Rainy conditions abound in Assen for the Dutch round of World Superbikes, and the wet weather has already claimed its first victim: Pata Honda’s Leon Haslam. Catching his foot in the wheel during a crash in FP1, Haslam fractured both his tibia and fibula on his left leg during the off, and has been unfortunately ruled out of the Sunday’s race.
After very publicly imploding part-way through the 2012 season with its four-rider team, which included a dust-up between the Czech team and French Rider Sylvain Guintoli, it would seem that Team Effenbert Liberty Racing is ready to give things another go, though on a much smaller scale.
Accordingly, after missing the season-opener at Phillip Island, Liberty Racing will once again compete in the World Superbike Championship, and plans to campaign the rest of the 2013 season with Mark Aitchison on a Ducati Superibke 1098R.
The news that Dorna had been handed control over the World Superbike series struck terror into the hearts of WSBK fans around the globe. The fear was Dorna would use its position of controlling both World Superbikes and MotoGP to widen the technical gap between the two series in an attempt to cut costs.
With Dorna having so often complained that World Superbikes was encroaching on MotoGP territory, and with MotoGP’s technical regulations becoming ever more restrictive, the logical step would appear to be to severely restrict the level of machinery used in WSBK.
Over the winter, and during the first round of the 2013 World Superbike series, talks between Dorna, the Superbike teams, and the manufacturers involved in the series failed to make much headway. The factories could not agree among themselves what level of modification to allow, while the teams were unimpressed by Dorna’s demands that a WSBK machine should cost 250,000 euros a season, stating that the money saved in the bike would only be spent elsewhere.
Talks had continued at the IRTA test at Jerez, with Dorna’s new World Superbike boss Javier Alonso present, and engaged in private discussions with the bosses of HRC, Shuhei Nakomoto, Yamaha Motor Racing, Shigeto Kitegawa, and Ducati Corse, Bernhard Gobmeier.
We have learned that since then, further telephone discussions have taken place with Kawasaki boss Ichiro Yoda and Suzuki’s Shinichi Sahara, while Alonso had previously spoken to Aprilia Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna at the Jerez circuit, during their test there.
When the news that Dorna would be taking over World Superbikes broke, there was a wave of outrage among fans, expressing the fear that the Spanish company would set about destroying the series they had grown to love.
So far, Dorna has been careful not to get involved in debates about the technical regulations which seem to be so close to fans’ hearts, its only criteria so far appearing to be a demand that bikes should cost 250,000 euros for an entire season.
Yet it has already make one move which has a serious negative impact on the series: it is clamping down on video footage from inside the paddock.
There was some consternation – and there is still some confusion – about the situation at the first round of WSBK at Phillip Island at the end of February. Where previously, teams and journalists had been free to shoot various videos inside the paddock, there were mixed signals coming from Dorna management, with some people told there was an outright and immediate ban, with threats of serious consequences should it be ignored, while others were saying that they had heard nothing on the subject.
That Dorna is determined to reduce the amount of free material on YouTube became immediately clear after the race weekend was over: in previous years, brief, two-minute race summaries would appear on the official World Superbike Youtube channel after every weekend. After the first race of 2013, only the post-race interviews were posted on the site. It is a long-standing Dorna policy to try to strictly control what ends up on YouTube and what doesn’t. It is its most serious mistake, and one which could end up badly damaging the sport unless it is changed very soon.
It would appear fears that the World Superbike round at Silverstone is to be dropped are misplaced, as paddock rumors that Silverstone was back on the calendar emerged last night, with confirmation coming from Silverstone today, from the circuit’s Facebook page.
Accordingly, the race at Silverstone will take place on August 4th, and will see World Superbike, World Supersport, and the Superstock 1000 and 600 classes compete.
Good news from down under, as Dorna has decided to extend its contract with Australia’s racing cathedral, Phillip Island. Already set with a contract through the 2014 racing calendar, Dorna’s new contract extension with Phillip Island sees the Victorian track hosting World Superbikes through the 2017 racing season — and thus secures Melbourne’s position as a sports leader in Australia.
The news comes fresh off the commencement of the 2013 World Superbike Championship season, which held its opening round at the Australian circuit. Phillip Island has been the WSBK season-opening round since 2009, and is known for its close-racing in the production-based series.