One of the two final missing pieces of the 2014 MotoGP line up has been filled in. Today, the PBM team announced they would be back in MotoGP next season, with a two-rider team and additional help from Aprilia. The two riders will be Michael Laverty, who rode for Paul Bird's PBM team in 2013, and Broc Parkes, who has spent most of his career racing in World Supersport and World Superbikes.
If the opening round of the 2012 World Superbike Championship taught us anything, it's that this looks to be a two-horse race. Assuming no major wrenches are thrown in the works. Aprilia's Max Biaggi and Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa had the pace of everyone else in the field covered. Handily. And each of the early championship-protagonists cruised to victory without having to worry about the other after a couple of off-track excursions.
Saturday’s World Superbike Superpole and World Supersport final qualifying sessions from Philip Island were cancelled after a serious accident in the Australian Supersport race resulted in the death of Australian rider Oscar McIntyre. The 17-year-old collided with fellow racers Luke Burgess and Michael Lockhart on the second lap of the Australian support race and died despite receiving immediate medical treatment at the scene. Because of the seriousness of the accident, the event organizers decided to cancel Superpole.
What a difference a day makes. Or perhaps that should be, what a different an afternoon makes. That Casey Stoner took pole at Motegi in the MotoGP class should surprise no one: pole in Japan is Stoner's 10th of the year, a new record for a MotoGP season, and with it, he wrapped up the BMW M Award, getting to take home a shiny new BMW 1 Series M Coupe. And all that with three qualifying sessions left to go.
What was more of a surprise was the man who will start from next to him on the grid at Motegi. Yesterday, Jorge Lorenzo was the best-of-the-rest, capable only of following at a discreet distance, but a change after FP3 on Saturday morning turned the reigning World Champion's fortunes around. During qualifying, Lorenzo found he was matching the race pace of the Repsol Hondas, then as the pace was upped in the last 10 minutes, the factory Yamaha man found himself temporarily on pole, with a new pole record to boot. That would not stand - Stoner smashed both the old and the new pole record, bagging himself a BMW in the process - but the fact that Lorenzo was on the pace of the Hondas gave him heart. "I didn't expect to be on the front row," Lorenzo said, but the changes the team had made had worked. A front-row start puts him in touch with Stoner from the line, and going by the Spaniard's pace on race tires, capable of giving the Australian a run for his money.
It's going to be a big weekend at Imola. The World Superbike series should be crowning at least one champion on Sunday, and it is entirely possible that both the World Superbike and World Supersport titles are wrapped up at Imola.
The World Supersport class looks a shoe-in for Chaz Davies. The Welshman leads the series by 59 points, and just needs to finish on the podium to take the title. Even if he doesn't get on the box, his main rivals have not succeeded in putting much pressure on him throughout the year; David Salom and Fabien Foret have struggled to beat him even on his (very rare) off-days, and Broc Parkes trails by 67 points, a very big ask indeed.
Parkes demonstrated he hasn't given up completely, finishing 2nd behind Davies' teammate Luca Scassa during qualifying on Friday, but Davies looked like a man who was in control of the situation. The ParkinGO Yamaha rider ended QP1 with the 3rd fastest time, just over a third of a second behind Scassa, and confident there was more in the tank. Davies' calmness has been an asset all season, and so far, it looks like it is going to pay off.
With the World Superbike paddock mostly reassembled at Aragon, for the three-day WSBK test there, the teams are taking the opportunity to make any announcements which they still have outstanding. Most of those - such as the announcement earlier that James Toseland would be riding for the BMW Italia team - are merely confirmation of news which had leaked out earlier, and the press release from the factory-supported Kawasaki WSBK and WSS teams was no exception.
In it, Kawasaki confirmed that they will be running three riders in the PBM Kawasaki squad, with Spaniard Joan Lascorz joining 2010 riders Tom Sykes and Chris Vermeulen for 2011. Lascorz was outstanding all year in World Supersport until his season-ending crash at Silverstone, but his early performance was good enough to earn promotion to World Superbikes.
After the final World Superbike round of the 2010 season, news has inevitably started to filter out of Magny-Cours about the shape of 2011. There were official announcements, cryptic hints and barroom gossip concerning who will be doing what for next year in World Superbikes and World Supersport. A round up of the latest rumors is given below:
Despite it being nearly four weeks since the World Superbike paddock last convened at Phillip Island, the weekend - and the runup to that weekend - is having knock on effects on the rider lineup of the series. Before the weekend had even started, Australian rider Broc Parkes broke a tibia during training, and was replaced on the Echo CRS Honda by fellow Australian Josh Brookes. Parkes is still not fully fit to race, and so will be replaced by South African Sheridan Morais at Portimao.
Morais was a substitute rider last year, taking the place of Makoto Tamada in Paul Bird's Kawasaki World Superbike squad. The South African has switched manufacturers this winter, and is currently campaigning an Aprilia RSV4 in the South African Superbike series.