As had been long predicted, Yamaha is to return to the World Superbike championship in 2016 to race the YZF-R1. Yamaha Motor Europe is to throw its weight behind the Crescent team run by Paul Denning, and will field 2014 WSBK champion Sylvain Guintoli and Crescent's current rider Alex Lowes.
Great things are expected of the new R1. Once the teams got it dialed in, the bike has performed exceptionally well in its debut year in the BSB and MotoAmerica championships, as well as in World Endurance. Bradley Smith, Pol Espargaro and Katsuyuki Nakasuga took the bike to victory in the Suzuka 8 Hours race as well.
The Yamaha set up will be very similar to that of the highly successful Kawasaki team, where Crescent receive factory backing from Yamaha, while running the team independently.
Crescent's switch to Yamaha leaves no team to run Suzukis in World Superbikes in 2016. The GSX-R1000 had been severely lacking in performance in the last couple of years, especially after the rule changes for 2014 and 2015. Not having Suzukis running in WSBK may hamper the efforts of the Japanese factory when they launch their brand new Gixxer in the middle of next year. Unfortunately, due to WSBK homologation rules and Suzuki's supply chain, the bikes will not be able to compete from the start of the season, so anyone wanting to take on the task of racing Suzukis would have to wait until half season before they could even think about racing the new bike, and would spend the rest of the season developing it.
One side effect of Guintoli signing for Yamaha is that it leaves a seat open alongside Michael van der Mark in the Pata Honda squad. That seat will now be hotly contested, especially as Aprilia have also announced they will not be fielding a factory team. That could be an interesting prospect for Nicky Hayden, who looks to be out of MotoGP next year. American Honda would be keen to see Hayden remain with the brand, and Dorna are keen to have an American racing in World Superbikes. Though 2016 will be a tough year on the CBR1000RR, with a new bike due for 2017, that would open an interesting perspective.
Below is the press release from Yamaha announcing their return to WSBK:
Yamaha Returns to World Superbike
Yamaha Motor Europe will make its official return to the World Superbike Championship in 2016 in collaboration with highly experienced partner Crescent Racing and title sponsors PATA. The team will place the new YZF-R1 in the talented hands of 2014 World Superbike Champion Sylvain Guintoli and 2013 British Superbike Champion Alex Lowes.
PATA has a proven track record and passion for motorsport with a high profile presence in World Superbike, making them a perfect complement to the partnership of Yamaha and Crescent Racing in 2016.
Frenchman Guintoli has over 15 years experience in racing, with 45 podiums, 10 race wins and, of course, the 2014 world title to his credit - in classes spanning 250cc, MotoGP, British Superbike and World Superbike. While young British rider Lowes took 20 podiums, 8 wins and 6 pole positions on his way to his 2013 British Superbike title. He has also competed with Crescent for the last two seasons so is no stranger to the team or the WSBK series.
Returning to the World Superbike stage for the first time since 2011, Yamaha Motor Europe's strategy is clear - to make full use of the all-new YZF-R1 to challenge for victory in the premier production Superbike series. Yamaha's impressive history in the Championship, combined with the stunning base specification of the YZF-R1, offers an unrivalled opportunity to campaign for victory honours.
2009 saw Yamaha take their first World Superbike Championship title, breaking multiple records throughout the season with American rider Ben Spies on board. Iconic riders such as Noriyuki Haga, Troy Corser, James Toseland, Marco Melandri and Cal Crutchlow, among others, have all taken their turns delivering countless victories on the YZF-R1 throughout Yamaha's Superbike career.
Crescent will partner Yamaha as their fully-supported Official WSBK Team from 2016. Crescent is the World Superbike Championship's only UK-based team and has a 20-year racing history at both national and global level that features victories in the British Superbike Championship, World Superbike and MotoGP.
Yamaha Motor Europe will retain responsibility over racing strategy and technical development, as well as the rider agreements with Crescent's hugely experienced, dedicated, technical and engineering racing personnel running the team's operation at each of the Championship rounds.
The all-new Yamaha YZF-R1 arrived as a game changer in 2015, re-writing the rulebook for the Supersport market as the next generation of racing machine. As the 2015 racing season draws to a close it can already claim numerous victories - including the inaugural Road America AMA Championship and the legendary Suzuka 8Hr Endurance race in the hands of MotoGP stars Pol Espargaro, Bradley Smith and five-time All Japan Superbike Champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga. In the UK the R1 is in contention for the British Superbike Championship title, while across Europe the story continues with both the Polish Superbike Championship and the French Superstock Championship secured. Yamaha also currently leads the Spanish FIM CEV Repsol International Championship and last weekend claimed second overall in the FIM Endurance World Championship in the hands of France's GMT94 Yamaha team.
"This is a very exciting moment for us as we eagerly wait to return to the top level of Superbike competition next year after an absence of four years," commented Yamaha Motor Europe Chief Operating Officer, Eric De Seynes.
"Having re-written the Supersport rule book and changed the game with the new YZF-R1, directly developed from Yamaha MotoGP technology, it was clear we would need to return to the World Superbike Championship to show the full potential of our new Superbike machine. We took one year to grow experience with the new R1 in many other championships where the bike has shown its potential already, with the amazing 8H of Suzuka victory and the very positive results that our official Teams are gathering all around Europe. Now we are ready to be back on the world stage and I am happy we have found in Crescent the same values of professionalism, engineering detail and passion for victory we share."