World Superbikes

2009 World Superbike Final Test, Phillip Island, Day 2

Phillip Island is gearing up for a whole sequence of tests to be run by the World Superbike teams, before the season finally kicks off there in ten days time. The Aprilia riders have already been here for a day - drawing complaints from the other team managers that Aprilia are testing excessively, pushing up the costs of testing for the other teams, - and it is Aprilia's Shinya Nakano who tops the timesheets, clearly into the riding groove already. Nakano leads Regis Laconi, back on a Ducati once again, and looking very fast on it, and his Aprilia team mate Max Biaggi. Biaggi finished the day on a bit of a low note, having suffered a relatively low-speed fall towards the end of the day.

The Supersport riders are also on track, with local boy Ant West looking happier on a Honda Supersport machine than on the Kawasaki MotoGP bike. The Stiggy Motorsports rider leads his team mate Gianluca Vizziello, ahead of the Althea Honda pairing of Mark Aitchison and Matthieu Lagrive.

The current contingent of riders finish up on Wednesday, and will be replaced this weekend by the bulk of the factory teams, ready for the season opener on March 1st.

World Superbike

1Shinya NakanoAprilia1'33.1
2Regis LaconiDucati1'33.1
3Max BiaggiAprilia1'33.7
4Leon HaslamHonda1'34.1
5Makoto TamadaKawasaki1'34.9
6Broc ParkesKawasaki1'35.1

World Supersport

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Lavilla's Team Manager: "We Will Start The Season In Valencia"

Yesterday, we reported on the consequences of the credit crunch for the World Superbike paddock, but it seems they may not be quite as bad as expected. After we ran the story relaying reports of Gregorio Lavilla being forced to pull out of the World Superbike series, we were contacted by Marco Nicotari, owner and manager of the Pro Ride Superbike team which Lavilla rides for.

Nicotari denied that Pro Ride would be pulling out of the World Superbike series, and have every intention of competing in World Superbikes in 2009. However, Nicotari did say that they will not be racing at either the season opener at Phillip Island or the second round at Qatar. "Our position is to start the season in Valencia," he wrote.

Reports of Pro Ride's withdrawal were based on stories that the team would not have a title sponsor. Nicotari rejected this, pointing out that Mormaii Sunglasses has been their sponsor since November 2008, and had appeared on the fairing at the recent Portimao tests. However, the team had lost two smaller sponsors, and unfortunately, these were the sponsors paying for the first two rounds of the year, making it difficult to travel to the first two flyaway rounds. 

"We have decided to skip the first two races due to a loss of 2 important sponsors. They have declared what everyone is declaring now: that this is a difficult economic moment. That was the reason for this hard decision that for sure upset a little bit all of us, including Gregorio, who is a very competeitive person, and who wants to be there racing against the best riders in the world," Nicotari told

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Credit Crunch Hits WSBK Paddock Too - Lavilla Could Lose His Ride

Most of the doom and gloom hitting motorcycle racing in the wake of the credit crisis has been centered on MotoGP. Understandably, as the premier class is exponentially more expensive than any of the other motorcycle racing series. But MotoGP is not alone: after earlier news that Sterilgarda Ducati wouldn't have the funds to field Alessandro Polita in Australia and Qatar, reports are emerging that Gregorio Lavilla could be out of a ride for 2009 altogether.

The well-informed Dutch website is reporting that the Pro-Ride Honda team - which arose from the ashes of the Alto Evolution team, which fielded Shuhei Aoyama in World Superbikes last year, with little success - has failed to find a sponsor, and consequently won't have the money to compete in the 2009 WSBK season, leaving Lavilla sidelined. Racesport's efforts at contacting the team for comment have so far met with no success.

The 35 year-old Spaniard had a mediocre season last year aboard the Vent-Axia Honda, after several years of success in the British Superbikes series. Whether his fortunes would have improved with the former Alto-Evolution team is open to debate, as the Italian team has had very little to show over the past few seasons. But Lavilla could well be joining the ever-growing band of professional motorcycle racers who will be spending 2009 watching from the sidelines.

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Fonsi Nieto Out Of World Superbikes For 2009 Season

Fonsi Nieto has been much in the news, recently. The Spanish star had been tipped to replace Alessandro Polita at Sterilgarda Ducati recently, who had had problems with personal sponsors.

Nieto himself believed he was close to extending the deal he had with Alstare Suzuki from last year, despite Alstare claiming they would only be able to field two factory Suzukis. But even that has fallen through, according to Spanish magazine Solomoto, leaving Nieto without a ride.

"The conditions for staying with the Alstare team were unacceptable for a rider who won a race last year, as well as getting on the podium a number of times," Nieto told Solomoto. "They offered me a satellite-spec Suzuki GSX-R, but I wouldn't be able to share the garage with the factory bikes. After weeks and weeks of negotatiting, they told me that the bikes wouldn't be ready until the Valencia race. Which would mean I couldn't race at either Australia or Qatar."

So instead, Nieto will be helping to develop the Moto2 bike which Eskil Suter is developing for the Team LaGlisse, one of the top teams in the Spanish championship. The bike should be ready for testing within the next month, but Nieto told Solomoto that he didn't know whether he would be racing the bike in the series in Spain this year. Instead, he will spend the time training, and getting ready for next year.

Nieto's misfortune goes to show that even the considerable personal sponsorship that the Spaniard is believed to carry can't buy you a place on the grid. And even for a rider who finished 6th in the championship, ahead of names such as Max Biaggi, Ruben Xaus, Michel Fabrizio and his team mate Yukio Kagayama, who did keep his seat, the World Superbike paddock can be a pretty tough place. 

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Fonsi Nieto Could Replace Polita At Sterilgarda Ducati

After Sterilgarda Ducati announced that Alessandro Polita would not be present at the first two races of the season, leaving Shane Byrne as the sole representative of the team, further rumors are emerging that Polita could be replaced altogether. Both and sources inside Italy are reporting that Polita could lose his place altogether, after Polita's personal sponsors failed to find the promised cash to fund the Italian's season, and that Fonsi Nieto is waiting in the wings to take his place.

Nieto has no such money problems. The Spaniard, nephew of the legendary Angel Nieto, brings with him the Spanish cellphone provider Pepephone, which helped fund the Alstare Suzuki team last year. But though money may be no concern, there is still some doubt about the truth of these rumors. Nieto himself claims that he will be riding for Alstare Suzuki this season, despite his absence from the first World Superbike test at Portimao earlier this year.

Nieto's claims could well be more bargaining position than fact, given the deathly silence emanating from Francis Batta's Alstare Suzuki team. And if that silence continues, a move to Sterilgarda Ducati would be no bad option. But the loss of a ride for Polita due to sponsoring problems shows that World Superbike is not immune from the financial crisis currently hammering MotoGP.


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Byrne To Be Sole Sterilgarda Rider At First Two World Superbike Rounds

So  far, the global financial crisis has mainly affected MotoGP, leaving World Superbikes largely untouched. This is hardly surprising, as World Superbikes is a much cheaper series to compete in, and does not swallow money in the same way that developing the highly strung prototypes in MotoGP does.

But that does not mean that World Superbikes is immune. According to, the Sterilgarda Ducati team, in an attempt to cut costs, will only be fielding Shane Byrne at the first two rounds of the series, leaving their Italian rider, Alessandro Polita, making the step up from Superstock, at home. "I'm very sorry about the situation, which prevents us from taking Alex," team manager Marco Borciani said. "Unfortunately, business conditions have prevented some of the companies from providing the sponsorship we were expecting for 2009."

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Rolfo And Stiggy Deny Rumors That Hopkins Will Take Rolfo's Ride

The rumors which emanated from the London Motorcycle show yesterday, that John Hopkins would be joining Leon Haslam at Stiggy Motorsports, have already provoked a reaction. Robby Rolfo - the man Hopkins was rumored to be replacing - has posted a message on his personal website, which would seem to rebut any such allegations.

The article is phrased very carefully, without mentioning any of the rumors directly, but Rolfo makes it perfectly clear that he expects to be riding once the World Superbike circus hits Phillip Island. Here's a translation of what he writes:

"Hi guys!

Over the past few days I've received a lot of mail about my injury, and first of all, I want to thank you all and let you know that your support has been really great! I was only able to do a few laps at Portimao, the injury is still too fresh; I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but it was important for me to get on the track, to gain confidence in the bike and get used to the new team! I'm very happy, because the potential is really good! Now, there are only a few more days until the next in Australia, and I'm training hard to improve my shape and my motivation!

I spend every minute I can on getting better, in therapy, running, cycling, swimming, always with music: a special thank you to Diabo for the Canto del Loco songs!!! I'm using every day I can so I can arrive in Australia in top form for the next test!

Greetings, and as always, gaaassss!


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Hopkins To Join Stiggy Motorsports In World Superbikes?

The MCN London Motorcycle Show at the ExCeL London exhibition center provides all the necessary ingredients for scandal and rumor: Over the course of four days, the motorcycling press, manufacturers, racers, teams and bikers are packed together with little more to do than gossip and gawp at bikes and biking celebrities.

So it is hardly surprising that along with the news emanating from the show comes the rumor that John Hopkins could be moving to World Superbikes. With the chances of a rescue package for Kawasaki in MotoGP fading every day, the American could end up riding a Honda alongside Leon Haslam for Stiggy Motorsports.

At the moment, that seat is held by Roberto Rolfo, but the Italian is still suffering from a fractured shoulder picked up early last year. Rolfo had decided not to have surgery to stabilize the shoulder, as any operation would have required a very lengthy period of physical rehabilitation, causing the Italian to miss most of the 2009 season. But after a difficult test at Portimao, where Rolfo didn't ride much, and only managed to finish second-from-last when he did, there is a good chance that he may be forced to change his mind about surgery.

This would leave the ride open for Hopkins, and as Rolfo brings with him a lot of personal sponsorship, any money that Hopper could bring would be more than welcomed by the Scandinavian team. With Hopkins' Monster sponsorship covering his salary, the American could effectively ride for Stiggy Motorsports for free. And with John Hopkins and Leon Haslam, both riders with proven talent, the team could well be a serious threat in the already crowded World Superbike championship.

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Flammini: "It's Not Superbikes Vs MotoGP"

The World Superbike tests at Portugal's Portimao circuit last week were more than just the first opportunity for the World Superbike and World Supersport riders to take to the track this year, it also marked the official opening of the 2009 World Superbike season. To mark that fact, InFront Motor Sports CEO Paolo Flammini spoke to journalists at the launch to present the riders and teams officially. During the presentation, he also shared some of his thoughts on the future of the series, and its relationship with MotoGP.

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Portimao World Superbike Times - Day 3 - Byrne Blitzes Superpole And Overall Times

Shane Byrne was once again the fastest rider in the first running of the new Superpole format for World Superbikes, which takes the form of Formula 1-style "knock out" qualifying: Three sessions of 12 minutes, with a cut down to the 16 fastest to start the second session, and down to 8 to start the final session. Rain disrupted the second session, upsetting proceedings a little and showing that the new procedure can catch people out in qualifying, just as the old procedure did.  

1. Byrne S. GBR Ducati 1098R 1'43.874
2. Neukirchner M. GER Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 1'43.965
3. Rea J. GBR Honda CBR1000RR 1'44.144
4. Haga N. JPN Ducati 1098R 1'44.157
5. Haslam L. GBR Honda CBR1000RR 1'44.217
6. Corser T. AUS BMW S1000 RR 1'44.261
7. Kagayama Y. JPN Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 1'44.586
8. Laconi R. FRA Ducati 1098R 1'47.057
9. Checa C. ESP Honda CBR1000RR 1'49.387
10. Fabrizio M. ITA Ducati 1098R 1'52.340
11. Nakano S. JPN Aprilia RSV4 1'56.553
12. Biaggi M. ITA Aprilia RSV4 1'56.643
13. Spies B. USA Yamaha YZF R1 1'44.119
14. Smrz J. CZE Ducati 1098R 1'45.182
15. Sykes T. GBR Yamaha YZF R1 1'45.624
16. Kiyonari R. JPN Honda CBR1000RR 1'45.931
17. Parkes B. AUS Kawasaki ZX 10R 1'46.181
18. Salom D. ESP Kawasaki ZX 10R 1'46.260
19. Polita A. ITA Ducati 1098R 1'46.849
20. Roberts B. AUS Ducati 1098R 1'46.897


Overall best times from the three day session, all of which were set on Saturday:

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