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.
Updated Superpole results as they happen:
Out after Superpole 1: Ryuichi Kiyonari Matteo Baiocco, Broc Parkes, David Salom
Jonathon Rea led the final session of free practice for the World Superbike class, just edging Ben Spies. Noriyuki Haga follows at a distance, just ahead of Max Biaggi in 4th.
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...
Michel Fabrizio leads the first session of World Superbike qualifying at Magny-Cours, just edging out this morning's fastest man Jonny Rea, while Noriyuki Haga and Ben Spies are fractions behind Rea. Less than two tenths separate the top four, while Spies has nearly half a second lead over the 5th placed man Carlos Checa. Reigning BSB champion Leon Camier ended his first qualifying session in 17th place, a position which would qualify him for Superpole tomorrow afternoon.
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.
Jonny Rea led the first session of free practice for the World Superbike class at Magny-Cours, putting in a scorching lap in the final minutes of the session, and displacing the surprising Fonsi Nieto on the DFX Corse Ducati. Rea put his Ten Kate Honda ahead of the Stiggy Honda of Leon Haslam, while Noriyuki Haga set the 3rd fastest lap, ahead of Carlos Checa. Nieto finally ended the session in 5th spot. Newly-signed Tech 3 rider Ben Spies set the 7th fastest time, four tenths slower than Rea and nearly two tenths off Haga's time. Freshly crowned BSB Champion Leon Camier went 17th fastest on his World Superbike debut, running 1.7 seconds behind his compatriot Jonny Rea, and a second off his temporary team mate Max Biaggi.
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.
Three points. Three miserable stinkin' little points. That's what the World Superbike championship has come down to coming into the penultimate round at Magny Cours, in central France. Despite being the final round in the series from 2003 to 2007, Magny Cours has somehow never been one of those places where legendary battles to the finish happen. The closest that the the French circuit has came to deciding a title was in 2007 when this year's point leader Noriyuki Haga doubled to come as near as he ever has to winning a world championship, a mere two points behind James Toseland.
Haga is in the catbird seat, albeit just barely, after winning race 1 and taking second in Race 2 at Imola. Haga and Ducati have historically done well at the mostly flat French track, with 4 wins and eight podiums for Haga and 7 wins and 10 podiums for Ducati. Haga's showing at Imola confirms that the Rider Formerly Known as Nitro is recovered from his mid-season shoulder and arm injuries, or at least well enough that they don't matter much.
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.