Latest World Superbike News
Randy De Puniet is to make a return to racing full time. As had been rumored for some weeks now, the Frenchman is to make the switch to the World Superbike series, where he will join the Crescent Suzuki team for 2015. De Puniet will race alongside Alex Lowes next year, aboard the Suzuki GSX-R1000.
After losing his ride with the Aspar team at the end of 2013, De Puniet has spent 2014 as Suzuki's official test rider, helping to develop the bike now dubbed the GSX-RR. The only racing action he had seen was with the Yoshimura team during the Suzuka 8 Hour race, where he finished in second place with teammates Josh Waters and Takuya Tsuda. But De Puniet was keen to return to racing full time, and with no vacancies in MotoGP, the World Superbike series was the obvious choice. Racing with the Crescent team allows him to stay with Suzuki as a test rider, and retain his strong ties with the Japanese factories.
Alongside his duties in WSBK, De Puniet will continue development work on the Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP machine, with a particular focus on 2016. De Puniet will mainly be working on getting the GSX-RR to work with the Michelin tires, due to replace Bridgestone at the start of the 2016 season. He will also be helping to make the bike work with the so-called unified software which is to be introduced at the same time.
With new technical regulations set to come into effect for the 2015 season in World Superbikes, the Superbike Commission has decided to lift its customary testing ban. Instead of testing being prohibited for the months of December and January, the World Superbike and World Supersport teams will be allowed to continue testing, with only a short break over the holiday period. Testing will no be banned from 21st December 2014 to 4th January 2015.
The change was made at the request of the teams. With the technical regulations undergoing a radical overhaul for the 2015 season, the teams felt they needed a lot more testing time to identify and fix problems with the new bikes. Extracting sufficient horsepower while maintaining reliability, to comply with the limited engine allocation, had been a major concern. The extended period gives the teams a little more time to prepare for the 2015 season.
The current change has only been made for the 2015 season. With the rules set to stabilize for the future, a test ban is likely to be reinstated for the winter of 2015/2016.
You can read the text of the press release announcing the change on the FIM website (PDF document).
Alex Lowes has extended his contract with the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team for another season. The 24-year-old Englishman is to stay in World Superbikes for 2015, where he will race the GSX-R1000.
Lowes' decision brings an end to rumors that the Englishman was set to join his brother in the Grand Prix paddock. Lowes had explored a number of options in Moto2, but none stacked up against remaining with the Voltcom Suzuki team in WSBK.
Who Lowes' teammate will be is uncertain. With Eugene Laverty set to move to MotoGP with the Aspar team, there is an empty seat in the team. The departure of Aprilia from WSBK puts a number or riders on the market, with Leon Camier and Loris Baz the top riders still without a ride
The press release from Suzuki announcing the re-signing of Lowes appears below:
LOWES RE-SIGNS FOR VOLTCOM CRESCENT SUZUKI
Team Suzuki Press Office – September 25.
Alex Lowes will continue his partnership with Voltcom Crescent Suzuki for the 2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship season.
Lowes is confident his progression with the Suzuki GSX-R will allow him to become a consistent front-runner during his second season in the Championship and the British racer is eager to return to the tracks he has been learning as part of his apprenticeship year.
Michael van der Mark will be moving up to the World Superbike class for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The move had been widely expected, after the 22-year-old Dutchman had shown a very strong progression in his second World Supersport season, culminating in clinching the title with a thrilling at the last round in Jerez.
Van der Mark is to stay with the Ten Kate team, who recognized his talent early and supported him throughout his European Superstock 600 and World Supersport career, putting him on the CBR1000RR in the Pata Honda WSBK squad. Though Van der Mark will be staying with the team, his contract is now directly with Honda, rather than with Ten Kate. The deal with Honda is a three-year one, with Van der Mark aiming to make the move to MotoGP after two seasons in World Superbikes with Pata Honda.
The Dutchman will be taking the place of the departing Jonathan Rea in the Pata Honda team. Though Rea had come close to signing a deal in the MotoGP paddock, where he had several offers, the 27-year-old is to make the switch to the Kawasaki team, where he will attempt to dethrone his new teammate and World Superbike champion Tom Sykes. The second slot in the Pata Honda team will be taken by Sylvain Guintoli.
Below is the press release issued by the Pata Honda team:
Two years of World Superbike for van der Mark and Honda
No Points Compensation For Loss Of South African World Superbike Round - Three Rounds Left In 2014 Championship
The loss of the South African round of World Superbikes, when the safety improvements to the Welkom circuit could not be completed in time for homologation, meant that the WSBK calendar had lost two rounds from its 2014 calendar, with both South Africa and the Moscow Raceway event having been scrapped. Two rounds meant the loss of two World Supersport races and four World Superbike races, a total of 50 points for WSS and 100 points for WSBK.
The loss of those points left both championships much closer to being decided. Tom Sykes leads the World Superbike championship by 44 points with 150 points stil at stake, while Michael van der Mark is even closer to the World Supersport championship, leading Jules Cluzel by 53 points with just 75 points left. The teams, but most especially the riders, felt that they had had a chance to try to reopen the championship races taken away from them.
Dorna, the teams, the manufacturers and the FIM tried to find a solution to this quandary. Various proposals were made, including adding an extra round at another track, adding extra races on the existing three weekends left, and scoring double points at one of the last rounds. Finding a track willing and able to host a round of World Superbikes at very late notice was a non-runner from the start, leaving only an extra race or extra points.
Tom Sykes will be staying on with Kawasaki for two more seasons. Kawasaki today announced that the Yorkshireman has signed a contract to remain with the Japanese factory in World Superbikes for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
The announcement does not come as a surprise. Sykes has known great success with Kawasaki since leaving Yamaha after his first year in World Superbikes. All of Sykes' wins in the class have come aboard a green machine, and the Yorkshireman won his first World Superbike title with Kawasaki last year. Currently leading the 2014 championship by 44 points, his second successive title is within grasp. The Kawasaki ZX-10R remains a highly competitve package, and Sykes is a good fit inside the team.
Unlike many of his fellow WSBK riders, Sykes was never in the frame for a MotoGP ride. Sykes had shown little interest in making the jump to MotoGP, unless he could be on top-flight machinery. With all of the factory bikes tied up, and the satellite slots largely spoken for, there was little room for Sykes, even if he had been interested in a move. Instead, Sykes preferred to stay on in World Superbikes, and chase more WSBK titles.
Below is the press release issued by Kawasaki on the Sykes signing:
Tom Sykes To Remain With KRT For Two More Years
Leon Camier turned a lot of heads at Indianapolis in his first ride on the Drive M7 Aspar Honda production racer. The Englishman was drafted in to replace Nicky Hayden while he recovers from surgery, but despite it being the first time he rode a MotoGP bike, the Bridgestone tires, carbon brakes, and the Indianapolis circuit, Camier was very quickly up to speed with the other Open class Hondas.
Having a fast rider come in to MotoGP from World Superbikes allows a number of comparisons to be made. Among the most interesting is the difference in technology and tires. At Brno, Camier explained the difference in feel and cornering between the World Superbike Pirellis and the MotoGP Bridgestones. The front tire, especially, is a completely different kettle of fish, requiring a different style, and therefore different set up.
"The main [differene] for me is the tires and the brakes," Camier told us, "the tires being the biggest one. It's just that you have so much more front grip and with angle that you can brake and turn in with the brake on. [The front tire] is adjusting itself to be able to do that."
Yet another manufacturer is to enter MotoGP, it was announced yesterday. KTM is to join Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki and, most probably, Aprilia in MotoGP, with KTM moving up to the premier class in 2017, a year after the new regulations take effect and Michelin takes over as single tire supplier.
The news was announced by KTM CEO Stefan Pierer, in an exclusive interview with the German-language website Speedweek. In that interview, Pierer set out the approach KTM will take to MotoGP, which will be a departure from the more traditional route of the other manufacturers in the class. The idea is not to enter as a factory team, but to build a bike and make it available to customer teams, much as they currently do in Moto3.
That bike will be a 1000cc V4, housed in a tubular steel trellis frame. The bike will have suspension from KTM subsidiary WP, as supplied with the Moto3 machines. Design work has already started on the V4 engine, and it is due to be tested on the dyno for the first time in May 2015. The complete bike will take to the track at the end of 2015, with 2016 being used to complete development of the bike, ready for the 2017 season. Pierer told Speedweek that wildcard appearances in the second half of 2016 are a definite possibility. The bike will be available to interested teams at a price of around 1 million euros, Pierer said, as that is the price at which Dorna has been trying to get the manufacturers to supply MotoGP bikes.
The 2014 World Superbike calendar has been updated once again. The South African round of WSBK has been canceled, after the Phakisa Freeway track failed homologation. Work was being carried out on the circuit to allow it to meet requirements, but the work will not be finished on time. Dorna and the FIM are looking at finding a replacement for the dropped South African round, but at such short notice, and with attendance at WSBK events being disappointing, that will be difficult.
While the South African round was canceled, the Qatar race was confirmed. The racing at Qatar is to be held at night under the floodlights, just as MotoGP is. As this is also the last round of the season, the traditional awards ceremony will also be held in Qatar, though it will be held on the Monday after the race, rather than very late at night.
The cancellation of the South African round does not have direct consequences for the World Superbike championship chase, but it could have an effect for World Supersport. With just three rounds to go now, Pata Honda rider Michael van der Mark has a 53-point lead. That means that the Dutchman needs to score just 2 more points than Jules Cluzel, the man in second place, to clinch the title.
Below is the official press release from the FIM and Dorna on the 2014 World Superbike calendar:
Kawasaki's Tom Sykes leaves the two-day official World Superbike test with his authority firmly stamped on the WSBK field. The Yorkshireman was nearly a quarter of a second faster than Aprilia's Sylvain Guintoli, and nearly four tenths quicker than his teammate Loris Baz. Marco Melandri was six tenths off the pace of Sykes, with the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies setting the fifth and sixth best times.
Neither Sykes nor Baz had much to work on besides further perfecting set up of the Kawasaki ZX-10R. The development work was handed to EVO rider David Salom, who spent time developing the 2015 version of the bike Kawasaki will race next year. Despite the rule changes coming next season, the Kawasaki is still more closer to a Superbike than an EVO bike, Kawasaki manager Guim Roda told German website Speedweek.
The Superbike Commission, the body which runs the World Superbike championship, has finally agreed on a set of technical regulations for World Superbikes for 2015. The initial idea to switch to EVO regulations has now been dropped, with a compromise found to allow greater freedom of tuning, and retain more parity between production bikes. Electronics will remain open, though they will be regulated by price and must remain freely available.
The dropping of full EVO regulations came as a result of pressure from manufacturers such as Suzuki and Honda, whose current bikes are focused more on the road than, say, the Ducati and Aprilia. To remain competitive, they needed more freedom to tune the engine than the proposed Superstock regulations allow. Given the dominance of Ducati and Kawasaki in Superstock, the EVO regulations could have discouraged manufacturers from getting involved in World Superbike.
With just a single round of the World Superbike championship taking place in the UK, those involved in the series are making a serious effort to try to revive the glory days of British World Superbike races, which saw up to 100,000 fans flock to the events. The charity Riders for Health, the Donington Park circuit, and the UK-based team Voltcom Crescent Suzuki are all playing their part to try to create some more buzz around the event.
The World Superbike weekend opens with the Day of Dreams, organized by Riders for Health to raise money for motorcycle racing's favorite charity. For £15, fans will be able to purchase a ticket giving pit lane and paddock access, catch the World Superbike riders question and answer session and paddock show, get autographs from their favorite riders, and take part in a special Riders for Health pit walk, and get a close up look at the WSBK and WSS machinery. The day will end with a special auction for Riders for Health. For £95, a select group of people will also have the chance to put in some track time under the watchful eye of British legends Ron Haslam and Niall Mackenzie.
The Russian round of World Superbikes, due to be held at Moscow Raceway on 21st September, has been canceled. Citing the political iinstability caused by the situation in Ukraine, Dorna announced that the round would be canceled for this year, though the intention is to continue to run the race next year and for the rest of the contract. The situation surrounding Ukraine and the Crimea has made it impossible for several companies involved in organizing the Russian race to guarantee they can be ready in time for the race in September.
The press release issued by Dorna appears below:
WSBK Russian Round cancellation
Barcelona (Spain), Saturday 12 April 2014 - DWO and YMS Promotion have decided to cancel the WSBK Russian Round which was scheduled to be held at Moscow Raceway on September 21st 2014.
The current political situation affects the capabilities of a number of key partner companies essential to run the event.
Parties regret the decision, but are confident that the strong partnership between DWO and YMS Promotion will prevail.
It is a common intention to continue with the organisation of the WSBK Russian Round in 2015 and for the remainder of the contract period up to 2021.
The continuing worldwide decline in sports bike sales has forced the Superbike Commission to reduce the minimum number of motorcycles to be produced for homologation, to be allowed to take part in the World Superbike series. As of now, manufacturers wishing to race a particular motorcycle must have sold 250 bikes by the end of their first year of racing in WSBK, and 1000 bikes by the end of the second year, half the requirements previously on the books. But manufacturers will still have to have produced 125 bikes before they can even embark on the homologation procedure.
The sales numbers have been reduced in response to the continuing decline in sales of large and middleweight sports bikes around the world, under pressure from increasing speed restrictions and monitoring on public roads. Even Honda is reportedly having problems selling the required numbers of the CBR1000RR SP, despite the popularity of the bike. The declining sports bike market is rumored to have persuaded Honda to shelve its V4 sports bike, which has already been postponed once. Smaller manufacturers have faced similar problems, with Aprilia struggling to sell the RSV4, despite the bike having won two world championships and consistently been a championship contender.