News 9 Sep 2009

Racing Insider #114

Check out an action-packed Racing Insider this week with details from the world of MotoGP; WSBK; ASBK; AMA SBK; BSB; Oz SX; and the AORC.

Welcome to yet another edition of Racing Insider, where this week we’ll be looking at a variety of motorcycle racing series, beginning with the MotoGP round from Misano in San Marino last weekend.

Rossi was back to his best in San Marino

Rossi was back to his best in San Marino

It was again a Valentino Rossi whitewash just seven days after he crashed out in Indianapolis, but this time round he had the donkey on his helmet and donkey ears on the podium as a reference to his Indy mishap.

Stretching his series lead out to 30 with just four rounds remaining, Rossi is in the box seat to take world title number nine from Fiat Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo after what has been a very competitive season between the pair.

Getting away from the Misano race since we’ve all seen the race and read the reports by now, interesting news coming out of the Northern Territory this week is that Casey Stoner has been up there fishing and four-wheel driving after a 4000 kilometre drive to arrive up there.

Let’s hope Casey is back for the next round as originally planned, which will in turn place Finnish rider Mika Kallio back on the Pramac Racing team after filling in for Stoner on the factory squad during the last three races.

The news may not be so good for Italian Niccolo Canepa though, because it’s now said that 20-year-old Aleix Espargaro could retain his place on the team after impressing in his first two MotoGP races (he set the fifth fastest lap of the race at Misano), causing the team to remove Canepa unless they field three bikes.

Some positive steps in the silly season were made in the lead-up to Misano when it was confirmed that Nicky Hayden would be staying on with Ducati Marlboro and Dani Pedrosa would be staying with Honda alongside Andrea Dovizioso, but the future of Tech 3 Yamaha remains a complete mystery.

It’s certain that Texan Colin Edwards will stay there for another year after an impressive season, but even though Yamaha has announced that Ben Spies will stay in WSBK next year, we’re hearing that he will in fact be on the second Tech 3 bike next year if he wins this year’s WSBK crown – more on that below.

That scenario would leave James Toseland high and dry with not many options, although if Dorna really wants a British rider in the premier class then there is a possibility he could find a place in another satellite team with funding behind him.

And what if Spies doesn’t head to Tech 3 and the team still replaces JT? You can expect either Randy de Puniet, Alex de Angelis or Toni Elias to mount the YZR-M1, but I personally would wish that Chris Vermeulen got at least one shot on a competitive MotoGP bike. We’ll have to see what happens.

I mentioned above that if Ben Spies manages to win the Superbike World Championship as a rookie then we can expect him to move directly into MotoGP for next season, despite Yamaha announcing that he’ll remain in World Superbike for 2010.

Is Spies on his way to MotoGP in 2010 despite Yamaha announcing he'll stay in WSBK?

Is Spies on his way to MotoGP in 2010 despite Yamaha announcing he'll stay in WSBK?

The possibility of Big Ben winning the WSBK series this year was majorly boosted in race two at the Nurburgring in Germany last weekend when Ducati Xerox’s Nori Haga crashed out, enabling Spies to take an 18-point lead in the title chase.

Yamaha has an assortment of riders they could put on the R1 after Spies has proven it’s a competitive bike in the WSBK trim, including the likes of Leon Camier from BSB, or even a MotoGP refugee if there are any who are stepping over to Superbikes.

Ten Kate Honda continued its improvement for the season with Jonathan Rea taking victory in race two on the weekend after a spectacular battle with Spies, plus Carlos Checa did a superb job with a pair of podiums.

Let’s not forget about the new kids on the block with Aprilia and BMW again running well into the top 10 with Max Biaggi and Troy Corser, with that last couple of events proving a great step forward for Corser and the S 1000 RR Beemer.

Karl Muggeridge didn’t have such a great weekend in his stand-in ride with Alstare Suzuki and he’ll race the Bol d’Or 24-Hour World Endurance race this weekend, while Broc Parkes couldn’t continue to form he had shown in the break during his BSB wildcard outing.

It’s certainly going to be an interesting off-season in regards to the smaller teams in both WSBK and World Supersport, because I have a feeling that money is going to be talking louder than ever this year.

This weekend marks the Insure My Ride Australian Superbike Open round at Phillip Island’s L&H 500 V8 Supercar round, where the Oleon Motologic Racing Honda team and Team Joe Rocket Suzuki will be looking to take the first shot as the ASBK series goes down to the wire.

The Australian Suuperbike Open is on at Phillip Island this weekend

The Australian Suuperbike Open is on at Phillip Island this weekend

While this weekend isn’t a championship round, it will give us a great indication of who’s strong and who’s not heading into the final rounds, and both Wayne Maxwell and Josh Waters will be determined to battle defending champion Glenn Allerton both this weekend and the proceeding events.

An interesting fact is that during the opening round of the ASBK series at the start of the year alongside the Island WSBK round, Maxwell, Waters and Allerton all took a win apiece over the weekend – which sets up a brilliant finish to the season.

It will be a shame that Yamaha isn’t attending the round with the Stauffer brothers or that Kawasaki won’t be there with Kevin Curtain (not the last time we checked, anyway), although the front guys and a good showing of privateers will hopefully propel domestic bike racing into the spotlight.

Shannon Johnson will mark a wildcard for the round on an Evolution Sports Group Honda alongside Chris Trounson, which will be interesting to see after he won the Victorian Road Race Championships there just last weekend.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Troy Bayliss in the Triple F Racing V8 Supercar in his four-wheel race debut, while Robbie Maddison will also be at the round driving in the Mini Series to add to the two-wheel flavour of the event.

Series leader Leon Camier will have a lot to think about this weekend with World Superbike star Ryuichi Kiyonari set to ride a HM Plant Honda at Croft to rejoin the series that he is two-time champion of.

There’s no doubt that Kiyo will be quick after watching the success that Broc Parkes had just a few rounds ago, and Australian Josh Brookes will be back alongside Kiyp on the factory Honda team after serving his suspension.

British Superbike seems to be the most unstable series in the world right now in regards to riders keeping their jobs, and this week it was Karl Harris who was replaced by Tommy Hill at Hydrex Honda for a lack of performance in recent rounds despite currently sitting fourth in the title chase.

In turn, Harris quickly found himself a seat at Rob Mac Racing on a Yamaha YZF-R1, which he’ll debut on this weekend.

South Australian Glen Richards will be back at the next round after recovering from a broken femur, and he’ll be eager to prove his worth in a bid to retain his factory Superbike seat in 2010.

Mladin retired as AMA Superbike Champion on Sunday

Mladin retired as AMA Superbike Champion on Sunday

As per our news section, Jason O’Halloran will be back in the BSB paddock, this time in the Supersport class on a Yamaha YZF-R6, a series that sees Billy McConnell right in the thick of the battle.

The stellar career of seven-time AMA Superbike Champion Mat Mladin is finally over after the New Jersey Motorsports Park round that took place last weekend, where he crashed out of race one and finished second to Josh Hayes in the second.

Mladin has had a magnificent career in the States and wraps up his career as the champion after losing three straight to Ben Spies, but he’ll be more than satisfied with his career when looking back over it in retirement.

Damian Cudlin also had a solid weekend in his debut with Celtic Racing on the Superbike, finishing ninth in race one and eighth in race two after Mat Mladin assisted him in getting the ride for the weekend when regular rider Michael Laverty was attending to World Supersport duties.

Aaron Gobert suffered a broken shoulder blade in a Daytona Sportbike incident on the first lap of the race on Sunday, ending his season with the factory Aprilia team a few laps early, but he’ll have plenty of time to recover during the off-season.

It will be interesting to see where the AMA series heads now as Mladin heads back to Australia, possibly leaving Hayes as the series favourite heading into the 2010 season. Hayes will also team with fellow American Jason Pridmore this weekend in the Bol d’Or Endurance event.

We posted the news this week that Mike Alessi will be riding for Motorex KTM on a Lites bike in Super X, which came as a shock to many after he’s ridden the 450 in America for the past two seasons, but it’s certain that Mike will be riding the 350cc KTM in the States next season and we hear that he thought the 250 would be better preparation for that.

Other news this week is that it’s all but confirmed that Jake Moss will be riding for Shift Motul Suzuki alongside brother Matt in Super X, although we’re hearing that Jake will be on the 450 in the Open class for the series before that twins head stateside in 2010 together.

Now we are to wait on the news of Chad Reed and where he’ll end up, not to mention the future of Michael Byrne, who has had a very solid outdoor season. It would be great to see Burner and Brett Metcalfe out here for Super X on home soil, but it’s understandable that their priorities lay in getting a U.S. ride sorted first.

Alessi is a shock starter for Motorex KTM in Lites class Super X

Alessi is a shock starter for Motorex KTM in Lites class Super X

The riders will all fall into place soon, and when they do we’ll keep you updated here at each and every step along the way.

One race I’m really looking forward to this weekend is the final round of the Australian Off-Road Championship, which will be run and won at Young in New South Wales on Saturday and Sunday.

The series is going down to former world champion Stefan Merriman and Motocross-convert Toby Price, and it’s very hard to predict what the outcome will be after the weekend’s done.

Check back for updates over the weekend on Saturday and Sunday night to find out if Price manages the off-road upset of the year.

That’s all for today, thanks for reading RI once again!