World Superbikes In 2012: 22 Riders, 6 Makes, And A Gaggle Of Contenders

Despite the loss of the factory Yamaha team, the World Superbike series is still in relatively good health, considering the financial crisis. Though the days of 30+ rider grids are gone, grid size has stabilized at around the 22 rider mark, 1 up from last year, while there are still 6 manufacturers present, Aprilia, BMW, Ducati and Kawasaki in an official capacity, Honda unofficially via Ten Kate, and Suzuki absent, with Crescent working with Yoshimura on their own bikes.

The field has seen some changes, though most of the title favorites are staying with the teams they were with in 2011. Carlos Checa remains with Althea Ducati, though the effort expands to include 2011 Superstock champ Davide Giugliano, while Max Biaggi is in the second year of his 2-year contract with Aprilia, and Johnny Rea is staying with the Ten Kate Honda squad. Championship runner up Marco Melandri has been forced to move, joining Leon Haslam at BMW, while his erstwhile teammate Eugene Laverty has been paired with Biaggi in the factory Aprilia squad. The factory Kawasaki rider contingent is cut from 3 to 2, Chris Vermeulen losing his slot, while Tom Sykes remains alongside Joan Lascorz.

Though many of the riders are staying, the teams themselves have seen a few major changes. The biggest of the changes is at Kawasaki, with control of the factory effort being taken away from Paul Bird's PBM effort (who will be switching to race an Aprilia CRT machine in MotoGP) and handed to the Spanish Provec squad, who previously ran the World Supersport team. Ichiro Yoda remains at the head of the program, but Provec will be running the team.

The departure of Yamaha has seen a lot of changes at BMW as well. Several former key Yamaha personnel have moved into the factory BMW garage, including former Yamaha team manager Andrea Dosoli. Rumors persist of a switch of electronics at BMW, with both Magneti Marelli and Cosworth being linked to the factory, though BMW insist that they will be sticking with the system they developed in house.

Though Suzuki have pulled factory support from both MotoGP and World Superbikes, there will be GSX-R 1000s on the grid in 2012. The remnants of Suzuki's Rizla MotoGP squad have joined their sister Crescent Suzuki BSB squad, bringing 2011 BSB runner up John Hopkins back to World Superbikes, and Leon Camier making the switch from Aprilia to join the Californian. Hopkins proved his ability last year with Crescent, but the team believe that their bikes will lag a little way behind the factory-backed efforts of Aprilia and Ducati especially, despite support on bike development from Yoshimura Japan.

Perhaps the two most interesting changes on the grid are the additions at Aprilia, with Eugene Laverty joining Max Biaggi, and 2011 World Supersport champion Chaz Davies moving up with his ParkinGO team to race an RSV4. Laverty set the fastest time on race tires at the last WSBK test of 2011 at Portimao, beating his new teammate into the bargain. Having spent several years aboard both a 250 and a WSS bike should give the Irishman an advantage on the Aprilia, which is the nearest thing to a Grand Prix machine on the WSBK grid. Much the same can be said for Davies, who ended his first test aboard the bike just half a second slower than Laverty. 

Some of the names on the list remain uncertain, including the fate of fan favorite Noriyuki Haga. Rumors persist that Haga will be on the grid aboard an Ducati 1198, on a new team put together by parts of the DFX organization. But an official announcement is yet to appear. If Haga should be forced to retire, the World Superbike series will lose one of its most remarkable characters. With Troy Corser also hanging up his helmet, that would be a major loss for the series to bear.

Below is the 2012 WSBK entry list so far:

No. Rider Bike Team
1 Carlos Checa Ducati 1198R Ducati Althea
2 Leon Camier Suzuki GSX-R 1000 Crescent Suzuki
3 Max Biaggi Aprilia RSV4R Aprilia Corse
4 Hiroshi Aoyama Honda CBR1000RR Ten Kate Honda
17 Joan Lascorz Kawasaki ZX-10R Provec Kawasaki
21 John Hopkins Suzuki GSX-R 1000 Crescent Suzuki
33 Marco Melandri BMW S1000RR BMW Motorrad
34 Davide Giugliano Ducati 1198R Ducati Althea
41 Noriyuki Haga? Ducati 1198R New Team?
50 Sylvain Guintoli Ducati 1198R Effenbert Liberty
58 Eugene Laverty Aprilia RSV4R Aprilia Corse
59 Niccolo Canepa Ducati 1198R Ducati Roma
65 Johnny Rea Honda CBR1000RR Ten Kate Honda
66 Tom Sykes Kawasaki ZX-10R Provec Kawasaki
84 Michel Fabrizio BMW S1000RR BMW Italia
86 Ayrton Badovini BMW S1000RR BMW Italia
91 Leon Haslam BMW S1000RR BMW Motorrad
96 Jakub Smrz Ducati 1198R Effenbert Liberty
121 Maxime Berger Ducati 1198R Effenbert Liberty
? Chaz Davies Aprilia RSV4R ParkinGO
? Leandro Mercado Kawasaki ZX-10R Pedercini Kawasaki
? Lorenzo Zanetti Aprilia RSV4R? Pata Aprilia

Items marked with ? are either unknown or uncertain as yet.

You can find the latest version of the 2012 WSBK rider entry list here.

Compiled in part with help from Phil Price and David Suarez

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Unless Aprilia tones down Laverty's factory support in his garage by Max's request... he should be 1 of the top 3 fighting for the 2012 title! Laverty is very keen to proving his worth to the other riders on the grid besides to himself. Let the battles begin.

It seems like there could be a few real contenders next season. Checa, Biaggi, Laverty, Melandri (if BMW sort the bike well), Rea. Maybe Aoyama although he may need some time to acclimate. SBK needs to do something with streaming though. It's tough to watch here in the US. Speed TV makes even good races boring somehow. Maybe it's the constant commercial breaks. I'd pay something to stream directly.

Really hoping Aoyama does well. I've always liked him a lot and I think the series may suit him.

And waiting until Tuesday, at the earliest, to watch World Supersport sucks... I spend Monday and most of Tuesday trying to avoid spoilers online. I would pay for streaming too

There are alternatives to watching the speed broadcasts of WSBK races stateside. I will not list them here but I have not watched a speed broadcast of wsbk in years and have never missed a race.

I figured as much but finding streams for GPs was always tedious and they crap out halfway through the race and all that. I pay for the MotoGP site now and the convenience is worth it. Speed is such a bad tease though. The races are there but are so infuriating to watch, they seem to be able to suck the drama out of almost anything.

RU went under, and nothing like it exists anymore. If you wish to express sorrow about RU's passing with other MM peeps, use PMs on the backside.

Now all we need are the races broadcast in HD in the U.S. I don't watcth this series because of the horrible broadcast quality. If MotoGP and the U.S. national races can be shown in HD, why not this series also?

SPEED did broadcast WSBK on HD in 2011. Looked way better than years past but still lacked the saturation and richness of colour the MotoGP broadcasts have for some reason. Maybe life is just that much more shiny at the top of the food chain

I thought Ducati's involvement was more like the Ken Tate Honda team as opposed to a factory "official capacity" team. Has something changed since last year?

NEVER in recent memory has WSBK/WSS been in poorer condition. I could barely raise the interest to watch last year and with only 6 japanese bikes going around in the ducati cup I wont bother with many this year. Let's face it outside of the factory bikes most are just grid fillers and poor ones at that.

& the broadcast quality is appalling and the commentary by that tabloid hack Johnathon what'shisname worse (steve martin is v good when he can get a word in).

Time to dramatically reduce expensive mods allowed (after all it is a production based series - we have gp for prptotypes) - get a control cpu & get the grid full & competitive second teams of hondas, suzukis, yammies etc etc

As said before - traction control on supersport bikes, you have got to be kidding

I tend to agree about the state of WSBK racing; however, I'm not convinced the sophistication of the equipment is to blame. The real problem, imo, is the way the race bikes are constructed, and, to a lesser extent, the capacity, electronics, and compression rules.

In the US, a Ducati D16RR retailed for $72,500, a fraction of the cost of building a factory-spec WSBK machine. The D16RR indicates that WSBK has serious flaws in the cost structure, but the D16RR also indicates that the problem isn't the sophistication of the parts.

The problem is strictly business. The manufacturers spend millions of dollars updating their machines and electronics every season, but those costs are spread across 20-30 factory-spec bikes. Furthermore, hundreds of SBKs are built according to dozens of different national rulebooks. The duplication of process is extraordinarily wasteful, and duplication of process is a big opportunity cost for the manufacturers as well. Wastefulness also tends to create a caste system for the participants b/c he who wastes most, wins most. The caste system brought the AMA to its knees, and now that BSB can no longer afford WSBK spec, MSVR must also combat diseconomies of scale and lopsided rules.

Homologation specials can fix cost redundancy, but homologation specials can't happen until the SBK commission changes the displacement, electronics, and compression, imo. It isn't practical for national series to run 215hp 1000cc homologation specials b/c most circuits aren't safe enough. Detuning the bikes to satisfy the national rulebooks (and fuel specs) requires different reciprocating internals and different electronics, both of which kill the standardized economies of scale. Also, free-compression and free-electronics are problematic b/c the manufacturers don't want to sell the technology. Free static compression is particularly cumbersome b/c it increases the advantage of expensive valve actuation systems (like gear cams), and it reduces engine service intervals.

SBK racing around the world would improve drastically if the SBK Commission and the manufacturers would get their act together. Implementing OTC or spec electronics, as well as fixed compression at 13:1 (or lower) would allow the manufacturers to sell factory-spec homologation specials to racers around the world. Safety problems could also be averted by switching to an 800cc/1000cc formula for fours and twins.

SBKs would still be super. SBK construction would be centralized and standardized, and the cost of building superbikes would be spread across hundreds or thousands of units. SBK would be "production" again b/c all race parts would be available for sale. The same basic concept could be applied to 600cc race bikes as well.

Just had a look at the MotGP rider listing and I didn't see Ant West in any of the classes. Was I mistaken? Yes I was thankfully. I'm off to the optometrist tomorrow for new glasses after double checking ..... embarrassing :-)

No Mark Aitchison at Pedercini in 2012? I thought he showed quite impressive speed last season. Lack of bringing in the moolah perhaps? Anyway, looks like an excitingly deep lineup of talent.

Excellent news indeed. Good for Aitcho but even better to have another new team join the series.

David, can you manage to arrange an interview with Haga??? Any update or additional rumors about Haga's plans for 2012? Going back to Ducati? On a satellite team? His last season on the factory Ducati team was not so great. Ben Spies stole his heart when he won the WSB title in his rookie year and Haga hasn't been the same since! Is it the machine/team or the man that's to blame for his mediocre performances?