Randy De Puniet is to make a return to racing full time. As had been rumored for some weeks now, the Frenchman is to make the switch to the World Superbike series, where he will join the Crescent Suzuki team for 2015. De Puniet will race alongside Alex Lowes next year, aboard the Suzuki GSX-R1000.
After losing his ride with the Aspar team at the end of 2013, De Puniet has spent 2014 as Suzuki’s official test rider, helping to develop the bike now dubbed the GSX-RR. The only racing action he had seen was with the Yoshimura team during the Suzuka 8 Hour race, where he finished in second place with teammates Josh Waters and Takuya Tsuda.
It is no secret that Eugene Laverty is keen to move to MotoGP for the 2015 season. The Irishman has been present at the last three MotoGP rounds, touting his services around the teams in the hope of securing a ride. He has been in talks with Forward, Pramac, and Aspar about a ride in 2015, but as yet, no deal has been announced.
It is certain that one has been signed, however. Today, the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team – his team in World Superbikes – issued a press release wishing Laverty well on his step up to MotoGP. No details were given of where Laverty is headed, other than that he will not be in World Superbikes in 2015, but will be racing in MotoGP.
At the Assen round of World Superbikes two weeks’ ago, we caught up with Voltcom Crescent Suzuki boss Paul Denning, to get his vision on how the new technical regulations proposed for World Superbike from 2015 onwards would affect Suzuki’s WSBK effort.
Denning gave us a fascinating alternative view of the regulations, emphasizing that revenue generation was at least as important as cost cutting, and warning against false economies that could end up destroying the close racing World Superbikes has traditionall enjoyed.
Denning also covered just where he saw the biggest costs in World Superbike racing, and how the new TV schedule has impacted the series, and could spell the end of the one-bike rule in WSBK.
It’s been a busy time for motorcycle racing in the south of Spain. With the winter test ban about to commence, and now in force for both MotoGP and World Superbikes, the teams are heading south to get some development work done while they still can.
For the World Superbike and MotoGP Open class teams, their destination is Jerez, while Moto2 and Moto3 are at Almeria, in Spain’s southeastern corner.
At Jerez, Suzuki has just wrapped up a test, and Yakhnich Motorsport are taking the MV Agusta F4RR out for its first spin. The Jerez test was Eugene Laverty’s first opportunity to ride the Suzuki GSX-R1000, after the Irishman had signed for the Crescent Suzuki team, who have swapped title sponsors from Fixi to Voltcom.
The Istanbul Park round of World Superbikes proved to be particularly punishing. Carlos Checa fractured a hip, Ayrton Badovini hurt his ankle, and Leon Camier broke the bones in his right foot in seven places. Crescent Suzuki has announced that they would be replacing the injured Camier with American rider Blake Young for the US round of World Superbikes at Laguna Seca.
John Hopkins is to take a year out from racing to allow himself to recover fully from the multiple serious injuries that have plagued him throughout the 2012 season. In particular, a nagging hip injury first incurred at Monza has forced the American to take a break from racing, in order to allow his injuries to heal completely before attempting to race again.
It is a rare thing for motorcycle racers to make sensible decisions when it comes to recovering from injury, so for Hopkins to take the step to focus on his recovery is a major step. The American has suffered several serious injuries throughout his career, but his 2012 season has been particularly blighted by bad luck and mishap. His season got off to a difficult start, falling heavily at Phillip Island and breaking his hand at a pre-season test in Australia.
He had already been having difficult with that hand, as he had injured it in a crash at Brno aboard Suzuki’s MotoGP bike, an injury that never really healed properly. After having the finger he had broken amputated when it became infected after multiple surgeries, Hopkins appeared to be on his way back until the crash at Monza in which he broke a hip.
It is a risk for Hopkins to take a year out from racing, as securing a ride for 2014 will not be easy. However, his options at the moment are extremely limited, and with Suzuki set to make a return to MotoGP in 2014, he may yet get a second shot at the championship. After the jump is the press release issued by Suzuki on Hopkins’ decision to take a year away from racing:
If John Hopkins didn’t have his bad luck, the Anglo-American would have no luck at all. Crashing in the questionable conditions at Monza, the Crescent Fixi Suzuki rider injured himself at the Italian World Superbike round. Highsiding during the race, Hopper has broken his right foot and torn muscles in his left hip. Though the team hoped he would be able to ride at the British WSBK round at Donington Park, further tests and scans have shown his injuries to be far worse than originally thought.
When Suzuki announced that they would be pulling out of MotoGP at the end of the 2011 season, they were keen to emphasize that the withdrawal was only temporary, saying they were planning a return to MotoGP in 2014. Though many paddock regulars were sceptical about such a suggestion, Suzuki is sticking to its guns, it seems. In an interview with Italian website GPOne, Suzuki Racing’s technical director Shinichi Sahara reaffirmed that they were still working towards a 2014 return to MotoGP, based on the motorcycle the factory had been developing before the decision was made to pull out.
John Hopkins continues his stepping-stone return to MotoGP, and accordingly will compete in the 2012 World Superbike Championship with Paul Denning’s Crescent Fixi Suzuki team (note the newly announced title sponsor). Campaigning on the 2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000, Hopper will have a steep nine-fingered challenge this season, as Suzuki has pulled its official race support out of WSBK. As such, Yoshimura has been tapped by Crescent Suzuki to help develop the GSX-R’s motor, while the team will continue to employ its lessons learned from both the British Superbike Championship and MotoGP paddocks.
Showing briefly the bikes that John Hopkins and Leon Camier will campaign in World Superbike this season, Crescent Fixi Suzuki is already on the road and headed to Phillip Island for the WSBK pre-season test that is scheduled for February 26th. For those that don’t know (and there is no reason you should), co-title sponsor Fixi is not an urban-oriented bicycle company, but instead provides foreign exchange solutions to Tier 1 investors — whatever those are.
On his way to recovery, in more than one way, John Hopkins may not be the man he used to be after this weekend. Having a number of surgeries and complications with his right hand after his MotoGP wild card crash at Brno, Hopper finally resorted to having the top of his right ring finger amputated on Friday. Set to start physiotherapy in about a week and to back on the bike in three weeks, Hopkins hopes to be ready in time for World Superbike’s season-opener at Phillip Island in six weeks’ time.
Consulting with physicians before the surgery on Thursday, the amputation of part of Hopper’s finger was viewed as the best way to resolve his continuing problems with his hand, and ensure that his 2012 WSBK season would remain intact. Hopkins has a lot riding on this season, as he and Crescent Suzuki are hoping to continue the momentum from the 2011 British Superbike Championship. With Hopper hoping to return to MotoGP in 2013, we don’t think the Anglo-American’s resolve to accomplish that goal can be questioned at this point.
With the news that Crescent Suzuki would make a move from the British Superbike Championship, and enter into the World Superbike Championship, all eyes have been on whom the British team would field as riders. Anglo-American John Hopkins was heavily favored to be the still-unannounced teammate to Leon Camier on the squad, provided the former-MotoGP racer didn’t find his way back into the premier class. With Suzuki withdrawing from MotoGP last week and effectively ending Hopper’s 2012 MotoGP bid, Crescent Suzuki has now confirmed that Hopkins will make his return to World Superbike racing with the all-British team.