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.
After its absence at the Moscow round, Effenbert Liberty Racing affirmed earlier this week that it would be participating in World Superbike’s Nürburgring round with all three of its riders. Always keeping things interesting though, the team has followed up that announcement today with the news that it has replaced Jakub Smrz with Italian rider Lorenzo Lanzi. This should surprise no one.
Rumored heavily to be in financial difficulty, after Effenbert reduced its support for the team after the round at Monza, today’s move is just the latest of many strange developments for the Liberty Racing squad, which showed so much promise earlier in the season, but has spiraled out of control ever since.
The financial woes of Liberty Racing seemingly continue, as the World Superbike team is absent from the entry list for the upcoming WSBK round in Moscow, Russia. It is being reported that all three of Liberty’s riders are missing on the entry list, as well as Team Grillini’s Norino Brignola.
It is not clear at this time why the four riders are not entered in this weekend’s race, though since it is the first time World Superbike has run at Moscow, one cannot rule out logistical issues. However, considering the type of season Liberty Racing has had this year, not to mention the rumors of the team’s financial difficulties, the non-entry at Moscow could signal a much bigger problem.
Last year we combined the QP2 times from World Superbike with the Qualifying times from AMA Superbike, to see how America’s finest motorcycle racers stack up on against the international championship of a similar name. Of course there are different regulations in each series (not to mention a variety of other factors), which vary a bit on how teams are allowed to modify their race bikes, so there isn’t an exact comparison between the two series, but it makes for something interesting to mull over with your morning coffee, and the results this year may surprise you.
Encircled by the gorgeous Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges, Miller Motorsports Park has some of the most dramatic backdrops out of all the World Superbike venues, though coupled with the track’s 4,000+ foot elevation, the weather can be wet and cold at times. Such words were probably an understatement for the conditions on Sunday, as frigid temperatures and rain prevailed in the day’s earlier sessions. Realizing that some Superpole qualifying was scheduled for later though, the weather gods appeased the American crowd, who had been braving the conditions, and quickly dried the track for World Superbike qualifying.
Down on power at the very fast track, the Ducatis of Smrz and Checa surprised everyone with their dominance on the time sheets. Of course, Tom Sykes could not be counted out from the qualifying fun, as the Englishman has taken four of the past five pole positions. One of only two stops on the WSBK calendar that is outside of Europe, American fans were treated on this Memorial Day weekend to some fine qualifying, which included some upsets. Results after the jump.
The hoopla surrounding the Effenbert Liberty Racing team and last weekend’s World Superbike race at Monza continues, though the Czech-based racing squad is present and accounted for at Donington Park this race-weekend. Traveling without its hospitality suite, the largest in the WSBK paddock, Liberty Racing is essentially sans its title sponsor this weekend, and the teams says Effenbert may withdraw its participation in World Superbike after the events at Monza, though the team is committed to completing the 2012 World Superbike Championship.
Saying that its ire in the press was improperly casted towards Infront Motorsport, the team in another statement has clarified that it blames a small number teams and riders, who helped shape the cancellation of Race 1 at Monza, and the shortened distance of Race 2. With Effenbert Liberty Racing rider Sylvain Guintoli on the pole position in Italy, the team is understandably upset about not being able to capitalize on the weekend, especially after securing two podiums at Assen, one of which was a race win. The broken English press release after the jump, while Liberty rider Jakub Smrz currently sits on WSBK’s provisional pole.
After the debacle of a round at Monza, the Effenbert-Liberty Racing Team had some choice words regarding how the World Superbike Championship was being handled last weekend. Surely having something to do with the fact that Effenbert racer Sylvain Guintoli qualified on the pole position, the Czech squad had to watch as the French rider’s bike died on the sighting lap for Race 2. Gaining momentum from its win at Assen, the guys at Effenbert-Liberty Racing were surely frustrated by the events in Italy, though things have seemingly escalated from there.
First stating that the team would only minimally participate at the Donington Park round, i.e. not bring a full hospitality service, and would reconsider its involvement in the rest of the WSBK season, the words from the Ducati squad have cooled to some degree, but continue to be rather ominous. With Infront Sports & Media, the rights holder to World Superbike, publicly saying it has deferred the matter to its legal council, Liberty Racing released another statement, noticeably absent of its title sponsor’s name, that confirmed its previous statements about Donington Park.
In a role-reversal, Race 2 at Assen for World Superbike got underway with clear skies, and a Dutch track with only a few wet spots left to dry. With tire choice proving to be a critical component in the second race, the WSBK field ran the gamut with slicks, intermediates, and even full-wets making it onto the grid for the start. Lining up another exciting race, the fans in attendance were well-rewarded for enduring the rainy Race 1 at The Cathedral.
With the rain playing a factor during the Qualifying Practice sessions, riders like Max Biaggi were caught out, and left high and dry during an otherwise water-filled build up to today’s Superpole qualifying. As the Roman Emperor watched from the sidelines, World Superbike Race Direction deemed the Superpole a wet session, reducing the qualifying event to two twenty-minute sessions, with only the top eight riders going onto the second round. With the track actually dry for Superpole 2, all eyes were on Tom Sykes, to see if the Kawasaki rider could make a hat trick out of his qualifying streak.
With Carlos Checa dominating Phillip Island during the private tests and the first day of official testing, Tom Sykes displaced the reigning World Superbikes Champion early on in the second day of official testing at Phillip Island. In WSBK’s final test before the season’s racing kicks off this weekend, the Kawasaki rider set the day’s fastest time with a 1:31.648, holding off Checa by just 0.004 seconds. Also setting their best times on Tuesday, Jakub Smrz, Jonathan Rea, and Max Biaggi rounded out the fastest five overall. Marco Melandri was sixth fastest overall, with his best time being set on Monday.
There were a number of crashes that tested both riders and available machinery, of which Leon Haslam was the most notable. The Englishman fractured his right tibia in a high side at the final turn on Monday, leaving the BMW rider to scramble for an available surgery. He tweeted Tuesday, “I’ve finally found a guy to sort things out booked in for a Op on Thursday morning there might be a chance to ride on Sunday,” adding, “fingerscrossed.” Rea also crashed heavily, but did more damage to his bike than himself, and was able to continue throughout the test sessions.
After a rainy Saturday Superpole, the sun blessed the Miller Motorsports Park for World Superbike’s Race 1. Carlos Checa returned to the Utah track in dominant form, though problems early on in the weekend gave glimpses of last year’s mechanical snafus. With both the factory Yamahas and Liberty Ducatis looking very quick in Superpole and in the practice sessions, Checa’s dominance for this year remained to be seen, with the pre-race predictions being anyone’s guess. Having standing water still in Turn 5 or the “Black Rock Hairpin” as it is called here at Miller, and mud at virtually every run-off, the Outer Course had a few tricks still up its sleeve for this race day Monday, despite the improved weather conditions. Click past the jump for spoilers on how it all panned out.