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.
There's just something about Italy and motorcycles. The culture and economy are suffused with the love of all things two-wheel. Chances are, if you are a motorcylist at least a bit of your kit is produced in Italy or maybe your garage is populated by machines that were designed and built by people who have a preternatural passion for motorcycles. Italians love racing, too, and when you combine the two on Italian soil you always have the opportunity for something special. Italian riders feed on this passion and the energy and intensity they absorb makes them try just a bit harder than they might at, say, Sepang or Motegi. Of course, that energy and intensity can have a flip side as well, just ask Colin Edwards, he'll give you a profane mouthful about Italian riders in Italy.
Coming into Imola, 2 riders not from Italy but who have been virtually adopted by the paisanos as their own and whose teams are from the country, came into ths round in a dogfight for the world title. Amercan Ben Spies had clawed back from an 88 point deficit to lead the series by 18 points on the back of 2nd place man Noriyuki Haga's crash in race two at the Nurburgring. This capped a misbegotten string of mostly mediocre races that saw Haga slipping in the points spread, partly due to injuries to his shoulder and arm.
Race One: Old Age and Treachery
Results of World Superbike race 2 at Imola:
Result of the World Superbikes Race 1 at Imola:
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.
To paraphrase pole-setter Michele Fabrizio, it's good to see three young guys at the top. Fabrizio, who said at the post-race press conference that he used his anger at being mis-timed on a previous lap as motivation, set his first pole in the Superbike class on the back of a blindingly fast last lap. Fabrizio is in the enviable position of being an Italian rider on an Italian bike on an Italian track, which should provide him with ample motivation for Sunday.
Ben Spies looked a bit chagrined at being pipped by Fabrizio, wryly noting that he would have thought that Fabrizio would have let the American take the pole in repayment for Fabrizio taking him out in Brno. Spies claimed to have made a few mistakes on his fast lap that cost him a few tenths, not that the casual observer could detect any errors. Spies was his normal smooth unflappable self, in contrast to Sterilgarda Yamaha teammate Tom Sykes, who looked at times like the Urban Cowboy riding the mechanical bull at Gilley's, his R1 bucking and snorting through the corners.
Third-place man Jonny Rea also claimed errors on his best lap but was happy overall, citing a number of new parts that needed to be evaluated over a shortened practice schedule.
Noriyuki Haga elevated himself up from the depths of midpack to come fourth, which isn't a bad place to be for an old guy. Haga has always had the ability to summon forth a bit of extra speed on race day, so he should be able to hang with the kids at the front.
Ducati mounted Shane "Shakey" Byrne and Jakob Smrz have been fast all weekend, but have been unable to muster the extra couple tenths necessary to stay with the front-runners. Smrz might have some splainin' to do to Team manager Frankie Chili, who looked livid after Smrz' last lap crash.
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.
Results of the three Superpole sessions:
Jonny Rea set the fastest time on the final session of practice, snatching the top time away from Ben Spies at the very end of the session. Spies finished ahead of the two Ducatis of Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga, Fabrizio within a few hundredths, Haga half a second back. Max Biaggi finally beat his team mate, setting the 8th fastest time, a tenth quicker than Marco Simoncelli.
Michel Fabrizio led the sole session of qualifying for the World Superbike class at Imola, though he swapped the lead with Shane Byrne and Ben Spies throughout the session. Jonny Rea ended the session in 2nd, ahead of Spies in 3rd, but there is just 0.070 separating the top three. Shane Byrne finished in 4th, just under quarter of a second behind, while Noriyuki Haga drastically improved on his performance in yesterday, leaping up into 5th place, ahead of the 250cc World Champion Marco Simoncelli, who is showing up his veteran team mate Max Biaggi after the Roman has just become a father for the first time.
The riders in bold progress to this afternoon's Superpole session: