News 30 Sep 2009

Racing Insider #117

Our biggest Racing Insider yet features the mysterious comeback of Troy Bayliss to WSBK, plus news from MotoGP; Moto2; ASBK; BSB; Oz SX; World MX; and Oz Off-Road.

MOTOGP

Stoner will be back from the sidelines in Estoril

Stoner will be back from the sidelines in Estoril

A Ducati press release that loaded through the email server overnight has confirmed the participation of Australia’s Casey Stoner at Estoril in Portugal this weekend, providing a great sigh of relief for the motorcycle industry on a whole that one of greatest riders isn’t slipping away into an early retirement as speculated.

The release, which can be seen here, notes the extent and reasoning behind Casey’s break of three races better than I have seen explained anywhere to date, and I am excited to see if he can take up the fight straight away to Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.

But not all seems to be well in the red camp, because even this week there has been stories coming out of Europe stating that Casey’s not happy with something or somebody on the team, and Livio Suppo was doing all he could to rectify the issue.

I personally don’t know if there is any truth to these stories, but what I do know is that the European press is well informed with great sources on a number of levels, so it’ll be interesting to see the relationship between Casey and the team in Portugal – especially since they’ve offered big money deals to Lorenzo and co while he’s been away.

Either way, Casey’s back in his European base in Switzerland and he’s certain to be a factor for at least a podium position on the Desmosedici – maybe even better as he has some new parts at his disposal for the weekend.

Former grand prix rider Carlos Checa has been linked to a testing role with Ducati on the MotoGP test team for 2010, set to be a possible option if he’s not to secure a ride in World Superbike next year on a competitive team. If you want my two cents, I’d say he’ll remain in WSBK.

This weekend’s going to be yet another great race as Lorenzo looms as a realistic threat to Rossi in the series with just four rounds remaining, and Stoner’s appearance will throw a spanner in the works, for sure.

Good news on the local front came last week that the Reece Bancell Memorial Association has been announced as the official charity of the 2009 Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

The RBMA was founded by Jill and David Bancell in 2004, establishing the charity to honour the memory of their son Reece, who was tragically killed in an on-track accident at Eastern Creek in 2003 at the age of 19.

This news is just the latest in a great few years of work for the RBMA, really assisting in raising the safety standards in our country and providing great support for motorcycle racing on a national level.

MOTO2
The Moto2 category copped a serious hit last week when it was revealed that Honda will not be able to supply engines to competing teams until March next year, proving a huge set back that means teams will likely have to develop their bikes using production CBR600RR engines sources themselves – not the official GP-spec control engines direct from Honda.

But team participation is looking fantastic, and Aprilia has confirmed that it will be providing support via their chassis for the Aspar team and a couple of other current 250cc GP teams, making for five factory Aprilias on the grid next season.

The only MotoGP teams that we can expect to participate are Tech 3, Gresini, and Pramac Racing, as well as Kenny Roberts’s KR Team, which will provide a very high class of teams with many good riders to join them.

Rumours as of last week have current Supersport World Champion Andrew Pitt to join the series, and the lingering rumour of Mark Aitchison joining the series on a Spanish team remains floating around. Anthony West’s name has also been raised as a possible candidate to return to the grand prix paddock.

We’ll have to wait and see what eventuates out of all this, but it would be awesome to see an Aussie contingent in the Moto2 ranks on competitive equipment.

WORLD SUPERBIKE
Imola’s World Superbike weekend featured one of the most surprising news stories of all posted on the web from Italian media giants Moto Sprint, claiming that current retired series champion Troy Bayliss is looking to make a comeback in 2010.

The story is that TB was in Italy last week sussing out whether or not Ducati would have a place for him in WSBK 2010, but obviously they’ve already signed Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio once again.

This is where the story gets tricky, because after that, Bayliss was then linked directly to Aprilia and its RSV4 – not only for next year, but also as a possible replacement for Shinya Nakano at the remaining rounds this year!

In fact, the French media over at Caradisiac Moto had an interview this week with Aprilia representative Alain Roger, and he had this to say:

“We’ve even been surprised to see Troy Bayliss coming towards us and we declare in all seriousness that he wanted to return to competition in 2010 with our bike!
There was nothing done at all, but the fact is there.”

Are the Bayliss back to WSBK rumours true? Or has April Fool's Day come late in Europe?

Are the Bayliss back to WSBK rumours true? Or has April Fool's Day come late in Europe?

Who knows what is going on here, but it would be surprising to see Bayliss back in action – especially on an Aprilia. Stanger things have happened though, and there’s no doubting that Troy’s competitive spirit is still burning inside since he retired at the end of last season. Is it April Fool’s Day over there in Europe, or what?

Roger confirmed that there will be a total of four RSV4s on the grid next year, two run by a satellite team, and there is yet to be confirmation who will officially partner Max Biaggi on the factory team.

Riders mentioned include James Toseland and Chris Vermeulen, but yet another shock this week came in the form of Vermeulen set to join Kawasaki’s WSBK team, which is set to be receiving yet another makeover in hope of developing a better bike for 2011.

I’d prefer to see Chris on a Honda, Yamaha or Suzuki to be honest, but it’s his decision and he must know something that we don’t about the next ZX-10R if he decides to take the option – big-bang engine perhaps?

Also in the frame at Kawasaki are Shane Byrne and Tom Sykes according to the Europeans, but surely a rider of Vermeulen’s calibre would overshadow these two prospects.

It’s yet to be seen where current Kawasaki rider Broc Parkes will end up in all of these predicted shuffles.

Ten Kate Honda has announced the re-signing of Jonathan Rea for the 2010 and 2011 Superbike World Championship seasons, the Irish rider rejoining the team on a two-year deal.

Also renewing his contract with the Ten Kate team is Keenan Sofuoglu, the Turkish rider remaining in the Supersport category once again.

Both Toseland and CV have also been linked to Ten Kate, but this week seems to indicate that Checa is prepared to take a pay cut to remain on the team, and that’s quite an appetising option for the Dutch team.

As noted above, Ducati Xerox riders Haga and Fabrizio will make up the factory World Superbike team once again in 2010, despite rumours that Haga would be retiring from the sport.

Suzuki will have Max Neukirchner and reportedly Leon Haslam, but Haslam has also been linked to Stiggy Racing once again, which is set to remain with Honda in a two-ride Superbike-only team despite the long standing rumours of a change to Yamaha.

Yamaha is downsizing its WSBK and WSS teams, effectively closing the Supersport squad, but if Ben Spies isn’t there next year on the Superbike team then you can at least expect Cal Crutchlow and maybe even Leon Camier. Toseland is also linked very closely to that seat, while Crutchlow is still a target of Gresini in Moto2.

Speaking of Camier, don’t rule out him riding the RSV4 of Nakano’s at Magny-Cours and Portimao, and Sheridan Morias is set to replace Makoto Tamada to finish out the season at Kawasaki. These deals are on the table according to MotoGPMatters, but are yet to be finalised.

Simoncelli was a standout in his first WSBK event, but he's MotoGP bound with Gresini in 2010

Simoncelli was a standout in his first WSBK event, but he's MotoGP bound with Gresini in 2010

Despite the silly season now in full swing, last weekend’s Imola round was a great one for the Italian contingent, and for me the standout was Marco Simoncelli in his first ever WSBK event.

Simoncelli’s signed for MotoGP with Gresini Honda next year, but he did enjoy the Superbike experience and caused quite a stir with a big manoeuvre on Max Biaggi in race two on his way to the final podium position.

It’s emerged in the press this week that Super Sic actually received a text message from good friend Valentino Rossi in between races, telling him to push in the second race. I’m sure Vale had a great chuckle at Simoncelli’s pass on the Roman Emperor.

There were no hard feelings from Biaggi afterwards, and Simoncelli admired the sporting rivalries that can be seen in Supers as the acing stays on track and everybody gets along quite well in the pits.

I’d say the lucky one in that collision was Spies, who had to run off the circuit after the pair of Aprilias almost came together in the finicky final chicane on the circuit.

Haga was strong last week while Spies seems to lose momentum, but Magny-Cours this weekend is going to set up a great finale at Portimao in Portugal to wrap up the season.

AUSTRALIAN SUPERBIKE
We’ve had plenty of talk regarding the domestic Superbike scene this week, and the biggest news of all has been Yamaha’s decision to pull out of the Superbike class in the 2010 ASBK series as you can read here.

Some people have mistaken this as Yamaha pulling out of racing altogether, which is incorrect. The truth is, Yamaha will still have its massive appearance at the circuit, but will only be competing in the Supersport and supporting riders in the Superstock categories.

I’ve reported on the European interest in the series for 2010 and 2011, which came direct from the manufacturers after a number of phone calls on Monday, and a thing to keep in mind in all of this is that the European manufacturers have been somewhat less affected by the economy than what the Japanese have.

If we can just work through next year and the teams and series can hold together, then 2011 could be a record year, without getting too far ahead of ourselves.

John Redding from YRT said Yamaha is a possibility of rejoining the Superbikes after a year off, while Kawasaki has only suspended its participation and it has a new ZX-10R on the way for 2011.

Outsourcing of the teams is definitely on the cards in all Australian motorcycle disciplines, but don’t rule out the factories from supporting domestic competition for good just yet.

BRITISH SUPERBIKE
Leon Camier was crowned British Superbike Champion last weekend at Silverstone for Yamaha, a great result after a dominant season.

Aussie Josh Brookes continued his solid streak of podiums with another pair of thirds, and he’s so far been linked to Crescent Suzuki, the factory Yamaha team in place of Camier, and even with the Parkalgar Honda World Supersport team of Eugene Laverty.

Jason O’Halloran is also a possibility to remain in BSB next year if he can piece a deal together, and there’s no doubt that he deserves a second year in Europe after what has been a disappointing season to date this year.

Billy McConnell finished third in Supersport last weekend and remains a chance at the title, but a collision between he and rival Steve Plater did cause some controversy over the weekend. Go get ’em, Billy!

AUSTRALIAN SUPERCROSS
Motorex KTM was advised on Monday that the factory KTM effort would be run by a third party in 2010, effectively leaving the team scrambling for other roles in the industry after the end of the upcoming Super X season.

It’s widely believed that JDR Motorsports will take over the reins as the official KTM team in an outsourced structure, which KTM Australia has told me will be much more cost effective for the factory effort considering the economy.

The question is now who will be the riders, but that will all fall into place in due time and we can expect some top level riders to be fronting the grid in orange come the nationals next year.

Super X is just around the corner and the track maps have officially been put up on the series official website, and it’s now got a Monster Energy green feel to it after receiving a makeover this week.

Stay tuned here at MotoOnline.com.au as we get some interviews with the stars in the lead-up to the series over the next couple of weeks.

WORLD MOTOCROSS
Before Super X begins we can look forward to the Motocross of Nations in Italy this weekend, where the Australian team of Chad Reed, Michael Byrne and Brett Metcalfe will be out in force wearing the green and gold.

The track is quite Supercross-orientated, which will be helpful for the Aussies in the European riders’ backyard, but we shouldn’t rule out the American team of Ivan Tedesco, Ryan Dungey and Jake Weimer just yet.

I wish our boys luck for the weekend and wouldn’t it be unbelievable if the Aussies won the event – probably one of the greatest moments in Australian motocross’ rich history.

AUSTRALIAN OFF-ROAD

Our interview with David White this morning confirmed that Motorcycling Australia has held meetings for a possible replacement to Dirt Bike Promotions for the Australian Off-Road Championship and A4DE, after DBP announced it wouldn’t be running the series next year.

Price will have to defend his title in a new-look AORC series for 2010

Price will have to defend his title in a new-look AORC series for 2010

White didn’t hint as to who the new promoter may be at this stage, but he was confident that a solid calendar of good events would be released in the coming weeks – which would be great for all interested stakeholders in the series.

There’s no doubt that the AORC is a great series and the A4DE is a superb event, it’s just finding the best locations and venues to ensure the riders enjoy the events and the competition is at a high level.

Looking forward to seeing the outcome of this one, hopefully it can maintain the level that DBP has introduced to the sport in the last number of seasons.

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