News 16 Sep 2009

Racing Insider #115

Racing Insider #115 has the scoop on all things motorcycle racing, including MotoGP; WSBK; ASBK; BSB; Oz SX and Oz Off-Road.

It’s been a surprisingly quiet week in the world of MotoGP as many of the top riders have settled into their positions for 2010, while the final few riders are falling into place as we speak.

There could be another bike in the MotoGP field come Valencia and 2010

There could be another bike in the MotoGP field come Valencia and 2010

Last weekend marked a weekend off for the GP circus, but perhaps the biggest news doing the rounds is the revelation that we could see an entirely new team on the grid at Valencia’s final round and then full time next year.

It’s expected that Italian outfit FB Corse will field a three-cylinder engine in a specifically-developed chassis, with the engine configuration unique to the team in the MotoGP World Championship if the project goes ahead.

FB Corse’s addition would raise the entry numbers to 18 with a one rider team before committing to the full season in 2010, and it’s said that they’re chasing a current GP rider to complete the project.

The FB Corse team had previously contested the Superbike World Championship with limited success, and it’s reported that the three-cylinder engine is the same one that BMW was planning on using before axing its plans for a MotoGP team.

Designed by the Oral Engineering Group, FB Corse’s decision to field a triple will limit the horsepower output of the motor compared to the traditional four-cylinders, although the weight of the bike will be eligible to be around six kilograms lighter than the fours.

The addition of another team in the premier class paddock is good news for the series, even if the team will be a privateer effort with little chance of defeating the Japanese factories or Ducati.

With an ambitious plan of competing in this year’s season ending GP at Valencia, much like the ill-fated Ilmor team did in 2006 before entering the full season the following year, rumours of possible candidates to pilot the machine are beginning to build momentum.

It’s believed that Dorna will fund the rider salary for a current GP rider next season if the team contests the series, with riders such as Niccolo Canepa and even James Toseland rumoured for the seat.

Canepa has pretty much conceded that he’ll likely be out of the premier class next year, and maybe even for the rest of this year, after Aleix Espargaro has impressed on the Pramac Ducati in his two appearances.

The young Italian is eyeing off a chance at World Superbike rather than going to Moto2, and I’d say a rider like him would feel very much more at home in the WSBK paddock considering his limited experience.

More interesting news is the future of Toseland. It’s believed that Dorna want him in the grand prix paddock because he’s quite popular in the UK, but the latest word is that he’s even considering a Moto2 seat with Tech 3 rather than returning to WSBK if he loses his premier class seat.

Current MotoGP rider Alex de Angelis has told the Italian press that he has an offer to pilot a factory Superbike in the world championship next season if he’s booted from the premier class.

The San Marino rider has stated that he has a deal on the table to switch to WSBK, and in reading between the lines you would have to say that it’s Aprilia as he’s hinted that it’s an Italian squad and it’s certain that Ducati will retain Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio.

Last weekend’s Insure My Ride Australian Superbike Open has been hailed as a great success by many who were in attendance, with the bikes competing alongside the V8 Supercars for the first time in over a decade at the L&H 500 event.

There was plenty of media interest in the Superbikes at the Open. Photo: IEG

There was plenty of media interest in the Superbikes at the Open. Photo: IEG

Everybody from factory team riders, factory team managers, privateer riders, and privateer crews have checked in to let me know that it was a great event, which I’m kind of sorry that I didn’t get to attend myself due to commitments with my RRPA rider training school.

One of the most relieving things for many in the industry was that the bikes were treated very well by the V8 organisers from both a pitting, safety and media standpoint, and there’s no question that professionalism in both arenas has increased since last time such an event was run.

Also good news is that the few people who I have spoken to from the four-wheel fraternity admitted that the bikes were brilliant to watch, with many actually surprised at the size of our domestic ASBK teams these days.

The on-track action was reportedly very exciting due to the mixed conditions and the usual show that our ASBK riders put on, and it was superb to see a new winner in Craig Coxhell for CJC Racing in race two.

Kawasaki and Yamaha failed to make the trip down to the Island for the event as expected, and budget was the main factor for this apparently, but looking toward next year we may have to get used to not having factory green or blue bikes in the Superbike field.

It has been confirmed that Kawasaki is out, although they will be finishing this season unlike some critics are saying, while Yamaha is undecided at this point until more cost effective regulations are implemented, according to team manager John Redding.

But Yamaha will be in the series at least in the Supersport and supporting categories if they do in fact decide to pull the pin on Superbike racing, and I sincerely hope that YRT finds a solution that enables them to continue on with the YZF-R1.

Motologic Racing has been the focus of much talk over recent months in whether or not the team will have the funding to continue on next season. At this stage it simply isn’t known according to team owner Paul Free, even though he very much wants the team to be involved, with sponsorship a vital ingredient for the private team if they are to continue on.

Interestingly, Paul told me on Monday that the results of the V8 Supercars round were so good that he’d be happy with a full season of two-plus-four races in regards to sponsorship opportunities to keep Motologic in the game.

The worrying thing is that if we were to lose Kawasaki (confirmed), Yamaha and Motologic all at the same time, the ASBK series is possibly going to likely lose riders such as Kevin Curtain, Jamie and Dan Stauffer, Glenn Allerton and Wayne Maxwell just because there won’t be enough rides for all of them in the premier class.

Team Joe Rocket Suzuki is committed to another year that will likely see Shawn Giles, Josh Waters and Troy Herfoss return, although the status of their satellite teams are yet to be advised.

Shannon Johnson and ESG Honda made a huge impact at the Superbike Open event in SJ’s first national Superbike appearance for 2009, and word is that the team wants him on the bike for the final two rounds as well, but he may just focus on his Supersport duties.

Johnson impressed for ESG Honda at the Superbike Open, but could we see him on a KTM in ASBK 2010?

Johnson impressed for ESG Honda at the Superbike Open, but could we see him on a KTM in ASBK 2010?

Speaking of SJ, his relationship with KTM and the RC8R is growing increasingly closer, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a factory-supported orange machine on the ASBK grid where it belongs and can be competitive enough for next year.

There’s a possibility that we could see up to four two-plus-four rounds in 2010, which would be a promising thing for teams such as Motologic and CJC Racing as they get to showcase their efforts in front of the V8’s corporate sponsors more often, although rounds at the Island WSBK and MotoGP rounds don’t leave much space on the calendar for standalone rounds if it were to be the case as speculated by people in the know.

We’ll have to wait and see how the support classes are handled if this is the case, and that is certainly an important aspect of the sport, but it would certainly be an interesting move by IEG and one that would also likely rule Woodstock Bourbon out of the series as the naming rights sponsor role since Jim Beam is the ‘official bourbon’ of V8 Supercars racing.

Check out this fortnight’s edition of AMCN for more on the subjects above, because it seems things are about to get very interesting in the ASBK circle.

Aussie Josh Brookes’ return to the British Superbike Championship with a pair of podiums at Croft last weekend bodes well for his 2010 title prospects, with his undeniable results on the track likely to see him on a top BSB team again next season.

HM Plant Honda teammate Glen Richards will return to the series at the final two rounds in a bid to prove his worth for a ride next year after missing much of this year with injury, but it was interesting to see Brookes beat former double BSB champ Ryuichi Kiyonari on the same bike at Croft.

We don’t hear too much about the British Supersport ranks here in Oz, but let’s all get behind Billy McConnell, who sits just seven points off series leader Steve Plater with two rounds remaining after winning three rounds so far this season.

The news wasn’t so good for Jason O’Halloran in his BSS debut, suffering a broken arm in a qualifying crash that ruled him out of the weekend and maybe even the rest of the season unless he makes a miraculous recovery.

We posted the news on the home page today that Dan Reardon is another candidate for Monster Energy Super X 2009 as he’s reportedly inked a deal once again to ride for Woodstock Honda, adding to the star power that is to make up the new season.

Price took a surprise championship win in the AORC on Sunday

Price took a surprise championship win in the AORC on Sunday

As we said last week in the Insider column, Jake Moss is going to be joining twin brother Matt on the Shift Motul Suzuki team albeit in the Open class, marking his third different manufacturer that he’s competed for so far this year as he has ridden for TLD Honda and the factory Monster Kawasaki team in the States before returning home to ride yellow in Super X.

I hope that we find out more about the future of Chad Reed very soon as Tasmania’s season opener is just over four weeks away, leaving him very little time to prepare for the opening rounds if he is to ride anything other than a Suzuki – which is apparently becoming a very real possibility with both Honda and Kawasaki in negotiations.

Congratulations has to go out to Toby Price after defeating multiple-time world champion Stefan Merriman in the Australian Off-Road Championship, taking another two wins in Young last weekend on his way to the crown.

It was a shock result for all in the industry after Merriman started out the year so dominant, but rookie revelation Price improved as the season went on and finished out the series with a spectacular four-race win streak.

Well done to Toby and the entire MSC Kawasaki team.