2014 World Superbike Line Up Solidifies: Melandri Signs With Aprilia, Laverty To Join Suzuki?

With the uncertainty surrounding the World Superbike series easing up, the outlines of the 2014 season are starting to become clear. The test after the final round of the 2013 season at Jerez turned into an audition for some of the riders, with riders still searching for a team for next season. 

In the days since that test, news has been emerging of rider signings and team plans for 2014. While both the Pata Honda and factory Kawasaki line ups were known, the future of the Aprilia and Ducati teams was still uncertain, with doubts over whether one or both of the Italian factories might pull out of World Superbikes. Ducati confrmed their intention to continue in 2014 earlier this week, while today, Aprilia have also stated their intention to keep racing next year. Aprilia have also confirmed the signing of Marco Melandri, something which had long been expected. Melandri will line up alongside Sylvain Guintoli for the 2014 season.

The signing of Melandri left Irishman Eugene Laverty out of a ride, but Laverty had already held extensive talks with other teams, both in World Superbikes and in MotoGP. After deciding to turn down the second Desmosedici at Pramac Ducati, to be run under the 'Open' rules with more fuel, Laverty now looks set to sign for FIXI Crescent Suzuki for 2014, according to Bikesportnews.com. To sweeten the prospect of a year on one of the less competitive bikes on the WSBK grid, Laverty has been promised a ride with Suzuki in MotoGP when they make their return in 2015. Laverty is an obvious choice for such a role, given that he has experience in the MotoGP paddock, and can help develop the project in 2014 and beyond. The second seat at Suzuki could be filled by Alex Lowes, after the 2013 BSB champion decided against a switch to MotoGP with Paul Bird's PBM team.

The table below shows all of the signings confirmed for the 2014 World Superbike series so far, as well as the two seats at Suzuki as they are expected to be filled. The are still more seats vacant, with talks going on among Althea, Alstare, and Toni Elias over who is to retain the services of the Spaniard. The Pedercini team is also likely to return, possibly racing undr the new EVO rules, a set of regulations which are proving attractive to new teams. PTR Honda's Simon Buckmaster has spoken out in favor of the rules, and expressed an interest in creating a team.

There is also interest from the US in the series. Erik Buell Racing has announced they will be competing in WSBK in 2014 with Geoff May, campaigning the EBR1190RX, Erik Buell's latest sports bike. Bigger news could come in the form of Michael Jordan Motorsports, who have abandoned the AMA series and are currently examining competing in an international series. Given the Jordan team's wildcard at the US round of World Superbikes at Laguna Seca, it looks almost certain that the team is aiming to race in WSBK. The only question mark is over whether they will be able to raise the funding in time.

Here are the signings so far:

Team Rider Bike
Factory Aprilia    
  Sylvain Guintoli Aprilia RSV4
  Marc Melandri Aprilia RSV4
     
Factory Kawasaki    
  Tom Sykes Kawasaki ZX-10R
  Loris Baz Kawasaki ZX-10R
     
Pata Honda    
  Jonathan Rea Honda CBR1000RR
  Leon Haslam Honda CBR1000RR
     
FIXI Crescent Suzuki    
  Eugene Laverty? Suzuki GSX-R1000
  Alex Lowes? Suzuki GSX-R1000
     
Factory Ducati    
  Chaz Davies Ducati Panigale 1199R
  Davide Giugliano Ducati Panigale 1199R

 

Below is the press release issued by Aprilia announcing the signing of Melandri:


MARCO MELANDRI WITH APRILIA IN WORLD SUPERBIKE 2014.

THE ITALIAN RIDER, ALREADY WORLD CHAMPION WITH APRILIA IN 2002, WILL BE ASTRIDE THE OFFICIAL RSV4 NEXT SEASON.

Noale, 2 November 2013 – It's official: Marco Melandri will be racing in Aprilia colours for the 2014 World Superbike season. The rider from Ravenna signed a one year contract with an option for renewal that binds him to the team which just finished WSBK 2013 as Manufacturer World Champion with the RSV4. For Marco this is a "return home": in fact, it was astride an Aprilia that Melandri was crowned 250 World Champion in 2002 after taking a third place finish in 2001.

Born in 1982, Marco Melandri began his career at a very young age in minimoto, becoming Italian Champion in 1992 and 1994. Moving to 125 he became Italian Champion for the category in 1997, a title which allowed him to début in the "eighth litre" MotoGP class. Third in 1998 and second in 1999, Marco moved up a category into the powerful 250 2-strokes with Aprilia and this was the beginning of a path that saw him rank fifth in the rider standings in 2000, third in 2001 and World Champion (with 9 wins and 2 podiums out of 16 races) in 2002.

In the top MotoGP category Melandri immediately confirmed his competitiveness, finishing out the year in second place. In the various MotoGP categories Melandri has won 22 races and been on the podium 62 times.

In 2011 Marco Melandri moved over to World Superbike and was immediately a key player, so much that he was battling for the title from his rookie season, although he had to "settle" for second place at the end of the year. Finishing third in the 2012 season, the rider from Ravenna was also a contender for the title in 2013, finishing out the season in fourth place. In SBK he has taken 13 wins and 38 podiums.

The Aprilia title collection in World Superbike, where they have just taken the 2013 Manufacturer Title, includes five World Wreaths (2 Rider, 3 Manufacturer) with 38 wins and the impressive figure of 93 podiums, in addition to 16 pole positions.

Overall, in its brief history Aprilia boasts 52 World Titles (38 in MotoGP, 5 in Superbike and 9 in off-road disciplines) which make it one of the most victorious brands ever in motorcycle competitions.

Marco Melandri: “Coming back to ride the brand that brought me my first World Champion title is - first and foremost - very exciting. Speaking from a human and personal point of view, there are so many memories that tie me to Aprilia and they are memories of victories.

In all these years Aprilia has demonstrated its worthiness in racing, winning one world title after another, so I am sure that I will find an environment where we are always ready to compete for victory.

From a technical point of I am quite anxious to race on the RSV4, a bike that I have done battle with many times on the track. I think that she and I will... get along well, but the track, the first testing sessions and above all the races to come will give us the answer to that one. And then I think that riding an Italian bike into battle for the world title is amazing for an Italian rider. So follow along with us. It's going to be an exciting and fun season."

Romano Albesiano, Aprilia Racing Manager: “Marco is a rider that we know well. He has already been a part of the Aprilia family, winning a fantastic world championship with our brand. His qualities certainly need no confirmation. He has demonstrated that he is capable of fighting for the title from the first round even in a Championship that is new to him. I'm sure that he'll do well astride our RSV4, a bike that in my opinion is well suited for Marco's riding style. With the signing of Melandri and confirmation of Sylvain Guintoli after his excellent 2013 season, our commitment in World Superbike is confirmed, with the intention of increasing the Aprilia collection of titles. I would also like to thank Eugene Laverty who had a fantastic season astride our RSV4, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors”.

With the uncertainty surrounding the World Superbike series easing up, the outlines of the 2014 season are starting to become clear. The test after the final round of the 2013 season at Jerez turned into an audition for some of the riders, with riders still searching for a team for next season. In the days since that test, news has been emerging of rider signings and team plans for 2014. While both the Pata Honda and factory Kawasaki line ups were known, the future of the Aprilia and Ducati teams was still uncertain, with doubts over whether one or both of the Italian factories might pull out of World Superbikes. Ducati confrmed their intention to continue in 2014 earlier this week, while today, Aprilia have also stated their intention to keep racing next year. Aprilia have also confirmed the signing of Marco Melandri, something which had long been expected. Melandri will line up alongside Sylvain Guintoli for the 2014 season.

Comments

Sounds like there may be a

Sounds like there may be a fair few riders gunning for the Suzuki MotoGP rides in 2015. Laverty promised a ride and Lowes hoping for one, then there's confirmation that John Hopkins is returning to BSB in 2014 with Suzuki. Surely he must be in the picture too? Randy DePuniet doing all the testing for their 2015 MotoGP project must have been dangled some bait. That will be a story to follow in 2014...

Total votes: 48

Interesting times

Agreed 1050, and perhaps Ben Spies as well given his strong Suzuki history?
It will be interesting to see how so much change in both WSBK and MotoGP shake out and intertwine.
How will the Yamaha engine/frame/swingarm bike with extra fuel and motors perform? The grunt of the Tech3 engine this yr with 21L isn't that far off HRC's best. How will it go against the production Honda racer?
HOW they do it may get COOL to watch in that they may have more grunt out of corners AND less traction control eh?
Espargaro and Edwards could be an upstart I am rooting for over there! And the 2013 spec Ducati with more fuel and motors, how will that go? I can't see the Suzuki 2015 factory option bike being as desireable as say Forward's uncorked bike with a yr of development.
Come on Spec ECU, please develop quickly!
:)

Total votes: 57

Spies not inline for any ride..

Spies retired last week, due to injuries sustained over the past two seasons. Another great career cut short!

Total votes: 58

Ben may well

be done.But he will be cycling and staying in great shape. I would not be surprised to see him racing again in 2015. Too much talent and determination.Unlike CS,who I think just plain likes being contrary,Ben was simply beaten down physically and in turn mentally. Both of those things can be healed by time. Spies hates,hates,hates, to lose even more than he likes to win....and has never backed down from a challenge. He may very well never look back and move on to the next chapter in his life....but.....

Total votes: 51

Agreed Ridge

Agreed Ridge. Banged up SHOULDERS and spirit. BS11 had a banged up heart and spirit/psyche at Fiat Yamaha and was looking at another yr on the Ducati. Contrast the shoulder with Checa's hips. Ben will be back in 2015 in one of the two series on a japanese bike. He just got himself out of a contract w Pramac and time to get fit. Betcha a beer! ;)

Total votes: 46

Eugene Laverty

Melandri on the Aprilia V4 sounds very exciting for next season! But why exactly is Guintoli staying and Laverty leaving..? Although Guintoli had a solid season despite his later shoulder injury, Laverty surely seems to be the faster one, with much more victories. Did Laverty want to go elsewhere himself? What have I missed..?

Total votes: 54

Two years

Maybe Aprilia thinks that Laverty had two years already to do the deed, and didn't consistently outperform his teammate enough, who was new to the bike. I really hoped the rumors of Aprilia running three factory machines with Laverty on board would turn out to be true. If he really has a guarantee for a MotoGP factory seat it's a smart move. Without the prospect of a MotoGP ride it still may have been his best option, but the problem with Suzuki is the total lack of factory support. I don't think the Suzuki will be competitive until all bikes have to be EVO.

Total votes: 49

Important rule change

One of the most important rule changes is the numbers of engines limit. This means that the top teams will also have to downtune their engines......

Total votes: 37

Laverty promised a Suzuki MotoGP ride!?

Yes, Suzuki, that seems like a great plan. Surely an also-ran from WSBK will help Suzuki loft the MotoGP trophies high, right? No disrespect to Mr. Laverty, but if they want to spray the bubbly in MotoGP, they're going to need a rider with more raw speed than Eugene. Perhaps a seasoned rider on the back side of their career arc, a la Dani Pedrosa, and some fast young kid from Moto2? But Laverty? Ugh.

Total votes: 70

bang on

yup im 100% behind you on this. Even though Suzuki might be looking to start fresh with their motogp campaign, is laverty really the man to move them forwards?! a man who, lets face it, hasn't won a single major championship?? and the greatest respect to the Lowes boys but Suzuki cant seriously be thinking a young pup like Alex will be the other contender to move them. Dear oh dear suzuki, get some alien like Dani or someone with truck loads of experience in motogp! otherwise this campaign will go down the loo just like the last one...

Total votes: 59

Also ran?!!!

How can you win 9 races out of 27, and get 10 other podiums, finish in 2nd 20 points off the title and be considered an also-ran?

Laverty definately has the speed. Three 2nd place finishes in WSS & WSB is nothing to be sniffed at. He has been unlucky with mechanical dnfs (and some crashes) in the years he fought Sofuglu & Crutchlow for WSS titles. Crutchlow had the superior bike in 09, but Laverty was robbed of the WSS title in 10. And pushed Sykes hard this year (Sykes belongs in motogp too imo).

So not sure what your talking about really :)

Total votes: 57

Also-Ran

By definition, everyone in WSBK this year but Tom Sykes is an also-ran. While I am a fan of Eugene, and think he is a better rider than Guintoli (whom I also like), I'd have to agree that someone like Dani P would be a better candidate to win on the Suzuki MotoGP effort. Certainly not sure that Dani is an option, but given the choice I know who I would select.

Total votes: 50

Does also-ran mean something different in your dictionary?

Laverty & Sykes had the same number of wins, and Laverty actually had one more podium in total.
Laverty had 5 non-finishes (incl 3 mechanicals) to Sykes 3. That was the difference at the end. Tom took lots of poles sure, but you dont get any points for that.

Not sure Dani Pedrosa would take a Suzuki ride (if he ever leaves Honda, it will be to join Yamaha IMO), but ya, I'd pick him over Laverty too (Pedrosa of course would be picked over every rider in the world, except MM & JL, so thats not a relevant statement really).

But by your strange definition, he would just be another also-ran wouldn't he? Pedrosa I mean?

Someone like, say, Fabrizio or Lanzi in WSB, or any CRT/Ducati rider in MGP were also-rans. Not someone who wins races and finishes in the top 5 overall.

Total votes: 41

also-ran

Surely, in anyone's dictionary, Laverty is by definition of not having won, is an also-ran. The not winning is all that is required for the definition.

Possibly, one may argue also rans are those not placed in the top three. Either way Laverty is an also-ran...albeit an incredibly fast and talented one.

Total votes: 60

Laverty Underated

Eugene Laverty is every bit the rider that Cal Crutchlow is. Laverty could of had an opportunity like Cal in Motogp with tech3 had Yamaha not closed up shop. I guess its all about what seat opens up and when. Hope the factory Suzuki wsbk ride works out and gets him on the GP bike in '15. Its still better than a Ducati gamble.

Total votes: 57

100%

I agree with Vespadaddy. There are so many better riders out there other than Laverty to ride suzukis Moto gp bike. Dani Pedrosa is almost certainly not going to be at Honda in 15 so put him on the Suzuki.

Total votes: 55

Suzuki botch ups..

I hope that it does not turn out in the future that Suzuki promised the 2 available seats to more than 2 riders.

@Vespadaddy- You Sir, should actually watch WSBK.

On another note, Manuela will look amazing in Aprilia livery nylon tights...mmmm... dat @$$.

Total votes: 42

Laverty

Take away any one of the three mechanical dnfs Laverty had this year and he probably would have won the title. Personally I think Aprilia is making a mistake letting him go.

Total votes: 57

To be fair...

Laverty did a fair amount of crashing out all on his own too. I guess he never had a performance clause in his contract like Guinters does, though.

It'll be interesting to see how Melandri gets on. Is there anybody that would be willing to stick money down on Marco taking the title next year?

I'm not sure I would.

Total votes: 56

as ever

not a straightforward situation. Laverty & Hayden allegedly had almost signed to ride the Semi Works Aprillia's in 2014 when GiGi Dall'Igna left they both pulled out.

Would have been a good line up too, both would have taken the fight to the satellite bikes.

Total votes: 53

ELav Vs the world

IMO Laverty should be beating up Biaggi in 2012, but he managed one victory. Biaggi was an long retired GP racer. But still, Laverty had no chance. Rookie year Against Melandri, allso rookie at the time, same story. Laverty maneged astonishin double win in Monza, but Melandri took 4 victories and finished runner up to Checa. At the end of 2011 there were 3 retired GP riders placed in front of Eugene. 7, 33, 3! Eugene is good, but I think not good enough to be a player in MotoGP.

Ps: now we know that Aprilia is leaving the sport. They have signed Melandri. as soon as they have signed Melandri Kawasaki closed the garage in MotoGP, as Yamaha and BMW did in WSBK. Aprilia is next.../joke

Total votes: 57

So it's Sykes vs. Melandri vs. Guintoli

Laverty and Davies ought to be in contention too, but it's not going to happen with the rides they've been stuck with. Perhaps they'll challenge for a win or two but the championship? Not going to happen unless Suzuki and Ducati make major breakthroughs during the winter (I'm not holding my breath).

Total votes: 48

Disagreeing, great commentary

I sure like the way we do commentary considerations on this site. Not personalized and reactionary, less sensational, varied rich deep and wide understanding of the sport. Some technical folks, some history buffs, some racers, even you right there reading this.
Thanks David and everyone. This is my go-to primary site
;)

Total votes: 55

Sykes

Funny I've not heard Sykes name linked to MotoGP at all, he seems to be punching well above his weight. Has another Kawasaki even come close to a podium, let alone regularly?

Total votes: 52

Stranger things have happened

With hindsight it would have made more sense for Aprilia to have retained him, but given that that's not what happened this might be a more interesting move than it first appears.

Firstly, Crescent are a new team (back) in the WSB paddock in the last two years and improved markedly in 2013 from 2012, so there's good reason to suggest that with a title-contender like Eugene aboard they will make further good strides, especially if there aren't two BMWs on the grid compared with 2013. 2014 is going to be a bit of a stop-gap year for WSB before the EVO rules come in for everyone in 2015 (I think EVO is a sub-class in 2014 like BSB did it?) so there will be some opportunities.

The GP bike is also an attractive potential carrot to be dangled in front of him too, likewise for Alex Lowes. (I don't for a second believe that Dani Pedrosa will be riding it, he'll still be at Repsol in 2015). There's got to be a good reason Alex chose this ride instead of PBM, given that no-one has been announced for that ride (or the Pramac Ducati Eugene was rumoured to be taking at one point).

Let's not forget that a lot of people laughed at Tom Sykes going to Kawasaki a few years ago.

On the other hand, I feel for Leon Camier - the Shafter appears to have been shafted...

Total votes: 37

Pedro- agree/disagree

I agree he won't go to Suzuki, he'll see out his days with Honda with one eye on post-career promotional or testing options, he's been with them pretty much throughout his career - too late to change now. I don't necessarily agree he'll be on a Repsol in 2015 though, I think he'll retire end of 2014 - whether he wins the title or not.
Too many broken bones, he'll give it one more go and call it a day.
I hope he wins the title at last, but it's looking less and less likely. The even more daft fuel limits next year might dull Lorenzo's chances but he's still got to beat that guy next door who goes like hell and never seems to get injured. Just my uninformed thoughts. :)

Total votes: 45

Denning

Seems to have a short memory according to Camier - the man complained about Guintoli opting for Aprilia after 'shaking hands' on a deal; now he has dumped Camier after doing the same thing this year with him and then opting for Laverty. Who is calling the shots within Suzuki? If it is Denning then he needs to look at his own ethics - he seems to 'want his cake and eat it'.

Total votes: 40

Laverty/Fixi Suzuki et al.

Many great riders have never achieved their potential due to not having the right business deal at the right time and the current mess that Dorna have so smartly overseen at both Grand Prix and World Superbike only adds to the difficulties guys like Laverty, Davies and Camier face.
Each of them is a class act and potential champion, but without the right team, right crew, right backing, it simply wont happen.
Bit like baking a cake really.
As for Dani Pedrosa, on the subject of also rans, he has had what 9 years of works Honda machinery, and weighs 49kg, and has won exactly nothing.
His passport gains him his ride, not his ability to deliver the goods.
The Suzuki effort at both Grand Prix and WSB has been poor for years, the company appears to have no passion for competition, perhaps simply due to the meltdown in their business of selling sports bikes to the Western world.
I weep for the general direction of the sport, that a Spanish television company could do so much damage to what was a thrilling international set of series is hard to swallow.
Perhaps we could simply rename Grand Prix - La Liga Espanol comes to mind - we will have not one, not two, but three Spanish champions this season, fitting enough to finish up with a race in Spain, anyone without a Spanish passport would appear to be wasting their time in this series.
In the midst of all the banter and opinion about riders, the departure of Gigi Dall`Igna threw the cat among the pigeons and proves just how important the race engineer is to the whole team setup.
The business/corporate world is choking bike racing to death slowly in my view, as a Luddite, ever since people of the calibre of Kenny Roberts and Erv Kanemoto were shuffled offstage the sport has simply gone from bad to worse.
A terrible pity, let us cherish Club racing, small is beautiful

Total votes: 48

Not everything can be blamed on Dorna.......

although they can make themselves easy targets!

Honda chose to accept Repsol's demands as a title sponsor to have a Spaniard in the team just like Gressini had to have an Italian when San Carlo were picking up the bill.

That 2 Spanish riders are at Repsol is not Dorna's fault, DP is the teams contracted Spaniard, MM is just the once in a generation natural talent they couldn't afford to miss out on when their star rider retired early.

HRC will go back to a single Spaniard soon enough, I really fancy Scott Redding as a future HRC rider, but he's got a coupe of years to prove me wrong......

It's not Dorna's fault that Yamaha were desperate to sign Pol Espargo, and despite Dorna wanting to quietly dump Bautista into super bikes to thing down the Spanish contingent it's not Dorna's fault he's currently riding out of his skin.

Dorna are many things, I don't believe they are jingoistic, they want a broader spread of nationalities, its good for business.

I still believe going by the spirit of the rules Honda were right to cheapen the Moto 3 engines if followed through this would have opened up Moto 3 to more nationalities as there are a lot less people willing to throw money at bike racers around the world in comparison to Spain.

Total votes: 51

I think it's funny what

I think it's funny what everyone thinks of Pedrosa. If you really think about it, of all the motorcycle racers in the world at every level, I'm just gonna throw a number out...SAY 10 or 20 thousand racers. He's at least the third best in the WORLD! And only one of three who have a legitimate chance of winning a Grand Prix level race. Can any of you guys claim to be in the top 3 in the world at anything? Maybe picking your nose if you're lucky! Lol! Give the guy a break already.

Total votes: 56

I would appreciate a clarification regarding WSBK rules for 2014

I would be grateful if David or any of the other knowledgeable members here can tell me what rules is WSBK following next year. I know that the EVO class is an option but it becomes compulsory only for 2015 onwards. So what is the situation for 2014? Is it possible that factories can run their motorcycles as they are doing right now or do they switch to the Superstock model or some other model? An answer will be appreciated and thanks in advance.

Total votes: 45

I think WSBK would continue

Evo rules completely come into play from 2015. Till then Status Quo would be maintained. Although there will only be a sub-category for the EVO rules in WSBK 2014, all of the WSBK field will have to abide by them in the 2015 season.

The rules changes for the 2014 FIM Superbike World Championship season will be as follows:

A limited number of engines (eight) per rider/per season.
A limited number of gear ratios.
A price cap on the brakes.
A price cap on the suspensions.

Total votes: 34

Thanks Praveen

Thank you Praveen for the clarification. I thought I wasn't getting an answer from any one.

Total votes: 38

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