With a solid 22 rider field, the World Superbike Series has continued to remain extremely strong even in tough economic times. Though with three-quarters of the 2010 season already in the books, there’s still quite a bit of uncertainty as to who will be riding where in 2011, and how many teams will be fielded. In fact, a good majority of the slots are yet to be locked in. But with the help of several well-connected sources inside the paddock, we have been able to put together a pretty good idea of who’s potentially in line for which rides next year in the world of WSB. Check it out…
Max Biaggi –The Roman Emperor is expected to sign with Aprilia for two more years, once he returns from the mid-season holiday he is currently spending in Southern California. The Italian motor corp is where homeboy Biaggi’s rise to Grand Prix fame began in the 250cc ranks, and is where he recently said he would like to finish out his career. Will this two-year deal be the Roman's last? With a current lead in the championship of 60 points, Mad Max looks set to add at least one WSB title to his long list of achievements before hanging up the leathers. (Position pending)
2009 British Superbike Champion Leon Camier continues his work on getting familiar with the Aprilia machine.
Young Brit Leon Camier is in high demand on the heels of his rookie WSB season, something aided by a few podium finishes as of late. Will he stay at Aprilia or head to Yamaha?
Leon Camier – Happy with his podium-form as of late, Aprilia has stated they would like to keep the lanky Brit. He’s also said to be in talks for the second Sterilgarda Yamaha spot, especially if current rider Cal Crutchlow ends up going to MotoGP, which is starting to look more and more likely. Camier has had great success on SBK-spec R1s, winning last year’s BSB title with relative ease for the Airwaves Yamaha team, the bike obviously suiting his style. With two factory-level offers possibly on the table for Leon, the ball seems to be in the young Briton’s court for the time being. (Position pending)
Troy Corser – Aussie Corser has developed the BMW from Day 1 and is now a consistent threat, getting both the first pole position and first podium finish for the German manufacturer in only their sophomore WSB season. Originally Corser was hired as the development rider with teammate Ruben Xaus the being the more volatile yet potential “results getter,” though it’s been Corser not only developing the bike, but consistently out-pacing his crash-happy teammate. He is said to be re-signing any day now, with only some small details to be finalized. Corser has expressed interest in racing for two or three more years before retirement, after which time he has said he would like to continue with the German brand for future bike development
ON Day 2 Corser climbed a spot on the timesheets to 13th at the final Phillip Island test.
Corser is slated to continue with BMW, aiming to finish his career there in the next couple years. Who will his teammate be? Czech privateer Jakub Smrz might get the gig.
as well as possibly trying his hand at car racing for BMW. (Position pending)
Jakub Smrz – BMW’s team manager Davide Tardozzi has publically expressed interest in privateer Czech rider Jakub Smrz taking the second factory seat next season, a spot which Ruben Xaus currently holds. The long-time underfunded, but lightning-quick Smrz always seems to be one of those riders on the verge of breaking through if he could only get the right bike and team underneath him. He’s performed near-miracles on customer Ducatis and now an Aprilia for years and looks to be at the pointed end for the second BMW seat. Said Tardozzi: “We like the guy and his name is the first on our 2011 list.” (Position pending)
Colin Edwards – With the Ducati team struggling more this year than it has in the last decade and neither rider even close to title contention, it seems change is coming for the Italian squad. Due to the lack of results, the high-ups at the racing-fueled Italian brand are looking for a veteran team leader who has real championship potential. This is why two-time World Superbike champion Edwards is said to have a hefty offer already sitting on his kitchen counter – all he needs to do is sign the dotted line. With a rough past few years in MotoGP on his resume and his desire to avoid finishing his career as an also-ran, many think the Texan is leaning very heavily toward a return to Superbikes. (Position pending)
Colin Edwards: I think Ive had one good race at Jerez in my entire career and today wasnt it. This weekend has been a struggle and Ive never been comfortable on the bike to show the pace I know I am capable of.
Sick of racing for top-10s in MotoGP, current Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards is linked to possibly being the lead rider for the factory Ducati Xerox WSB team next season.
Second Bike – Ducati is looking to add a fast youngster to join the veteran they are currently searching for, with quite a few names circling around the position. At the very top is Jonathan Rea, only the young Irish racer is said to be very loyal and a long-term Honda offer may be on the table for him within the coming couple of weeks. Current rider Michel Fabrizio may also retain his spot, aided a good deal by his Italian nationality, as his results have been very up-and-down. (Position pending)
Carlos Checa – Former long-time MotoGP and current World Superbike racer Checa has verbally expressed his interest in staying with the well-funded satellite Ducati team, and they are said to be equally as interested. The Spanish star has had an up-and-down 2010 season, finishing up front where the tracks suited the Italian V-Twins, while bad luck as taken him out of contention at others (including robbing him of two sure-wins at Miller Motorsports Park). He is said to bring with him added factory support from Ducati, as well as Spanish sponsorship money. (Position pending)
Carlos Checa owns the standing track record at Miller for SBK - Miller Motorsports Park
Spain's Carlos Checa looks set to return to the Althea Ducati team for next season, bringing along with him decades of top-level racing experience. Only a few have had careers as long as the Raging Bull.
Second Bike – Not much has been talked about with regards to the second Althea Ducati seat. Current rider Shane Byrne hasn’t exactly set the world on fire this year, his best result a pair of sixths, one coming at Portimao and the other at Miller. As a result the Brit currently sits 12th in the championship with three rounds remaining; that means only six races left to make something happen. Considering the strength of the team and its close ties with Ducati Corse, Byrne will have plenty of other top riders’ managers trying to negotiate him out of a slot this off-season. (Position pending)
HANNspree Ten Kate Honda:
Jonathan Rea – The 23-year-old Irish youngster has had a promising sophomore season in WSB, winning several races and with a handful of podiums to back that up. Some inconsistencies with his machinery has kept him out of the title hunt, but he has still impressed the brass on Honda enough that they would like to keep him on the long-term winged fast track. Although a Ducati offer is said to be on the table, he will most likely stay at Ten Kate for at least one more year, with the goal of winning a SBK title. Honda are said to already be typing up a multi-year contract that could possibly see him in MotoGP in the yeas to come. According to Rea, everything is set to be confirmed in a meeting he has with the powers that be in
Jonathan Rea talking things over with the Ten Kate crew - Miller Motorsports Park
Despite being only 23 years old, Irishman Johnny Rea is considered by most to be one of the title favorites for 2011. Honda has its sights set on keeping the talented youngster, with a possible long-term contract in the works.
the next couple weeks. (Position pending)
Second Bike – Several names are floating around the other Ten Kate spot, a very sought after ride in the WSB paddock. One thing is for sure, it will almost certainly not be current rider Max Neukirchner. The 27-year-old German’s season as been well under expectations, as big crashes and trouble getting along with the Honda has kept this previous race winner consistently toward the back of the pack or on the ground. Some of the names we’ve heard floating around the Honda team include James Toseland and Supersport rider Eugene Laverty, though both are merely rumors. (Position pending)
Paul Bird Motorsports Kawasaki:
Chris Vermeulen – The Australian signed a two-year deal coming into 2010, so the ex-Suzuki MotoGP and Ten Kate Honda WSB rider is locked in for next year. This year has been plagued by injury for the MotoUSA columnist, damaging his knee in the opening round at Phillip Island, then reinjuring it several more times, before finally having surgery and calling it quits for the season to try and fully heal up for 2011. Part of his deal is also to aid in development, with the aim of making the all-new ’11 ZX-10R a competitive racebike, as the existing has been far from a front-runner. Kawasaki has dedicated a great deal of funding into the factory Superbike program and has verbally expressed its intent to
Chris Vermeulen won the battle for Kawasaki supremacy unfortunately the Kawis were all running at the back - Miller Motorsports Park.
Chris Vermeulen (77) has had a rough year plagued by knee injuries, though luckily for him is signed to a two-year deal. Kawasaki is releasing an all-new ZX-10R for next year as well, said to be a born racer, one which he is helping to develop.
challenge for the WSB title with the new bike. (Position confirmed)
Second Bike – Despite the rough season he has had this year on the factory Ducati, top of the list for the second Kawasaki seat heavily rumored to be Noriyuki Haga. He may be getting up there in age, but when things are clicking Haga is one of the best. But does he still have it in him to keeps thing clicking for a full season and vie for a title? American Ben Spies seemed to take the wind out of the Japanese star’s sails after stealing the championship from him at the final round last year. Current rider Tom Sykes has a long history with the PBM team from his days in BSB and has been talked about for next year as well, though this year has been hard on the Brit. He was also spotted testing the pre-production ’11 ZX-10R at Suzuka recently. (Position pending)
Leon Haslam – In only his second full season of World Superbike competition the son of “Rocket” Ron Haslam has proved to be a title contender and possible race winner week-in and week-out for the Alstare Suzuki squad. Leon was quick right away in pre-season testing and the first half of the season led the championship aboard what was a totally new-to-him Suzuki GSX-R1000. It’s for this reason that the Brit is high up on several teams’ lists for next season,
Alstare Suzukis Leon Haslam - Miller Motorsports Park
Leon Haslam has been racing all over the world stage for over a decade already and yet is only 27 years old. It's taken a little bit, but the son of "Rocket" Ron has really found his stride this year and is now a consistent threat to win races and has been Biaggi’s closest title challenger.
though he is most likely to stay exactly where he’s at. The 27-year-old has been rumored around the Suzuki MotoGP team as well, though most believe he’s days away from re-signing to stay put in WSB. (Position pending)
Second Bike – Current second rider Sylvain Guintoli has had a bit tougher time coming to grips with the Alstare Suzuki than his teammate, which was no doubt compounded by the severe 2009 season-ending injury he suffered while racing in BSB. The Frenchman has started to find his speed again as of late though, challenging in the top-five on several recent occasions. But is it a case of too little, too late? Alstare Suzuki team owner Francis Batta is said to like Guintoli and sees a great deal of potential in the ex-MotoGP rider, so word is he may retain the spot; though Tom Sykes and Michel Fabrizio have both been heavily rumored around the Belgian team as well. (Position pending)
Both of the Yamaha seats are very up much for grabs at this point, from what we are hearing. The team has expressed interest in keeping star rookie Cal Crutchlow, though his immense speed and natural talent also has him as a near shoe-in for the Tech 3 Yamaha MotoGP spot as long as Rossi departs for Ducati and current Tech 3 rider Spies bumps
James Toseland putting his musical talents on display at a quick concert at the Gateway friday festivities for the Miller SBK round.
Will James Toseland keep his Sterilgarda Yamaha ride or will he need to start looking for more singing gigs to pay the bills? All depends on where teammate Crutchlow ends up...
up to the factory squad. All three moves are very likely at this point and the MotoGP side of things is said to be announced during next weekend’s Czech GP. After those pieces are in place, Crutchlow’s future can be decided, allowing the Yamaha WSB team to then go in search of riders. If Crutchlow does leave for the world of MotoGP, several sources say current rider James Toseland will be retained, while the now-vacated second seat could go to any number of riders, of which we’ve heard Camier’s name again and again. However, if Crutchlow does not go to MotoGP, we hear the team wants him to stay and Toseland may be looking for work elsewhere. (Positions pending)
Until the major players fall into place it’s nearly impossible to know who the smaller privateer and even some of the factory-supported teams will run, as they tend to get the leftovers so to speak. Of the current crop of privateers that have had standout performances this year and could make the jump up to a factory squad, Italian Luca Scassa (four top-10 finishes) and Czech rider Jakub Smrz (nine top-10s) look to be in the best position to get that important call. In fact, Smrz is very heavily rumored around the factory BMW team (see above).
Chris Vermeulen #77 took 13th in Race 2 while Roger Hayden #95 had a lowslide on Lap 11 that brought an end to his race.
Where will Roger Lee Hayden (95) end up next season? Infront Sports is pushing hard to keep him in World Superbike.
We have also heard that series promoter Infront Sports is continuing to make a strong push to get more American riders into the championship and onto competitive rides. Having a leading American in the series is very important for WSB, something they saw the benefits of firsthand last year with Spies.
They played a big part in getting Roger Lee Hayden to come over and ride for the privateer Pedercini Kawasaki team this year. Presumably the plan was that Roger Lee could learn the tracks this year, then hopefully progress into a spot higher up the food chain on competitive machinery for next year and challenge at the front. Results wise, it’s hard to expect too much considering the uber-high level of competition and the less-than-competitive Kawasaki Hayden is riding. But he has been consistently beating his teammate, who is on the same bike and knows all the tracks, the majority of which Hayden has never seen before. And while we know the youngest Hayden has a strong relationship with Kawasaki, whether or not he fits into their 2011 plans remains to be seen.