old Ulsterman Jonathan Rea has been signed to ride with the Dutch team in the World Superbike series for another 2 years. Rea, a former standout in British superbikes and World Supersport had been widely tipped to retain his ride. The recent switch by Ten Kate to Ohlins suspension components has apparently complemented Rea's style, resulting in his recent race win at the Nurburgring. Ten Kate, who have previously revealed that the team intended to cut back to 2 riders for 2010 are reportedly considering current rider Carlos Checa and former employees Chris Vermeulen and James Toseland for the second seat.
What was supposed to be a triumphant return to a track steeped in history has turned into a farce. Action at the World Superbike round at Imola ground to a halt after just two laps of practice, with Tom Sykes crashing and riders complaining of a complete lack of grip. The track is incredibly slick from last weekend's WTCC car racing, with some confusion over whether there is still oil on the track or whether the lack of grip is due to an overly aggressive cleaning process which removed all the rubber from the track.
According to BikeSportNews.com, the riders and teams have gone into a meeting with FIM safety representative Claude Danis to discuss how to solve the problems. So far, it looks like there'll be no action today, while the circuit organization finds a solution to track conditions, in the hope of getting the riders back out onto the track tomorrow.
More as it comes in.
The hardest thing in the world for a professional sports star is to retire. When the thrill and drive of competing falls away, sportsmen and women in every discipline tend to fall into a black hole, and spend a long time thrashing around trying to find new meaning in their lives.
Former World Superbike star Troy Bayliss seemed to have his retirement already planned out. His future, he had decided, would lie in Australia's extremely popular V8 Supercars series, and he would channel all of his considerable talent and drive into that sport, and forget all about motorcycle racing.
But according to leading Italian magazine MotoSprint, Bayliss just can't forget about two wheels. MotoSprint is reporting that Bayliss told them at Imola that he wanted to come back to World Superbikes. His outings in V8 Supercars had been a disappointment to him, he told MotoSprint: "The car and the team are good for twentieth place, no more."
And so he had set his mind to World Superbikes again. "I want to race in Superbikes again," he told MotoSprint. "I'll be looking around here at Imola. It's a shame that Ducati have already signed two riders for 2010, I feel that I could have done well next season."
Ducati team boss Davide Tardozzi confirmed that Bayliss had approached him about racing. "Troy asked me if he could race when he landed, last Tuesday. But how could we satisfy his request? We don't have the resources for three riders," Motosprint quotes Tardozzi as saying.
Since the start of the season, MotoMatters.com has been trying to bring you news and analysis from both MotoGP and World Superbikes, but with the limited resources we have at our disposal, it's been hard. We have not been able to give the World Superbike series the attention it deserves, and so we have called in some help. From now on, Mike Walt will be helping out with the World Superbike series, while David Emmett focuses on the world he knows best, the world of MotoGP.
Many of you will already know Mike, as he posts around the world under the moniker Yooperbikemike. His knowledge of all forms of motorcycle racing is encyclopedic, and his style is both informative and entertaining, a very, very difficult balancing act to manage. So for all of you who love World Superbikes, and I know there are many, we hope to start to give the series much better coverage.
Marco Simoncelli appears to be edging closer to racing in this weekend's World Superbike round at Imola. The Italian posted a best time of 1'54.21 during testing at Mugello today, after running 49 laps in sets of 10. Simoncelli was not chasing hot laps, but was instead getting used to the bike and the tires, and spent the day running on a medium compound, according to the Italian website GPOne.com.
Simoncelli's times were certainly good enough for Aprilia's Superbike project technical director Gigi Dall'Igna. "He rode with his head," Dall'Igna told GPOne.com, expressing his surprise at how rapid Simoncelli's progress had been at Mugello. A final decision on whether Simoncelli will race at Imola is to be taken at the end of Wednesday's test, but Dall'Igna was fairly confident. When asked whether he thought Simoncelli would race, Dall'Igna replied "I expect he will."
At the same time as Simoncelli was testing, fellow 250 star Mattia Pasini was once again aboard the Ducati Desmosedici. The Italian posted a fairly mediocre time of 1'52.8 after 56 laps, a time some 3 seconds off the pace of the MotoGP regulars, but the track conditions were not ideal. Speculation continues that Pasini is being evaluated for a role at Pramac next season, though talk also continues of Pasini being a reserve rider in the unlikely case that Casey Stoner doesn't make a return to racing after all.
Both Pasini and Simoncelli will continue testing tomorrow, while Pasini will put in a third day of testing on Thursday.