UPDATE 3: Michel Fabrizio has signed-on with Alstare Suzuki team for 2011.
UPDATE 2: Leon Haslam has signed with the BMW Factory Squad.
UPDATE: It’s being reported that Noriyuki Haga has agreed to ride with the DFX team on a factory Aprilia RSV4, with an announcement delayed out of deference to Biaggi’s impending WSBK crowning.
While the MotoGP silly season is just starting to wind down, the World Superbike shuffling of riders is apparently just getting underway. So far this silly season we’ve seen Marco Melandri make the switch into WSBK Racing, joining the young Eugene Laverty in the Sterilgarda Yamaha squad, and clearly displacing James Toseland from a job. Johnny Rea has also been in the news, confirming that he’d be with Ten Kate Honda next season, despite being only two years into a three year contract, which was a strange announcement at the very least.
After Ducati’s little spat with Infront Motor Sports last month, the Xerox Ducati Team will be no more in 2011, leaving factory riders Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki S.O.L. when it comes to gainful employment, which is where our fist batch of silly season rumors starts us. If Moto.it‘s Carlo Baldi is to be believed (he is the listed press officer for Althea Ducati after all), Haga will find himself on a satellite Aprilia ride, while Michel Fabrizio will go to Alstare Suzuki. If you’re a die-hard WSBK fan you may realize that means that current Alstare Suzuki star Leon Haslam must be finding work elsewhere, with Baldi putting the British rider in the factory BMW squad. Still with us?
It’s not a big secret that Noriyuki Haga has had a dismal season in World Superbike this year. After narrowly missing the WSBK Championship victory last year, Haga has fallen off the map in 2010. Currently sitting 6th in the standings, Haga has been bested by Ducati satellite rider Carlos Checa in the standings, where the Spanish rider is currently 4th with a 22 point lead over Haga (Checa is expected to re-sign with Althea Ducati). Falling from grace, and with Ducati locking up shop, Haga is being linked to the private Aprilia team of Pata Boricani, which allegedly is merging with the DFX team.
Haga’s teammate Michel Fabrizio has faired better in finding a new job, with the Italian rider being linked to the Alstare Suzuki squad. Fabrizio got his WSBK start with Alstare Suzuki, riding for the team in the World Stock 1000 series back in 2003, so in a way this will be a homecoming for both team and rider. Despite this, Alstare Suzuki is apparently less than thrilled by the outcome, hoping to retain the services of Leon Haslam instead.
Sitting second in the World Superbike series, Haslam was on a short list of WSBK candidates that could see graduation into the MotoGP ranks. Imploring Suzuki to get more involved with the Alstare Suzuki’s “factory” racing efforts, Haslam hoped the Japanese factory would make the necessary developmental steps to help him challenge Max Biaggi and the Aprilia RSV4’s gear-driven camshaft for the World Superbike title. With a 58 point deficit and only four races left in the season, Haslam has seen his Championship dreams all but fade away, as even Aprilia has halted development on the RSV4 Factory WSBK bike and Biaggi (who still hasn’t re-signed with Aprilia) has signaled that he’ll be riding with Championship points in mind (i.e. not in the front of the pack).
Frustrated by the lack of true factory support, Leon Halsam has apparently looked for greener pastures, and has found them in the factory BMW squad, which has been investing heavily in its World Superbike program and S1000RR product launch. Expected to join Tory Corser next year, Haslam will be a welcomed replacement for Ruben Xaus who…well…won’t be working there anymore.
Like any good game of musical chairs, someone must be left without a seat for next year. Hoping not to be that man, James Toseland could find himself back with Ten Kate Honda, should the team find the extra funds to field a second bike alongside Johnny Rea. Should that deal fall through, we could see JT singing show tunes in an off-Broadway rendition of Little Orphan Annie. We’re pretty sure we made that last part up.