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.
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.
Complicating issues is the fact that there could be an influx of riders from the MotoGP series now that rides are all tied up in that championship.
With the Kawasaki and Yamaha seats filled, all eyes will now turn to the Aruba Ducati squad. Chaz Davies is likely to stay at Ducati, though the Welshman would really like a chance to ride the 1000cc Panigale V4 before he makes up his mind, a desire that Ducati is not inclined to indulge.
Marco Melandri could stay put – Ducati like to have an Italian rider, and Michael Ruben Rinaldi is not quite ready for a full-time gig in the factory Ducati squad – but he is also being linked to the new Yamaha squad to be run by GRT, currently racing in WorldSSP.
Melandri could line up alongside Sandro Cortese, who is expected to enter WorldSBK in 2019.
The Honda lineup for 2019 is an open question. Leon Camier is certain to return, but Jake Gagne, who has failed to adapt to WorldSBK, will not. Tom Sykes could be a fit in the Red Bull Honda squad, though that would require him to ditch his long-term connection to Monster Energy.
The SMR Milwaukee squad is considering dropping Aprilia for Ducati, in part over a lack of support from the Noale factory, which is set to diminish even further for next season, and in part at being forced to sign Lorenzo Savadori for 2018, who has failed to live up to expectations.
Eugene Laverty would help smooth the way for a switch to Ducati, as Laverty has very close ties to Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna, and would be an effective player in helping to develop the Panigale V4.
Though the summer break means that meetings will mostly take place by phone, there is every chance that when the WorldSBK paddock reconvenes in Portimao in September for the next round of the series, many more deals will be ready to be finalized.
In the meantime, make sure you keep up with the latest developments in WorldSBK by listening to the last episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast with Steve English and Jensen Beeler, who take a deep dive into the WorldSBK series.
Source: Pata Yamaha; Photos: © 2018 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved