Despite the fact that the World Superbike series kicks off on Sunday, the provisional calendar is still very much in a state of flux. Rumors emanating from the WSBK paddock, gathered at Phillip Island for the 2013 season opener, suggest that major changes could stilll take place to the calendar.
The biggest change is that the UK round, set for Silverstone on 4th August, could be dropped altogether, and replaced with a round in Turkey, at the spectacular Istanbul Park Circuit in mid-September.
The rumors, reported by German-language website Speedweek, and confirmed by other WSBK sources, state that Silverstone is to be dropped because the circuit cannot afford to pay the sanctioning fee previously agreed with Infront, and now being demanded by Dorna.
Crowd numbers at Silverstone for World Superbikes were always low, in part because the flat nature of the circuit made viewing difficult, and in part due to relatively high ticket prices, which meant that ticket sales did not generate sufficient revenue to cover the circuit’s costs.
So here’s the good news, after all the uncertainty regarding its media contracts, the 2013 World Superbike Championship will be broadcasted in the United States afterall. The bad news however is that WSBK racing will be on the beIN Sport network. Yeah, we haven’t heard of them either.
Carlos Checa has removed any lingering doubts about the competitiveness of the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, after controlling the second and final day of testing for the World Superbike class at Phillip Island, and ending the test as fastest overall. The Spaniard started the day fast, and ended the day fast, maintaining a strong pace throughout.
Checa was fastest in both wet – or rather, damp – conditions and in the dry. The second day of testing started out with a damp track, a number of riders choosing to stay in the pits instead of risking uncertain conditions on the newly resurfaced track, but the track soon dried out, and conditions improved greatly in the afternoon.
Leon Camier has carried his strong form from last week’s private test at Phillip Island into the official test which started at the circuit on Monday. The FIXI Crescent Suzuki man used a race tire to lap half a second under Max Biaggi’s race lap record, then going on to post a strong race simulation.
The improvements the Crescent Suzuki squad have made, in conjunction with the Japanese Yoshimura company, are clearly paying off, the Suzuki lapping a second quicker than it did at the test last year.
Camier ended the session ahead of Pata Honda’s Leon Haslam, the Ten Kate team well on their way to mastering the new HRC electronics, with still some potential left to come. Haslam was within two tenths of Camier, and just a few thousandths behind Michel Fabrizio, the Italian impressing on the Red Devils Roma Aprilia.
The second day of the private test for the World Superbike teams at Phillip Island went very much as the first day did: with fast times, and a lot of crashes. The new surface was to blame for both: Leon Camier got half a second under the race lap record, but the on/off grip levels of the track saw him, and almost every one else, flung off their bikes at one point or another.
Camier ended the day fastest, the engine updates on his FIXI Crescent Suzuki improving the machine considerably, along with electronic updates for the bike. Sylvain Guintoli – the man Suzuki originally signed alongside Camier, but who jumped ship for the factory Aprilia ride – was 2nd, a tenth off the pace of Camier, proving that the Aprilia RSV4 still a potent weapon.
Johnny Rea put the Pata Honda into 3rd, with work continuing on ironing out the wrinkles with the HRC electronics, with both Rea and Haslam pleased with the progress made, though still aware of the task ahead. Marco Melandri was the fastest BMW man, though the Italian was wary of pushing too hard for fear of crashing, and adding further damage to his painful shoulder. Melandri did put in a long run on used tires, running a consistent string of laps around the 1’32 mark, a solid race pace.
While the Moto2 and Moto3 riders finish up their test at Valencia, on the other side of the world, the World Superbike and World Supersport riders are beginning the final run in to the season opener in 10 days’ time.
They started today with the first of two days of private testing, the first chance the riders get to see the resurfaced Phillip Island track. The overall reaction to the new surface was very positive, though the lack of rubber on the track caused a spot of mayhem in the morning, with several riders crashing out.
Fastest man of the day was Eugene Laverty on the factory Aprilia, the Irishman circulating at lap record pace, but still a second off the pole record. Leon Camier put the Fixi Suzuki into 2nd spot, ahead of the Pata Hondas of Johnny Rea and Leon Haslam, while Marco Melandri ended the day in 5th. Carlos Checa did not ride, as the 2011 World Champion was suffering with a stomach bug.
With the World Superbike season-opener now less than two weeks away, bad news looms for motorcycle race fans in the United States, as the SPEED Channel (now a part of FOX Sports), does not have a television contract to air WSBK and MotoGP for their 2013 seasons.
An issue that has been hanging in limbo since the start of the year, Superbike Planet yesterday suggested that American motorcycle racing fans could be without the World Superbike Championship on their televisions sets this year (we have heard similar murmurings regarding AMA Pro Racing as well).
Now today, Roadracing World confirmed with SPEED that the network still does not have any contracts with Dorna for the TV rights to WSBK and MotoGP. What’s worse, SPEED’s Vice President of Media Relations Erik Arneson gave no indication that the TV channel was any closer to finishing a deal with Dorna than it was earlier this year.
Ending a 14 year relationship, the 2013 World Superbike Championship season sees Team Alstare under the flag of a new manufacturer, as the Belgian squad closes its story with Suzuki Racing, and begin a new one with Ducati Corse. An adjustment for many in the paddock, the name Alstare has always been synonymous with Suzuki, though the team’s absence this last season was a noticeable one, as Team Alstare has always been one of the top crews in WSBK.
In that regard, it seems fitting then that Alstare should find a partnership with another great name in World Superbike racing, and so while the name Team Ducati Alstare sounds a bit strange to the ear, it makes sense in the head. Bidding goodbye to Suzuki, and hello to Ducati, Team Alstare has put together two videos, which have more than a touch of bittersweet to them. Clearly, this is a wound that will still require some time to heal.