After a wild rumor appeared last night that Paul Bird was about to sign Scott Redding to join Chris Vermeulen at the factory Kawasaki squad in World Superbike - a rumor that appears to have been a piece of deliberate misinformation from the Bird camp, after promising an exclusive to Britain's Motorcycle News, and was quickly scotched by a look at the FIM regulations, which confirmed that Redding is too young to ride in World Superbike - the team has finally announced their 2010 line up. As predicted by British site Bikesportnews.com over a week ago and reported by our very own Mike Walt, Tom Sykes has been given the nod.
The Briton is currently partnering Ben Spies at the Sterilgarda Yamaha World Superbike team, but Sykes has been completely overshadowed by the sensational debut of his Texan team mate. Spies' rookie season has disguised the fact that Sykes has had a strong year, consistently finishing in the top 8, with a best result of 4th at Assen. Sykes is currently in 8th place in the championship.
The fact that Tom Sykes has agreed to ride for Paul Bird again should be regarded as remarkable. Sykes and former team mate Shane Byrne left Bird's Stobart Honda British Superbike squad at the end of the 2007 season, amid much acrimony and recriminations. Bird then hit out in very bitter terms at both Byrne and Sykes in an outburst in Bikesportnews.com, accusing them of "turning their backs" on the team.
With Shinya Nakano returning to the fold at Portimao after an injury plagued rookie season in World Superbike, Aprilia Racing will dig deep and field a third bike for newly-crowned British Superbike champion Leon Camier. The ride for Camier is a second audition for a seat on the team after his debut with the squad at Magny Cours showed flashes of promise but was marred by technical difficulties. Nakano, who has had difficulties both with injuries and a self-admitted problem adapting his 250 based style to superbikes, is widely believed to be on his way out of the factory squad.Alex DeAngelis had been linked to the second seat but rumors are increasing that the San Marinan will take a ride with Scot Honda in MotoGP. Sterilgarda Ducati's Shane "Shakey" Byrne is also considered a contender for the Aprilia ride.
Sylvain Guintoli has had a tough season this year. Forced to switch to the British Superbike series at the end of last season once his tenure with the Pramac Ducati team was at an end, he made a fantastic debut, winning his first two races aboard a Superbike, following that up with a double podium. It all went wrong for him after that, horribly fracturing his leg in a warm-up-lap pile-up caused by Australian Josh Brookes.
His early performance aboard the Crescent Suzuki and the form he showed once he returned to racing at the end of August so impressed Suzuki that he has been rewarded with a ride in World Superbikes next season. The Frenchman is to join the Alstare Suzuki team, racing alongside young Briton Leon Haslam, who has been impressive aboard the Stiggy Honda. In fact, Guintoli is to join the team early, as due to the absence of Max Neukirchner due to continuing problems with cracked vertebrae, the Frenchman has been drafted in to race in the final round of World Superbikes at Portimao this weekend.
A variety of sources are reporting that Carlos Checa will ride a privateer Ducati for the Althea team in the World Superbike series in 2010. Checa, who was recently voted off the Ten Kate Island, is still capable of running intermittently at the front, especially around contract time. It had been rumored that Checa was in line for a testing gig for Ducati MotoGP, replacing long-time tester Vittoriano Guaresci, who will be allegedly be taking a rider liason position for the company, but apparently racing pays better, especially when your income comes mostly from personal sponsorships and contingency bonuses, as Checa's reportedly has for the last few years. It has been previously reported that Althea would switch from Honda to Ducati in 2010 and were pursuing Jakub Smrz and/or Niccolo Canepa.
Newly sacked German rider Max Neukirchner has quickly found gainful employment, signing a deal that will see him partnering with Jonny Rea on a Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR in the World Superbike series in 2010. This year, Neukirchner has battled injuries incurred at Monza and Imola and his contract with Alstare Suzuki was terminated in late September by team owner Frankie Batta, allegedly over concerns about his level of fitness. Current Ten Kate rider Carlos Checa, despite a flurry of late season activity, will not return to the Ten Kate team, who are downsizing to two riders in 2010. Checa is thought to be in line for a testing gig with the Ducati MotoGp team. Checa has a history with Ducati, having ridden for the team in MotoGP in 2005, alongside Loris Capirossi.
Amid a recent raft of rumors that Max Neukirchner has left/been fired from the Alstare Suzuki team, owner Frankie Batta has acknowledged that Neukirchner will not be riding for the team in 2010. According to GPone.com, Batta says that the team declined to exercise an option on the German in late September because he wasn't forthright about his physical condition. Specifically, Batta says that Neukirchner underwent a delicate operation on his back that the team was not informed of and when it was discovered, declined to meet with the team at Magny-Cours and undergo a physical in Belgium, where the Alstare team is located. Batta went on to say that the second seat on the team will be filled by Sylvain Guintoli, currently riding for the Worx Crescent Suzuki team in the British Superbike series. Exactly how the team came to avail itself of Guintoli's services is unclear, as the Frenchman is under contract to the Worx team for 2010.
Alstare has issued a press release confirming that Max Neukirchner's contract has not been extended and their reasons why it hasn't.
Leon Haslam, speaking to Tony Carter on the Eurosport coverage of the first race of the Oulton BSB round, has confirmed one of the worst-held secrets of the World Superbike silly season, namely that he'll moving over to the factory Alstare Suzuki team in 2010. Haslam didn't speculate on who might be his teammate, claiming that he has no knowledge of who it would be. Recent rampant speculation has placed current Alstare rider Max Neukirchner at odds with team owner Frankie Batta, with the German touted to leave the team and sign with Ten Kate Honda. The Haslam signing also suggests that long-time Suzuki favorite, Yukio "Crash" Kagayama, will not return to the Alstare team. Kagayama, who hasn't had a win since 2006, is widely tipped to return to the BSB.
British racing site Bike Sport News is reporting that soon-to-be ex-Yamaha rider Tom Sykes will partner with Chris Vermeulen at Paul Bird Kawasaki in 2010. Sykes, who currently lies 8th in the point standings, has had a creditable year but has had the misfortune of being paired with the best pure rookie in recent times, Ben Spies, and has perhaps unfairly suffered in comparison. Paul Bird, interviewed on the Eurosport coverage of the Oulton BSB round, commented that there was a good chance that Sykes would be joining the team and exactly who would be occupying the seat would be sorted by the middle of next week. Bird also commented that the team's second rider would be British, which doesn't eliminate Shane "Shakey" Byrne, who has been heavily rumored to join the team. Bird's statement does, however, confirm rumors that Australian Broc Parkes will not return to the team.
A variety of sources are reporting that Max Neukirchner will make a shocking jump to ride alongside Jonny Rea on the Ten Kate Honda team in 2010. Although the young German rider had a contract with Alstare Suzuki for 2010, it is believed that the pact was terminated as early as the first of October by the team due to fitness concerns based on injuries incurred at the mid-summer Imola test. Rumor has it that Alstare owner Frankie Batta used the fitness issue to clear the decks so that a French ex-MotoGP rider (although who that could be is kind of hazy with Sylvain Guintoli already signed to the BSB Worx team for next year) could come aboard the sinking Alstare ship bearing a bucketload of Francs to rescue the cash-strapped team.
Ten Kate had been thought to be on the verge of re-signing current rider Carlos Checa after former riders James Toseland and Chris Vermeulen inked deals with different teams. The Neukirchner/Ten Kate agreement will reportedly be sealed sometime next week.
Astare Suzuki, on a post on the team's website, has expressed surprise that Max Neukirchner, who incurred grave injuries to his back at the mid-summer Imola WSBK test, would be available for the apres-season test at Portimao, Portugal. Citing a recent physical exam at Imola, the team claims that "...doctors Costa, Corbascio and neuro-surgeon Professor Bollini all declared that they would not take responsibility for allowing Max to ride a bike again this year. "
The usually well informed Italian site GPone.com is reporting that Stiggy Honda will release rising British star Leon Haslam from whatever contractual relationship they have with the Pocket Rocket immediately after the final round at Portimao. It has been widely rumored for weeks that Haslam will sign (if he hasn't already) with Frankie Batta's Alstare Suzuki team. This release would allow Haslam to test with the team immediately following the Portugese round. Stiggy, whose financial problems have forced the team to cut their involvement in WSBK and WSS to one rider per series for the last three races of 2009 and forced a dissolution of their partnership with S2 Racing, will reportedly divulge which direction the team will take in 2010 at Portimao.
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.