News 23 Sep 2009

Racing Insider #116

Racing Insider today features the future of Chris Vermeulen; plus news from MotoGP; WSBK; ASBK; AMA SX; Oz SX; and Oz Off-Road.

MOTOGP

Stoner hasn't been seen on a bike since Donington in July

Stoner hasn't been seen on a bike since Donington in July

The countdown is on to Casey Stoner’s return at the Grand Prix of Portugal in the first weekend of October, and the good news is that expectations are high that he’ll show up as expected.

It’s been a quiet few races for Australia since Stoner’s last race at the British Grand Prix in July, especially with the news that Chris Vermeulen has been replaced at Rizla Suzuki for 2010.

We’ll have more on Vermeulen and his possible future in the World Superbike section of today’s Insider column.

Despite Pramac Racing trying hard to place Niccolo Canepa on the sidelines for the final GPs of this season, it looks as though he’ll at least be there for Estoril, although Aleix Espargaro is also going just in case Stoner decides to sit out the round and he’s called up to replace Kallio again, who in turn would be replacing Stoner.

Mugello is a hive of activity this week where 250cc Grand Prix star Mattia Pasini is testing a Ducati Desmosedici GP9, undergoing three days of testing in a bid to see if he’ll be competitive enough to partner Mika Kallio on the Pramac Racing team next year.

Kallio re-signed for the team this week and they had also reportedly made an offer to Vermeulen, but he’s likely to turn the deal down, leaving the team to give Pasini the opportunity to join the premier class if he performs in testing.

We’ve been closely following the potential move of Valentino Rossi to Ducati Marlboro in 2011, which would make an all-Italian dream team, but I don’t buy it until the deal’s done and we see the #46 on the front of the red missile.

Rossi is understandably frustrated that his biggest opponent is in the same team with him at Fiat Yamaha, effectively taking advantage of Rossi and Jeremy Burgess’ development skills, so you can see why he’d be interested in a change despite earlier saying that he’d finish his career in blue.

WORLD SUPERBIKE
I mentioned Queenslander Chris Vermeulen above, and I’m confident to say that he’ll almost definitely be in the Superbike World Championship again in 2010, reigniting his career on competitive equipment.

Vermeulen is said to have four factory-supported offers for WSBK 2010

Vermeulen is said to have four factory-supported offers for WSBK 2010

It’s believed that CV has no less than four factory offers from the seven factory-supported Superbike teams in the world championship, which would easily overshadow a Pramac Ducati or similar if he were to stay in MotoGP.

Personally, I’d like to see Vermeulen on an Aprilia RSV4 alongside Max Biaggi, although the return of Vermeulen on a Ten Kate Honda would have to be a great blast from the past.

By the way, Biaggi recently became a father, so congratulations to him and his partner.

Speaking of Aprilia, Shinya Nakano is out of action for the Imola and Magny-Cours rounds, and current 250cc World Champion Marco Simoncelli is actually testing the RSV4 alongside Pasini at Mugello this week.

Pasini was fast on day one, close to the pace of Michel Fabrizio around that circuit, and the word is that Aprilia is desperate for him to line up alongside Biaggi at the upcoming pair of WSBK rounds.

The only thing stopping this is that he’s signed for Gresini Honda in MotoGP for 2010, and contesting a couple of rounds in WSBK is certain to upset Dorna as the battle for the best motorcycle road race series continues to grow more intense.

A big thing we are waiting on is the future of Ben Spies and Yamaha, whether or not he’ll be going to MotoGP with Tech 3 Yamaha or not, but I’m confident that our sources are correct and he’ll indeed be making the move to the premier class unless he loses this year’s WSBK crown.

Stiggy Racing has down-sized to just one Superbike and one Supersport rider for the final three rounds of this year, but it’s likely that the team will be back in full force next season, albeit with Yamahas.

One rider who likely won’t be back with Stiggy is Leon Haslam, because it’s said that he’ll be switching to Alstare Suzuki alongside Max Neukirchner for the new year after impressing on the privately-run Stiggy squad this year.

Just quickly, I was speaking to Russell Holland this week about his future after he lost his World Supersport ride earlier this year, and he told me he’d been testing a KTM street-spec RC8 in Italy recently. It’s looking as though he’ll focus on the Italian domestic championship next year if a ride can be sourced.

AUSTRALIAN SUPERBIKE
We had quite a big section on Australian Superbikes in last week’s Insider, and not much has changed so far this week as we all anxiously await the future of the series, the teams, and the riders.

One thing I have learned this week, while doing a very interesting feature story for next week’s Australian Motorcycle News, is that three different people have stated that the series is the best that it has ever been since their involvement – and you’ll be surprised to see who they are that said that.

Is the ASBK the best it's ever been? Some industry insiders believe it is

Is the ASBK the best it's ever been? Some industry insiders believe it is

The story will tell the whole story, but I can see their sides when stating that the series is the best it’s ever been, but I can also see the concern of the many privateers and sponsors who are eager to plan their futures – planning that is very difficult to do unless you know where the series is heading exactly.

For the Superbikes I’m certain that they’ll be with the V8 Supercars at the majority of the rounds next year (at least half), as the Supersport class may be too, but what I can’t tell you is where the support classes stand in all of this planning.

All who I have spoken to for the AMCN feature have recognised the importance of the feeder classes, because without them we won’t have any up and coming Superbike riders in the next five or so years, and rider development is essential.

But on the other hand everybody can see the importance of having the bikes alongside our premier motorsport category, being the V8s, and competing in front of the corporate sponsors (not to mention spectators) that go with it.

The problem is that the entire line-up of ASBK classes can’t fit in the V8 schedule at those selected rounds if it goes ahead, and the MotoGP/WSBK events can only fit selected support categories, so it seems as though International Entertainment Group is going to have some very difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks regarding the placement and structure of the 2010 series.

There has also been plenty of talk about the whereabouts of the final ASBK round for this year, with speculation doing the rounds that the Superbike and Supersport classes would be at the V8s, leaving the remaining categories to compete on the planned 27-29 November date alone.

This isn’t happening from what I’ve been told, and it looks as though the final round will be contested as planned with all of the regular ASBK categories involved in the Phillip Island finale.

To wrap up the ASBK section, how about this for a rumour….Trinder Brothers Racing will be back with MV Agusta once again in 2010.

Stewart in action on the 2010 model Yamaha YZ450F

Stewart in action on the 2010 model Yamaha YZ450F

AMERICAN SUPERCROSS
We’ve seen many pictures and images of defending AMA Supercross Champion James Stewart on his trick 2010 model Yamaha YZ450F over the past week, and word is that he’s ultra fast on it already.

The problem for us Aussies is, what is Chad Reed up to? While his biggest rival is getting plenty of time on his new bike, Reedy is still reportedly sorting through his contract for next year as the clock is quickly ticking.

We’ll see CR on a Suzuki one last time (we think) at the Red Bull Motocross of Nations event in Italy next weekend, but after that I don’t think there is anybody who knows exactly what’s happening.

It’s sad to see Reed and Suzuki part ways after what has been a glorious reunion for the pair both in the States and in Australia during Super X, but apparently money talks and Suzuki is very much downsizing its program in the U.S. – with some even saying that Yoshimura will take over the running of the off-road team, like they do in AMA Superbike.

Either way, the most important thing is that Reed is ready come Anaheim I next January.

Sources suggest that Jake Moss hasn’t yet signed a deal, but is in fact fielding offers from a variety of teams for 2010 after an impressive comeback year from his back injury suffered late last year during Super X.

AUSTRALIAN SUPERCROSS
The Monster Energy Australasian Supercross Championship, Super X, is quickly sneaking up on us as the opening round in Tasmania is just over three weeks away, but the series hype for this year seems somewhat toned down compared to last year.

Yes, we have the confirmation of James Stewart for Brisbane, and yes, we have Jeremy McGrath coming over for selected rounds once again, which is very popular with the fans.

But apart from that it’s really been quiet on the domestic front, and part of this is because we are still awaiting the news of what Chad Reed will be riding, and if he’ll still be contesting the entire series as originally planned.

There's been no talk of Michael Byrne returning for Super X so far

There's been no talk of Michael Byrne returning for Super X so far

We’re also awaiting confirmation on what our other international Aussies will be doing, including the future of Jake Moss (definitely on a Suzuki as he’s been riding one since returning home), Dan Reardon (said to be on a Woodstock Honda) and even guys like Michael Byrne and Brett Metcalfe.

The news is out there that Mossy and Reardon are returning, but we’re yet to have official confirmation from the manufacturers at this point, or from KTM regarding the news of American Mike Alessi riding in the Lites class.

There’s no doubt that the series is going to be massive and the anticipation is huge, but these small uncertainties are somewhat clouding any plans for a good bench racing session just yet!

AUSTRALIAN OFF-ROAD

The disappointing news came last week that Dirt Bike Promotions will not be promoting next year’s Australian Off-Road Championship, deciding to take time out after a few solid years of doing a great job with the series.

It’ll be interesting to see which direction Motorcycling Australia points the series in from this moment, but you can guarantee that Dirt Bike Promotions’ role in the industry is going to be a very difficult void to fill.

For the riders’ and teams’ sakes I hope that they are able to put something together that will allow the series and the Australian Four Day Enduro to continue growing, because it truly has built up to being one of Australia’s premier motorcycle disciplines.

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