As we expected, the GRT Yamaha squad is moving out of the World Supersport Championship, and into the World Superbike Championship for the 2019 season.
Riding for the GRT Yamaha squad is not who we expected however, though it will be two big names in the sport: former world champions Marco Melandri and Sandro Cortese.
Melandri makes the defection from Ducati, where he was reportedly paying for his ride, to Yamaha. He hopes to best his fifth place in the 2018 championship standings. Meanwhile, Cortese comes into the World Superbike racing having just won the World Supersport Championship title.
Factory-backed in World Supersport last year, the GRT Yamaha team will keeps its factory status next year as well, which leaves Yamaha with four factory-backed YZF-R1 racing machines on the grid in 2019.
Our Paddock Pass Podcast colleague Neil Morrison is reporting on Crash.net that Tom Sykes has signed with the Shaun Muir Racing team for the 2019 World Superbike season, and that the team is set to switch machinery from Aprilia to BMW.
Markus Reiterberger will join Sykes on the factory-backed BMW team, as he has the correct passport to appease the German brand.
Of course, all of this came as a surprise to Eugene Laverty, who talked about his surprise at the news, which is set to be announced at next week’s EICMA show in Milan.
In what has to be the most strongly worded press release we have seen in this business, MV Agusta and Forward Racing made it crystal clear why there were terminating their relationship with rider Romano Fenati, who was set to join the Italian company’s Moto2 project next season.
“In all my years of watching sport, I have never seen behavior as dangerous as this,” said MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni. “A rider who can act like this can never represent the values of our company for our brand. For this reason, we do not want him to be the rider with which MV Agusta makes its return to the World Championship.”
Even those who don’t follow motorcycle racing are talking about Fenati’s actions from this past weekend’s San Marino GP, where the 22-year-old Italian grabbed the brake lever of Stefano Manzi, as the pair raced at over 130 mph.
The 2019 MotoGP grid is now as good as complete. Today, the Reale Avintia squad announced they have signed a two-year contract with Karel Abraham which will see him racing a Ducati for the team for the next two seasons.
The announcement had been widely expected. Xavier Simeon has not lived up to expectations and failed to adapt to MotoGP, and Avintia were looking for a replacement. Abraham had been left without a team after the Aspar / Angel Nieto Team passed their grid slots to the Petronas Yamaha team, which had already signed riders for the coming season. Abraham needed a team, and Avintia needed a rider who could bring money, to replace the money lost when Simeon departed.
Ever since MV Agusta announced that it was going to return to the Grand Prix paddock with a Moto2 team, the question has been who would ride the Italian squad’s Moto2 machine, dubbed the MV Agusta F2.
Today, we have that answer, as Romano Fenati has been named as one of two MV Agusta Reparto Corse riders.
The signing of Fenati is an interesting move by Forward Racing and MV Agusta, as the Italian rider has struggled this season in Moto2 (his first season in the intermediate class), and comes with some tumultuous baggage from his Moto3 days.
Still, the raw talent of Fenati is widely hailed, and with the right machinery and the right team environment, that talent can be honed and matured.
Cal Crutchlow has added an extra year onto his contract with HRC to race in the LCR Honda team for the 2020 season.
This means the Englishman will be remaining at the LCR Honda team for the next two years, bringing him into line with almost the whole of the rest of the MotoGP grid.
At the end of the 2020 season, Crutchlow will be involved in the next wave of contract madness, with all factory seats (with the possible exception of one Ducati seat), falling open at the same time.
Crutchlow’s announcement will not be the only one to take place today. Alvaro Bautista is scheduled to be in the Thursday press conference at Silverstone, where he is expected to announce he has signed for the Aruba.it Ducati team in WorldSBK.
For the 2019 World Superbike Championship season, we will see Leon Haslam lining up alongside teammate Jonathan Rea in the factory-backed Kawasaki Racing Team.
The announcement became officially official today, but it has been a long time coming from Kawasaki. Parting ways with Tom Sykes earlier this month, Haslam’s signing has been rumored in the WorldSBK paddock for many weeks now.
The WorldSBK series may be on its summer hiatus, but there is still plenty of news going on. After the official announcement that Tom Sykes would not be back with the KRT Kawasaki team, it is the turn of the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK squad to make announcements.
Today, the team issued a statement saying that current riders Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes will remain with the team for the 2019 season.
Though the announcement did not come as a surprise, it does close the door to Tom Sykes, who had been linked to a possible ride with Pata Yamaha, had either Van der Mark or Lowes moved to the Kawasaki team to replace him.
But with Leon Haslam set to take the second seat next to Jonathan Rea, Sykes will have to look elsewhere.
These are the first signs that WorldSBK’s silly season is about to accelerate over the summer. There are still a lot of open questions left in the WorldSBK series, and a lot of open seats.
Jonathan Rea will spend another two years at the Kawasaki Racing Team garage, in the World Superbike Championship paddock, with the British rider signing a two-year contract with the factory Kawasaki team this week.
The news is perhaps not a surprise to the WorldSBK loyal, but Rea’s continuance with Kawasaki was by no means a sure thing, with the now three-time World Superbike champion having several competing offers in the paddock, as well as links to rides in the MotoGP Championship.
Choosing to stay at Kawasaki, and likely add more race-wins and championship titles to his record in the process, Rea continues the unstoppable force that is himself and the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.
Joan Mir is to move up to MotoGP next year, and will be racing in the factory ECSTAR Suzuki team, for at least the next two seasons.
The signing had been widely expected, as the name of Mir had been linked to Suzuki for the past month or so.
The Spanish youngster is highly rated throughout the MotoGP paddock, and been pursued by Honda and Ducati, as well as Suzuki, according to his manager.
Mir has been chosen over both current rider Andrea Iannone and veterans Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa. Lorenzo had been linked to the ride since early this year, but in the end, Suzuki bosses back in Hamamatsu, Japan preferred to go with youthful potential over an established star.
After the announcement that Jorge Lorenzo will race in Repsol Honda colors next season, as predicted the rest of the silly season puzzle pieces are falling into place.
First up it seems is Danilo Petrucci, who will move up into the factory Ducati Corse squad for the 2019 MotoGP season.
Ever since it was clear that Lorenzo would be leaving Ducati, only two names have really been considered as worthy replacements for the Spanish rider, one being Danilo Petrucci, and the other being Jack Miller.
With Petrucci leading Miller in the MotoGP Championship standings, and often fighting at the front of the pack, the choice for Ducati seems obvious in retrospect.