Fresh from Italy, we get our first glimpse of the 2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK race bike in its new livery. While the uniforms may look the same, the men wearing them have changed to some extent, and in many ways so has the Italian brand’s racing strategy.
Building its previous team around Max Biaggi, the previous incarnation of Aprilia Racing catered to every whim of The Roman Emperor — read into that as you will. But now with Biaggi’s retirement from motorcycle racing, Aprilia is forced to replace tried-and-true talent with two up-and-coming stars.
Out from behind Max’s shadow, Eugene Laverty is expected to impress this year, having shown himself a formidable rider on the RSV4 Factory last season with his sixth-place Championship finish. Seventh in the Championship himself, Sylvain Guintoli will join the Irishmen, after coming off a tumultuous season with Liberty Racing. With three race wins and six podiums, Guintoli made a definite impression, especially when he was on the slower Ducati.
With both of Aprilia Racing’s WSBK riders starting to come into their own, the Italian brand is showing a lot of growth potential in the premier production-motorcycle racing series. Time will tell on the results, but we expect a bevy of podiums from the Aprilia riders this year, and maybe a win or two. Mas photos after the jump.
As feared, the World Superbike grid seems likely to shrink for the 2013 Championship season, with only 19 riders listed on the provisional list by the FIM. Down from the 23 bikes on the grid at Phillip Island in 2012, the euro-centric series is still dealing with the economic downturn in Europe, which continues to linger in the important markets of Spain and Italy.
However though, it is of note that the difference in machines can be attributed to the absence of the Liberty Racing Team, which ran four riders in the early part of the 2012, before falling to pieces by the conclusion of the season. Only one former Liberty Racing rider returns to WSBK for 2013: Sylvain Guintoli, who will race on the factory Aprilia Racing team, with Maxime Berger, Jakub Smrz, and Brett McCormick unable to secure rides in WSBK for the coming season.
It has been no big secret that Sylvain Guintoli is riding with Aprilia Racing at the World Superbike test at Jerez this week, in what surely has been an audition for the Frenchman on the Italian team. Coming off a tumultuous season with the Effenbert Liberty Racing team, Guintoli backed out of a contract deal with Crescent Suzuki to take a stab with Aprilia’s factory squad — a move that has seemingly paid off for Guinters.
It seems we won’t get through each day of the week without an update on Ducati Corse’s World Superbike plans. After first hearing that Ducati Corse and Althea Racing had parted ways, with Ducati then confirming the news, it seems now the Italian brand is being linked to the Belgian Alstare Team, previously of Suzuki fame.
Talks between Ducati Corse and Team Alstare have been confirmed by Team Principal Francis Batta, with the negotiations between the two parties set to conclude tomorrow. Interestingly enough, the conclusion of the Alstare deal is fresh on the news of Althea Racing’s split from Ducati, which only adds more fuel to the speculation about the two parties.
Some more controversy is brooding for World Superbike rider Sylvain Guintoli, as Paul Denning and the FIXI Crescent Suzuki have slammed the British-living French-born rider for backing out of his 2013 commitments with the team. Issuing a statement to the press, Crescent Suzuki states that Guintoli and the team came to a “full and final agreement” at Magny-Cours, which was singed by the Frenchman.
According to Crescent Suzuki, Guinters made significant steps with the team to test at Aragaon starting today, but since that agreement, Guintoli has informed the team that he has to back out of his testing obligation in order to consider a new offer from a rival team. That rival team is heavily rumored to be Aprilia Racing, which may be scrambling to find a replacement rider for the still undecided Max Biaggi, the now-current World Superbike Champion.
For devout WSBK fans, the statements from FIXI Crescent Suzuki sound similar to those made by Liberty Racing, when the Czech team let Guintoli go mid-season, citing a number of reasons, including the Frenchman’s on-track results. Starting strong early on, Liberty Racing’s swan song started at Monza, and ultimately saw the team release its riders one-by-one, before finally missing the last race at Magny-Cours altogether.
For added Drama Llama, the press statement from FIXI Crescent Suzuki and Paul Denning is after the jump.