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.
Last year's world champ Casey Stoner led from pole to clinch victory in the Australian MotoGP today, but most of the excitement lay behind him as Valentino Rossi cut a swathe through the field from his 12th-place grid position, slipping past Nicky Hayden on the final lap to finish second.
Yamaha's superstar MotoGP
team, including Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Colin Edwards and James Toseland, have assembled to throw their star power behind a completely reworked 2009 R1 launch in Vegas - but the magnificent machine barely needs any help to stand out on its own. One hundred and eighty two horsepower (before ram air kicks in) and 206 kilgorams dripping wet, for less than US$15,000 - aren't these magnificent times for motorcycle fans to live in?
February 28, 2008 For all the thrill of attending a Formula One (F1)
event, the majority of the live spectators view the races on TV, and the majority of both sports’ income comes from television rights. F1 and MotoGP are both broadcast to more than 200 countries with Formula One attracting television fees of around US$380 million annually for a cumulative season audience of around 580 million unique viewers. In order to “optimize” television rights revenues, both sports are now moving to night Grands Prix in some time zones so the races can be broadcast live in prime time in the key European markets. The first night “test” begins today in Qatar
and presents some interesting logistical problems for the teams.
January 19, 2008 Yamaha unveiled its 2008 YZR-M1 MotoGP machine this week in a large event held in conjunction with sponsors Fiat in Turin, Italy. Last year the M1 was one of the slowest machines on the grid and played a major role in Valentino Rossi’s worst season for a decade, prompting Rossi to roundly criticise the machine publicly and Yamaha to test a V4 configuration and pneumatic valves in the hope of closing the horsepower gap to Ducati’s desmodromic valve system. With Honda employing a pneumatic valve system in its 2008 machine, Yamaha will be the only contender relying on traditional valve springs to close its valves this year. Despite this, Yamaha’s frightfully expensive throttle control system (Rossi) shares favouritism for the title with Ducati’s Casey Stoner (both 6/4).
Ducati this week unveiled its 2008 MotoGP machine at its annual Wrooom - MotoGP Press Ski Meeting at Madonna di Campiglio. The new GP8 Desmosedici is understandably based on the GP7 which won the 2007 MotoGP title, with small but important changes in the area of the frame, rear suspension geometry, motor and electronic system. The Desmosedici is equipped with exactly the same traction control system used on the new 1098 R road bike which swept all before it in motorcycle magazine awards around the world. No doubt Ducati’s test rider Vittoriano Guareschi was thankful for the traction control as he rode the new machine before the press for the first time – the ice floor he had to contend with could easily have caught out any rider.
October 12, 2007 Ducati
didn’t believe punters would jump at their US$70,000 MotoGP
– how wrong they were. With production still yet to begin, less than 250 units remain to be pre-ordered of what is surely the most extreme production motorcycle on the planet, the Desmosedici RR
. If you want one, you’d better move fast.
October 10, 2007 This year's World Champion Casey Stoner, as well as Rossi, Vermeulen and the Honda
team are staying where they are for season 2008 – but beyond that, MotoGP
has been a huge game of musical chairs as riders jump from team to team hoping to secure the best bikes for next year. With teams finally settling, here’s what we know.
October 8, 2007 Aprilia
tell us their much-anticipated V4 engine is currently undergoing durability testing in four states of tune – from a huge 185 horsepower up to an eye-watering 220 horsepower. Which one will we see in the road-going superbike they’re building?
September 4, 2007 Whispers of a night-time MotoGP
event first reached Gizmag in early 2006 and now it’s official – the season opening Grand Prix of Qatar on March 9th next year will be held under lights to allow for better synchronization with European television schedules. The staging of the unprecedented night race will involve what is believed to be the biggest lighting project in the world for any sporting event – almost four thousand lights will be used to ensure visibility and remove shadowing from the track.