Phillip Island the stage for 2014 WSBK opening round this week
The eni FIM Superbike World Championship is set for another exciting season of racing that will officially kick-start on February 23rd at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, Australia, following a two-day official test scheduled on 17-18 of the same month. The Victorian Circuit, a riders' favourite, is also the most visited in the history of WSBK, as the 2014 edition will be the 24th held on the Island.
The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit features a fast and flowing layout and produces the fastest average speed lap in WSBK (and MotoGP). At the end of 2012 the track was completely resurfaced, making it faster than ever.
The QBE Round will witness the introduction of several changes on both the technical and sporting sides of the series, along with the arrival of new manufacturers, teams and riders.
The 2014 edition will feature the new Superbike EVO class to run alongside the machines we have seen developing over the past seasons. In essence, the EVO machine is a road-based Superbike machine with its chassis and engine strictly regulated, its engine being similar to what we already have in Superstock. Ten riders will be using EVO bikes this year, while in 2015 all machines will be EVO-spec.
Pirelli, Official Tyre Supplier for the Championship for the 11th consecutive year, in the light of the introduction of the Superbike EVO, has taken a special focus on developing solutions for the new class in order to balance the performances of the field.
A new Tissot-Superpole and a revised time schedule will also add some fresh challenge for riders and teams. From the second round onwards, WSBK Race 1 and Race 2 will start at 10:30 and 13:10 respectively. Due to TV broadcast needs and the time difference between Europe and Australia, the Phillip Island event time schedule is different: Race 1 at 12.00, Race 2 at 14.40.
After being revealed last year, in 2014 each and every race in calendar will be opened by the sighting lap of the new Official Safety Car of the Superbike World Championship, the stunning Alfa Romeo “4C”.
Reigning Champion Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) is more motivated than ever to begin his title defence campaign after an encouraging winter testing schedule that helped him improving his feeling with the ZX-10R and evaluating new parts and solutions developed by the team for the upcoming season. Sykes has though never accomplished at Phillip Island the type of results he had on other tracks, having scored so far only one podium finish in 2012, in Race 2. Last year he was twice fifth, in a weekend that was fully dominated by Aprilia and their official riders. With Loris Baz once again alongside the Englishman and David Salom selected to develop and race the EVO version of the ZX-10R, the Spanish-based factory effort by Kawasaki is looking to build on the success of 2013.
The Aprilia Racing Team has changed half of its rider line-up with the arrival of WSBK multiple race winner and former 250cc World Champion Marco Melandri. The 31 year old Italian has joined confirmed Sylvain Guintoli, who is still not 100% following a recent right shoulder surgery he underwent last month. The Frenchman joined back the team for a two-day private test last week at Jerez and showed some good signs of improvement. Not even Melandri is fully fit, but the right ankle problem did not bother him on-board the RSV4 in the last outing. On the privateer side of Aprilia, Team Red Devils Roma will continue the fruitful partnership started last September with former Moto2 Champion Toni Elias.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki embarks in its 2014 WSBK campaign with a new main sponsor and a brand-new duo of riders that already showed some great speed in private testing. 2013 runner-up Eugene Laverty and reigning BSB Champion Alex Lowes are both hungry for results and the 2014 GSX-R 1000 appears to be on a different level than its predecessor, thanks to the massive effort put in by the Verwood-based squad over the winter.
Big changes also on the WSBK effort by Ducati, as Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano are the ones chosen to race the Ducati Superbike Team's 1199 Panigale R machines. Ducati will also be represented in the EVO class by Althea Racing Team and its sole rider Niccolò Canepa.
No differences on the Pata Honda side, with Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam riding the new CBR1000RR SP and hoping for a drastic change in results from a difficult 2013.
Following the realignment of BMW official support in World Superbike, the BMW Motorrad Italia Superbike Team is back to its roots and will field an EVO-spec BMW S 1000 RR for two-time and reigning STK1000 Champion Sylvain Barrier.
Two new manufacturers will enter the series in 2014, making an impressive total of 8 marques, and will make their debut at the first Round in Australia: the Iconic MV Agusta is back to international racing with factory support to last year's World Supersport Championship winning team, Yakhnich Motorsport, still headed by Claudio Corsetti with Natalia Lyubimova as Team Manager. The MV Agusta Reparto Corse – Yakhnich Motorsport team will be contesting this year's WSBK edition with former MotoGP rider Claudio Corti on-board a full-Superbike spec MV Agusta F4 RR.
After several years of commitment in the American Superbike Championship, the Hero EBR Team lands on the international stage with all-American rider line-up consisting of Geoff May and Aaron Yates, riding the brand-new Erik Buell Racing 1190RX. The US brand's European headquarter is located in Northern Italy and the team managed by Claudio Quintarelli and Giulio Bardi.
The 2014 edition of the FIM Supersport World Championship has plenty of reasons to be one to watch, given the high level of competition that teams and riders will once again provide to the series. Kenan Sofuoglu (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki) will be part of the show for the 7th time, with the aim of taking back the title he missed last year in the battle against Sam Lowes. He is currently the most winning rider in the history of the series, with 3 titles and 26 race wins under his belt.
The 29 year old Turk will have to deal with a field full of keen opponents, starting from returning Jules Cluzel, who in 2012 was 21 points short of the World Supersport title despite an incredible second half of the season, in which he took the battle to Sofuoglu but failed to come out on top. The Frenchman will ride the MV F3 675 fielded by MV Agusta Reparto Corse – Yakhnich Motorsport Team, with Russian Vladimir Leonov as team-mate.
The Pata Honda World Supersport Team will return to action with the same rider line-up as 2013 and the goal to win back the ultimate prize that was last achieved by the Ten Kate outfit in 2008. Both Michael van der Mark and Lorenzo Zanetti will tackle their second year in the series.
After an impressive rookie season, Irishman Jack Kennedy joined one of the two PTR teams, CIA Insurance Honda, and he is confident in making another step forward to the top of the field. The other PTR squad, CORE PTR Honda, will line-up former 250cc and Moto2 rider Ratthapark Wilairot
Intermoto Ponyexpres Kawasaki has decided to invest on young talents by signing American Patrick "PJ" Jacobsen and Dutchman Tony Covena, whilst promoting Frenchman Florian Marino to full-time rider status. Former Kawasaki squad DMC Racing, helped by new main sponsor Panavto, made the switch to Yamaha to put two R6 in the hands of confirmed riders Kev Coghlan and Alexey Ivanov.
Italian outfit Team Go Eleven Kawasaki is aiming high this season following the deal with with experienced Roberto Rolfo to join confirmed rider Christian Gamarino, who was promoted to WSS after a great year in the Superstock 600 European Championship.
A last minute addition saw Rivamoto Honda Team re-entering the competition after signing a deal with former STK1000 and MotoGP rider Bryan Staring, who is going to make his WSS debut in front of his home crowd at Phillip Island.
The first race of the season for the Supersport World Championship will also witness some one-off appearances, as home rider Ryan Taylor will tackle the event with the OZ Wildcard Racing Team, whilst British-based Smiths Triumph squad will take on another One Event World Supersport participation (the first ever at Phillip Island) with Aussie Billy McConnell and Englishman Graeme Gowland.
More details: www.worldsbk.com