The global financial crisis has clearly hammered the highest echelons of prototype racing, with established teams like Honda and Kawasaki pulling out of F1 and MotoGP respectively in the last couple of months. But for the production-based (and much cheaper) World Superbike series, things have never looked better than they do at the start of 2009. Despite the retirement of beloved champion Troy Bayliss, the 2009 WSBK grid will field a record 32 bikes from a record 7 manufacturers as BMW and Aprilia join the fray with exotic new machinery. There's also an influx of phenomenally talented riders - including AMA champ Ben Spies, BSB champ and ex-GP god Shakey Byrne, and precocious youngsters Tom Sykes and Leon Haslam to do battle with battle-hardened veterans like Nitro Nori Haga, Biaggi, Corser and Kagayama. The first pre-season test has been run, giving us a glimpse at who's fast and who's faster, so it's time for a WSBK season preview, looking at the class, the teams, the bikes and the personalities that make SBK the race series to watch in 2009.