The 2015 World Superbike Championship may have only just finished but with the 2016 series getting under way in February, there’s only a short turnaround for the teams to finalise their line-up and, for some, their participation as well.
Only four teams have so far confirmed a two-rider line-up with the biggest question marks hanging over Aprilia and Suzuki and whilst the former should be on the grid in some shape or form, the situation for the latter appears less clear.
Kawasaki ready and prepared:
The World Championship winning Kawasaki Racing team had their line-up in place a long time ago with both Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes having re-signed for 2016. Rea dominated this year’s championship to take his first world title and although Sykes was overshadowed this season, he’s finished first, second and third in the last three years and will be looking to get the number one plate back on board the new ZX-10R.
Ducati also announced they were retaining their 2015 line-up a while ago with both Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano back for more. Davies had his best WSB season to date claiming second overall and whilst Giugliano had an injury plagued season, missing half the rounds, his speed is never in doubt. If he can curb his exuberance, he could give the Italian giants two chances of another world title.
Nicky Hayden has his work cut out:
The big news is at Honda with Nicky Hayden joining the series after 13 years in MotoGP. The 2006 World Champion has slipped down the order in recent years and may well find the going tough in WSB on the ageing Fireblade. He also has a number of new circuits to learn so it won’t be all plain sailing for the Californian. Dutch rider Michael van der Mark remains with the Ten Kate squad after a good debut year.
Welcome back Yamaha:
The other major news is the return of Yamaha after a four-year absence. Shaun Muir’s Milwaukee team were favourites to run their WSB effort but, instead, it’s another British-based team, Crescent, who have been chosen thus ending their long association with Suzuki. Alex Lowes has been retained with 2014 World Champion Sylvain Guintoli hoping to get back to winning ways after a disappointing year with the number one plate at Honda.
Aprilia capable of winning:
Muir’s team look almost certain to join the series though with the smart money on them fielding Aprilia’s although continuing with Yamaha can’t be totally ruled out. Aprilia won’t be back with this year’s Red Devils team but will surely look to have some presence in the series as they are clearly more than capable of winning.
British Champion Josh Brookes will go wherever Muir goes with the second rider potentially being Leon Haslam although MotoGP rider Karel Abraham, who always comes with a large budget, has recently been linked with the ride.
Haslam has also been linked with a return to Suzuki, for whom he finished second in the 2010 World Championship, but which team that will be remains to be seen, if indeed they do continue. With Crescent having switched to Yamaha, they may sit out the 2016 series and opt to return in 2017 when they’ll have a new GSXR1000.
Jordi Torres linked with Althea Racing:
Jordi Torres had an excellent debut season in 2015, deservedly winning at the final round at Qatar and it will be harsh on the Spaniard if he’s not on a race-winning package next year. He’s been heavily linked with the Althea Racing team who look to end their long association with Ducati and switch to BMW.
The German’s don’t have an official team in WSB at present but this could be the closest they’ll have. Althea will probably run two riders although the second rider is not yet clear.
Leon Camier upping the competition:
MV Agusta will continue with Leon Camier who should have a more competitive machine in 2016 whilst Forward Racing look set to drop out of MotoGP and switch to World Superbikes and MV Agusta instead. Marco Melandri is set to join the team although he’s stated he’s only agreed a testing role thus far.
Go Eleven Kawasaki have already signed Roman Ramos whilst stalwarts Pedercini Kawasaki will surely be back on the gird, most probably with David Salom.
The likes of Randy de Puniet, Matteo Baiocco, Leandro Mercado and Ayrton Badovini will all be hopeful of remaining in the series although with which team’s remains to be seen.
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Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.