The World Superbike team roster will grow a little bit next year, as Crescent Suzuki, formerly of British Superbike fame, will join the premier production motorcycle racing series. While there was considerable chatter over whom would ride for Crescent Suzuki, the British team has confirmed that Leon Camier will race on the company’s Suzuki GSX-R1000 race bike. Leaving some room for more paddock speculation, Crescent Suzuki says it will announce Camier’s teammate at a later date, an announcement that surely is influenced by whether or not John Hopkins makes a move to the MotoGP Championship for the 2012 season.
Officially official now, Eugene Laverty will not only switch to riding the Aprilia RSV4 Factory in the next World Superbike season, but the Irishman will also be Max Biaggi’s teammate in the factory Aprilia squad. Now displacing Leon Camier, Laverty had been signed earlier this month by the Italian factory, but there was uncertainty regarding whether the former-Yamaha rider would enter the factory team or the satellite PATA Racing squad. That speculation of course has been ended by Aprilia’s announcement, though it raises some other worthy questions.
Make no mistake about the fact that we are well into the 2011 Silly Season, a festive time where paddock gossip is rife with the movings and rumors of where riders and teams will land for the following season. With MotoGP set this weekend to make its second American appearance for the year, we are kicking off the rumormill reports properly with talk of where Colin Edwards will race in 2012. Rumored to be in World Superbike for 2012, the Texan Tornado has been linked to both a factory Ducati ride in WSBK and a factory seat at BMW Motorrad.
Speaking to Asphalt & Rubber and other journalists at a conference call hosted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday (a transcript of that is in the works), Edwards alluded to the fact that we wouldn’t hear about his future plans at Indy, and likely not at the San Marino GP as well. The Texan did clue the assembled press into the fact that he wasn’t ready to retire his racing spurs yet, and would likely be racing in some form or another for the 2012 season.
In a shocking statement made today, Yamaha has announced that it will be withdrawing its official presence from FIM Superbike World Championship at the conclusion of the 2011 season. After reviewing its marketing operations within Europe, Yamaha Motor Europe (the driving force behind the company’s WSBK effort) has decided its euros would be better spent on other events that directly engage potential Yamaha customers.
Yamaha says it remains committed to seeing Marco Melandri (3rd) and Eugene Laverty (4th) win the 2011 World Superbike Championship, though with four rounds remaining that would seem a tall order as Carlos Checa leads both Yamaha riders by 71 & 135 points respectively. Checa, of course, is on the “satellite” Althea Ducati team, which is rumored to have more links to Bologna than a sausage cook-off held in Ducati’s factory parking lot.
Marco Melandri has renewed his contract with the Yamaha World Superbike team for 2012, resulting in an unchanged line-up for the factory team next season. Teammate Eugene Laverty had signed a two-year contract with the Japanese team after moving up from nearly winning the World Supersport championship in 2010. The Italian, the 2002 250 GP world champion, has fared well in his rookie WSBK season and won three races to this point.
“Next year I’ll still be here in Superbike,” said Melandri. He continued, “After changing four bikes and four teams in the last four years I am very happy to be able to build something that will last rather than having to start over again every time.” He must also be happy with his results on circuits both familiar and new, having won pole once and been on the podium nine times in so far, including recent duels at Motorland Aragon and Brno with Max Biaggi.
Tom Sykes (1:55.197) was the surprising pole sitter for the 2011 World Superbike round at Misano, with Carlos Checa, Jakub Smrz, and Marco Melandri also on the front row. Saturday’s damp Superpole session made for a crash-fest, with Checa, Smrz, Eugene Laverty, Ruben Xaus, and Leon Camier, among others, all crashing. Neither Xaus nor Camier managed a time in S1 and qualified fifteenth and sixteenth, respectively. Sykes’ time was inspired, with the next-fastest Kawasaki of Joan Lascorz qualifying twelfth.
Third factory Kawasaki rider Chris Vermeulen was knocked out after the final qualifying practice, which is surprisingly good news for a rider that has yet to complete race distance in the 2011 season. Also recovering James Toseland was replaced for this weekend and next by Italian rider Lorenzo Lanzi, as his testing injury re-flared after the previous round in the United States. On Sunday morning, Checa was back into his top spot on the timesheets, leading Badovini, Fabrizio, Haga, and Smrz as the fastest five for the warm-up. Rea was taken to a local hospital after a heavy crash at Turn 11 in the warm-up, after being quite uncooperative in the medical center.
Carlos Checa (1:58.315) took pole from Jakub Smrz on his last lap of Sunday’s Superpole qualifying for the 2011 World Superbike round at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. Factory Yamaha riders Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty completed the front row of starters in a Superpole session marked with damp and drying conditions and a couple of crashes. Leon Camier, who will start twelfth, nearly ended his qualifying before it began with a huge highside on his first lap. Also at the end of the session, Max Biaggi, who will start seventh, had a minor incident in which he fell over at slow speed in the muddy grass. Sylvain Guintoli, Troy Corser, Biaggi, and Ayrton Badovini will start on the second row for tomorrow’s races.
Checa was his usual fastest self in the first free and qualifying practices on Saturday, setting times well ahead of the rest despite issues with his Ducati. Camier, Biaggi, Smrz, and Fabrizio completed the fastest five riders in the first session, while the Aprilia duo were again second and third in the first qualifying practice. Sykes and Corser were the provisional fourth and fifth place starters. Waters, in his wild card entry for Yoshimura Suzuki, just squeaked through to Superpole in fifteenth fastest.
Reigning World Champion Max Biaggi started his home round of the 2011 World Superbike season at Monza on pole after publicly declaring that this was a weekend to make up points after mistakes at earlier rounds. He started his quest to do so with aplomb, breaking the WSBK speed record and spending extra time on track while doing so. Eugene Laverty, Jonathan Rea, and Tory Corser joined Biaggi on the front row for the start of the second race, leaving Carlos Checa surprisingly down in eleventh after a poor set of Superole sessions on Saturday for the points leader. Most riders had multiple, possibly crucial, laps deleted after running across the chicane.
Meanwhile, injuries continued to plague men already suffering from them. Chris Vermeulen added to his set of scars by tearing the skin on his elbow during a practice crash. That injury, only able to be partially closed, left him unable to race on Sunday. Meanwhile James Toseland also sat out Sunday’s races, despite some vigorous autograph signing, on his predicted return to the WSBK paddock after a testing crash left him with wires in his wrist. Later, Haslam returned to the top of the timesheets in the morning sunshine at Monza, with Biaggi, Laverty, Corser, and Camier the fastest five in Sunday morning’s warmup.
Max Biaggi proved a point to start the first 2011 World Superbike race at home at Monza by being on the pole, breaking speed records and blowing away his own times along the way. The reigning Champion dominated Saturday’s Superpole sessions, going so far as to flog his Aprilia around the circuit whilst the rest of the riders sat in the garages, comfortable with Biaggi’s position. Eugene Laverty, Jonathan Rea, and Troy Corser joined him in starting on the front row, with Laverty’s lap time more than six tenths slower than Biaggi’s.
Even after dominating qualifying through the first three rounds, Carlos Checa had to settle for an eleventh starting position. Meanwhile, those who have not had such good fortune through the early season continued with their bad luck. James Toseland, set to make his return after a testing injury kept him from Donington Park and Assen, participated in Friday’s sessions, but not the final qualifying practice. Nor did he race, though he was busy signing autographs with that injured wrist through the weekend.
Racing for some redemption, Max Biaggi (1:41.745) proved a point in winning pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Monza, returning to the track to best his own qualifying time after most riders had returned to their garages. Biaggi also bested his record top speed (334.8 kph/208.035 mph) from an earlier practice session in qualifying. He will be joined on the front row for his home race by Eugene Laverty, Jonathon Rea, and Troy Corser. Meanwhile, points leader Carlos Checa was knocked out in Superpole 2 and will start eleventh. Most riders fell afoul of the Monza chicane at least once, having their lap times ruined and deleted by cutting across the feature.
Rea (1:43.712) was the first to go fastest for the weekend, leading Corser, Badovini, and Biaggi in the first free practice on Friday morning. Haslam (1:42.934) took his turn to put the quick BMW on provisional pole in the afternoon qualifying practice, though it was Biaggi breaking the WSBK speed record that garnered more attention for the Italian in front of the home crowd. Laverty and Badovini, who was again quick Friday afternoon, completed the provisional front row. Meanwhile, James Toseland, Badovini’s returning teammate, was only twenty-first quickest in QP. Also recovering Chris Vermeulen did not ride in the afternoon session, after an off in the morning required a visit to the medical center and stitches on his elbow.