Latest World Superbike News
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.
David Miller, editor of Bike Sport News writes on the the Mirror.co.uk website that it is rumored that James Toseland will ride on the Yamaha World Superbike team with fellow Brit Cal Crutchlow in 2010. Toseland, who is reportedly all but gone from MotoGP, has been linked to nearly every "A" level ride in the production-based series. This pre-supposes that American rookie sensation Ben Spies will take Toseland's seat in the Tech 3 squad next year. Crutchlow, whose coronation as 2009 WSS champion has been put on hold due to yesterday's crash at Imola, reportedly has an option clause in his contract that would elevate him to the SBK series in 2010, given the right results. Crutchlow might have other things to say about Yamaha's plans for him, however, as he has been closely linked to a ride on Fausto Gresini's Moto2 squad in 2010.
Aprilia head of communications Alain Roger, in an interview with Caradisiac. com revealed that Aprilia will field another 2-bike team in World Superbikes in 2010. Roger was not forthcoming on who would manage the team or whether the team would be a satellite. Roger did infer however, that current factory rider Shinya Nakano could find his way onto the squad. Roger also dropped the bombshell that former World Champion Troy Bayliss approached the team inquiring about a ride. How serious or tongue-in-cheek that contact was is yet to be determined. As for other candidates for the seat alongside Max Biaggi, Roger said that it was too early to decide, given the number of "orphans" likely to exit MotoGP.
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.