World SBK summer rider merry-go-round update

Author: Gordon Ritchie|WorldSBK

Picture: GeeBee Images

Other than a few rider exits and a very few new confirmed signings there is still a lot of silly season left in WorldSBK, even as the entire field tested at the endlessly-undulating Portimao in Portugal.

The confirmed signing of Eugene Laverty to the SMR-operated BMW Motorrad team for 2020 will result in something of a dream team of Laverty and existing rider Tom Sykes – if each can repeat their race winning capabilities from their recent WorldSBK careers, of course. Sykes has already taken podiums and the S1000RR should be the final full WorldSBK spec next year with more horsepower again.

Sykes has not quite signed on the line yet but SMR have taken up his option for 2020, with just final details to be fixed.

Aruba Ducati have got Chaz Davies already on a two-year contract but Alvaro Bautista is not going to ride for them in 2020, he confirmed at Portimao. He is down to ride the new Honda WorldSBK machine, which should debut quite soon as a roadbike.

Scott Redding has already been spoken of as the preferred option for Ducati Corse – by Ducati Corse – to replace Alvaro in WorldSBK and that is a goer.

Bautista apparently has the potential to go back to MotoGP on a KTM but it is understood that he had not actually signed a contract with anybody, at least not on at the Portimao tests. Honda and WorldSBK appears his option.

Honda in WorldSBK in 2020 may be a very different looking outfit to what it is now in any case.

One body of opinion is that it will all be a more in-house direct HRC team, run from Spain, as an offshoot of the MotoGP effort – in some way or other. Some suggest that they are already in the process of making that a reality as a more direct HRC team than this year’s Moriwaki/Althea/HRC amalgam.

An opposite rumour is that HRC will continue support for the new bike which should have a radical bore and stroke, but in a technical way only. That leaves the way open for Moriwaki and co. to continue as the main team – but there is also a possibility that there could be four Hondas, two from the new in house effort and two from the existing set-up, but in a more privateer fashion for the latter.

Takumi Takahashi, who scored well in a wet WorldSBK race for Honda this year at Misano, as a stand in for Leon Camier, could well be the 2nd rider on the Honda. Camier’s future is currently not clear, and he missed these tests as he continues his recovery from injury and surgery.

Leon Haslam is a probable to be retained in the KRT set-up, although now that Toprak Razgatlioglu is all but publicly confirmed to join Michael van der Mark in the official Pata Yamaha squad, some say he may be placed in the Puccetti set-up, but with increased support.

That second KRT seat has also now been linked to any number of available riders, even from MotoGP – as has the Puccetti ride, to be balanced.

Lowes being taken out of the official Yamaha set-up elicits controversy; as he is still third place overall in the championship, with only hyper-points scorers Rea and Bautista ahead of him.

Yamaha would like to keep him inside the overall effort, as a replacement for the retiring Marco Melandri, but such is the fluidity of the rider market in 2019 that other opportunities may present themselves. Lowes has known about his exit for some time, and has now been offered a Yamaha WorldSBK ride of some kind, but not his current one.

The GRT Yamaha team could be Lowes and Federico Caricasulo-shaped in 2020, if the Italian team decides to go with the current WorldSSP rider for the Bardahl Evan Bros Yamaha squad. If he wins the WorldSSP championship outright (he is currently 15-points behind his team-mate Randy Krummenacher) he must surely be promoted to the Italian-based GRT team, which would leave no space for the strong rookie in 2019, Sandro Cortese, who had a good Portimao test. Some say Caricasulo is not quite ready to go upstairs yet and Cortese is worth sticking with in 2020 as he will have experience of all the circuits on an SBK machine.

Krummenacher himself has been linked to some secondary WorldSBK rides if he wins WorldSSP himself.

Michael Ruben Rinaldi hopes to stay on board with the Barni Racing Ducati squad, and Jordi Torres also looks to remain inside his present Pedercini Kawasaki team for a second year.

The VerdNatura Kawasaki team just need enough sponsorship and other support to continue. There may be a new team in the shape of Brixx Ducati and Sylvain Barrier, who have been competing in BSB recently.

2019 Classic TT: Harrison, Anstey lead opening practices

Author: Road Racing staff|TT and Roads

After the frustrations of Saturday’s truncated session, the 2019 Classic TT Races presented by Bennetts roared into life this evening shortly after the scheduled 6.20pm start.

The headlines were made by two established TT stars. Dean Harrison, who picked up where he left off in June when he won the Dunlop Senior TT, with the fastest lap of the evening on his Silicone Engineering Classic Superbike and Bruce Anstey, who put a two-year absence with illness behind him with the fastest lap in the Dunlop Lightweight Classic TT class.

The Superbikes and Lightweight machines were first out on the TT Mountain Course. Harrison, who has won the last two RST Classic TT Superbike Races, was first away on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki with Michael Rutter alongside him on the Team Winfield Yamaha. The first pair were followed ten seconds later by James Hillier on the Oxford Products Ducati and Jamie Coward on the Prez Racing Kawasaki.

Rain had been reported earlier in the evening, but the cautionary lack of adhesion flags didn’t seem to dampen spirits or lap speeds. Harrison’s standing start opening lap of the meeting (123.42mph) topped the board on the night before the Bradford rider came in at the end of his opening lap, pointing at a loose exhaust. Harrison switched machines and headed straight out on his Lightweight bike – the Laylaw Racing Yamaha – and promptly clocked a lap of 114.28mph, which was second only to Anstey, before coming in with a quickshifter issue.

After the session Harrison talked about the challenge of switching from his BSB Superbike: “I’ve come straight from Cadwell and BSB to the Classic TT. The ZXR isn’t such a big jump but riding the 250 is chalk and cheese. I’ve not got much experience of the two-stroke but you’ve got to respect the little thing because it will bite you.”

Lichtenstein-based rider Horst Saiger clocked an average speed of 118mph on his opening lap and then improved this to 122.87mph – the second fastest on the night – while Derek Shiels and Jamie Coward both posted 118mph+ opening laps with Coward improving to 120.70 which put him third on the overall Superbike leaderboard.

Early retirements on the opening lap included Paul Jordan on the Mistral Racing Kawasaki, who stopped at Ballacrye and Lee Johnston on his Lightweight Binch Racing Yamaha at Douglas Road Corner, while Gary Johnson (Team York Suzuki) retired on his second lap of the Superbike session at Quarterbridge.

Anstey put a two year TT Mountain Course absence behind him and blasted to an opening lap of 110.84 on the Padgetts Yamaha, while Daniel Sayle on the John Chapman Racing Honda showed that he had recovered from injuries sustained at last year’s Classic TT with an opening lap of 109.90mph.

Ten-time TT Race winner Ian Lougher also showed his hand with an opening lap of 109.37mph which he improved to 112mph on his second lap, while Harrison’s opening lap of 114.28mph put him at the top of the Lightweight leaderboard. But Bruce Anstey was not to be overshadowed on his come back and promptly set 116.28mph on his second lap.

After the lap Bruce Anstey said: “It was great to get out and on the second lap things clicked and it felt like normal and as though I’d never been away.”

After the New Zealander’s lap, an elated Milenco by Padgetts Motorcycles team boss Clive Padgett said: “I’m just over the moon. We said to Bruce before the lap if you’re not feeling it we’ll pick you up at Ballacraine. He’s loving life – it’s incredible. He was smiling from the off and all the fans are so pleased to see him back and we’ve had so many great comments.”

The Junior and Senior machines were away shortly after ten past seven with Team Winfield rider John McGuinness on the twin-cylinder Paton and Ripley Land Racing’s Michael Rutter on the single-cylinder Matchless jostling for position alongside each other on the start line.

However, shortly after the second session began, the session was red flagged following an incident at the Black Hut. The rider concerned was taken by airmed to Nobles Hospital with a reported leg injury and riders were brought back to the Grandstand in course direction under the direction of Travelling Marshals.

With the lost time and light fading at the Grandstand, the second session for Senior and Junior machines and the scheduled Newcomers session was cancelled.

Roads are due to close tomorrow at 18.00 with the Lightweight and Superbike Classic TT machines due out at 18.20 and Senior and Junior bikes at 19.15.

Monday Superbike times – conditions dry

1 2 Dean Harrison Kawasaki/Silicone Engineering 1 18:20.532 123.420
2 1 Horst Saiger Kawasaki/Greenall Racing 2 18:25.455 122.871
3 8 Jamie Coward Kawasaki/Kraus / PreZ Racing 2 18:45.344 120.699
4 15 Derek Sheils Kawasaki/Greenall Racing 1 19:07.345 118.385
5 16 Philip Crowe Suzuki xr69/Team Classic Suzuki 2 19:08.305 118.286
6 19 Joey Thompson Kawasaki/Wilcock Consulting Kawasaki 2 19:14.995 117.601
7 4 Michael Rutter Yamaha/Team Winfield 1 19:18.418 117.253
8 10 Conor Cummins Yamaha/Milenco by Padgett’s Motorcycles 2 19:23.975 116.693
9 7 Gary Johnson Suzuki/Team York Suzuki 1 19:30.501 116.043
10 20 Julian Trummer Kawasaki/TC Racing / DP Coldplaning 2 19:35.170 115.582
11 14 Davey Todd Yamaha/Milenco by Padgett’s Motorcycles 2 19:44.377 114.683
12 58 Paul Potchy Williams Kawasaki/Slipscreens Ltd 2 19:47.173 114.413
13 25 Forest Dunn Kawasaki/Alasdair Cowan Racing 1 19:52.301 113.921
14 11 Michael Sweeney Kawasaki/Mistral Racing 1 19:55.369 113.629
15 43 Allan Brodie Suzuki/Paint Doctor UK/Geoff Martin 1 19:58.190 113.361
16 13 Sam West Suzuki/Team York Suzuki 1 20:01.331 113.065
17 12 Craig Neve Kawasaki/Robert Burns Ltd. / Alasdair Cowan Racing 2 20:02.064 112.996
18 23 Brian McCormack Suzuki/Thompson Plastering, Roadhouse Macau, 1 20:07.570 112.480
19 46 Andrew Farrell Kawasaki/Steadplan Primus Racing 1 20:08.528 112.391
20 48 Darren Cooper Yamaha/Cumbria Radiators 2 20:13.636 111.918
21 5 James Hillier Ducati/Oxford Racing Ducati / Louigi Moto 1 20:20.576 111.282
22 32 David Madsen-Mygdal Honda/Mygdal Racing 2 20:20.762 111.265
23 37 Richard Wilson Norton/Wiz Norton Racing 1 20:32.948 110.165
24 55 Mark Herbertson Kawasaki/Gilbert Brown and Son Transport Ltd 1 20:55.273 108.206
25 64 Stephen Smith Suzuki/SNT Race Engineering 1 21:01.567 107.666
26 60 Dave Moffitt Suzuki/DTS Racing 1 21:13.620 106.647
27 51 Mark Parrett Kawasaki/MPR / Richard Taylor 1 21:16.650 106.394
28 31 David Hewson Kawasaki/Obsession Engineering Ltd. 1 21:30.551 105.248
29 65 Alec Whitwell Suzuki/Funky Monk Racing 1 21:38.419 104.610
30 79 Lancelot Unissart Kawasaki/Honey Racing Team 1 21:39.662 104.510
31 61 Eric Wilson Kawasaki/Obsession Engineering LTD 1 22:06.297 102.411
32 17 Danny Webb Suzuki/Team Classic Suzuki 1 22:31.053 100.535
33 24 Ryan Kneen Kawasaki/Team Herheim Racing 1 22:31.185 100.525
34 74 Steve Moody Honda/BRIDGE THE GAP 1 22:57.087 98.634
35 35 Josh Daley Yamaha/Pete Beale Yamaha 1 23:25.959 96.609
36 29 John Barton Ducati/Alf’s Motorcycles 1 01:04:52.318 34.896
37 33 Dennis Booth Suzuki/Geoff Martin Racing 1 01:08:05.154 33.249

Monday Lightweight times – conditions dry

1 5 Bruce Anstey Honda/Milenco by Padgett’s Motorcycles 2 19:28.139 116.277
2 2 Dean Harrison Yamaha/Laylaw Racing 1 19:48.554 114.280
3 3 Ian Lougher Yamaha/Laylaw Racing 2 20:06.438 112.586
4 18 Charles Rhys Hardisty Yamaha/Kaymac / Willson and Widling 2 20:20.042 111.331
5 10 Daniel Sayle Honda/John Chapman Racing 1 20:35.957 109.897
6 7 Gary Vines Yamaha/Binch Racing 1 21:03.060 107.539
7 19 John Barton Ducati/Wemoto.com 1 21:11.224 106.848
8 23 Dominic Herbertson Honda/John Chapman Racing 1 21:14.035 106.612
9 25 Carsten Svendsen Yamaha/Skulptur Stoberiet 1 21:30.144 105.281
10 38 Tom Snow Yamaha/FCL Racing 1 21:50.055 103.681
11 39 Samuel Grief Honda/GSS Ltd / Team 98 1 21:59.485 102.940
12 12 Phil Harvey Yamaha/LayLaw Racing 1 22:02.007 102.744
13 42 James Ford Honda/Rainford Models / Speedycom 1 22:15.793 101.683
14 29 Steven Howard Yamaha/Howard Racing 1 22:23.498 101.100
15 47 Andrew Cowie Kawasaki/Regaby Racing 1 23:26.553 96.568
16 49 Christopher Dowling Yamaha/HS Racing 1 23:30.158 96.321
17 50 Andrew Davies Spondon/Allspeed Exhausts / PJME.co.uk / Bushtec 1 23:30.679 96.286
18 31 Hefyn Owen Ducati/Sean White 1 23:40.274 95.635
19 43 Will Loder Yamaha/CKS Precision 1 23:54.764 94.669
20 30 Adrian Morris Yamaha/Adrian Morris Racing 1 24:01.383 94.234
21 56 Lee Jennings Ducati/Hammer and Tongs Performance, Warrington 1 24:18.946 93.100
22 59 Tony Russell Yamaha/Genesis Plastics 1 24:34.046 92.146
23 35 Richard Lambourne Yamaha 250/Stu Jones Motorcycles 1 24:38.819 91.849
24 8 Jamie Coward Yamaha/Binch Racing 1 56:12.046 40.281
25 11 Ryan Kneen Honda/John Chapman Racing 1 59:15.581 38.201

2019 Ulster GP: Hickman makes it five wins in a day

Author: Phil Wain at Dundrod|TT and Roads

Picture: Derek Wilson

Peter Hickman’s phenomenal run of success at this year’s Ulster Grand Prix ended exactly as it had started with the Smiths Racing rider taking Saturday’s second Superbike race to make it a record-breaking seven wins from seven starts.

With conditions the driest they had been all day, Hickman lapped at more than 134mph to win by almost seven seconds from Dean Harrison with Conor Cummins again and he equalled Phillip McCallen’s long-standing record of five wins in a day.

The race got underway at 7pm and it was Harrison who got the jump off the line but Hickman soon moved to the front and he led at the end of the first of six laps by just over a second on the BMW S1000RR. Cummins slotted into third ahead of Davey Todd, David Johnson and Derek Sheils.

Second time around and a lap of 133.807mph saw Hickman double his advantage over Harrison with Cummins remaining in third and the trio had broken away from the rest of the field with Todd still at the head of the chasing pack.

He had David Johnson for close company whilst Sheils, Brian McCormack, Jamie Coward and Michael Sweeney were locked in battle for sixth.

Another near 134mph lap on the third lap enabled Hickman to maintain his lead at half race distance but Harrison wasn’t letting him get away and with a lap only marginally slower, he kept the gap down to 2.195s.

However, Hickman put the hammer down on the fourth lap and despite the light beginning to fade, a lap of 134.504mph, the fastest of the race, meant his lead increased to 3.2s with just two laps to go.

Harrison and Cummins were comfortable in second and third but Todd and Johnson were still disputing third before the latter tipped off at the hairpin on the penultimate lap, fortunately without injury.

With spots of rain beginning to fall, Hickman brought the Smiths Racing BMW home to make it an unbelievable seven wins from his seven starts and he crossed the line 6.849s clear of Harrison with Cummins again having to settle for third, his fifth podium of the week.

Todd had a lonely final lap to end his week with a good fourth place but the battle for fifth place went all the way to the end and it was Coward who came out on top from Sheils, Sweeney and McCormack, the quartet covered by just half a second at the chequered flag. Phil Crowe and Michael Booth completed the top ten.

Results are here, my chunky little friend

Picture: Impact Images

MotoGP Austria: It’s one of my best victories – Dovizioso

Author: Aaron Rowles|MotoGP

Factory Ducati MotoGP rider and Austrian Grand Prix winner Andrea Dovizioso called his victory around the Red Bull Ring as “the best, or one of the best victories” after the Italian beat out Marc Marquez in the final corner of the race.

The Italian was involved in a race long battle from the opening lap until the final corner of the race in which he got the better of the World Champion with a last-gasp block pass in the final corner of the race.

It wasn’t the first time in which Dovizioso got the better of the Spaniard in a head-to-head battle, however, he did think it was one of the best of his MotoGP career.

“I really didn’t prepare that corner and it’s not really my corner for my style and my bike in entry there but happened a lot of things during the race and I am so happy for many things,” said the Italian when talking about the final corner move.

“It’s the best or one of my best victories because we didn’t the same speed as Marc before the race, so we need a strategy to try and stay with him.

“But the temperature change from yesterday and we took a different tyre choice and maybe that will affect. But I put everything together in the race, we start with a different set up we didn’t try, because unfortunately in the warm up it was wet, and it worked.

“I start very aggressive, but Marc was more aggressive than me, but he lose the front in the exit and I answer again in turn four, and that was very important. After when Marc overtake me, he tried to push and make a gap and his rear tyre dropped too much. At the end I have a chance to fight until the last corner as he didn’t have the same grip as me on the right, and on the braking, he was better, but with the grip I was able to stay with him and make that crazy last corner. I really didn’t prepare that, but I did in a perfect way the corner before and I was a bit inside and I thought okay, if I’m going long, I will be second, no problem, but I stopped the bike in a right way.

“I’m so happy, so happy for Ducati because we need that. We need this victory in this way, it will give us energy for the future, it’s what we need.”

Marquez said that he felt that Dovizioso was playing with him during the race, suggesting that the Ducati man had more in his pocket than he showed. When asked if that was the case, he said: “I play not with the speed, because if I had a chance to alone, I will finish alone the race.

“I play in the straight twice because if you overtake riders and you’re in front, the rider behind, especially Marc, is able to brake later and to be inside and control the brake. If I overtake the rider and stay there, I control the brake and this is what happened twice.

“I had a better grip on the right, that’s why on the last corner I was able to be faster, because at the beginning of the race I didn’t have that advantage, I was exactly the same with him about acceleration.

“The difference is his drop was bad and I was able to accelerate better. I wanted to stay like this, but in any case, I went long twice, because if brake in the same place as Marc I am a bit longer.”

With now eleven races gone in the 2019 MotoGP season, Dovizioso sits in second place, 63 points behind Marquez in the World Championship. Despite this, he said he refuses to give up on hopes of a World Championship, as unlikely as that may currently seem.

“It’s open because it’s open and the result of races,” he said.

“This race on one side doesn’t change the future because Marc showed his potential in a lot of races and he was so competitive, even more so than last year. So, I expect him to be strong in every track, so I think it’s very, very difficult.

“But we are working to develop the bike. This race, we win the race, but we work so hard to improve the bike and we are constantly working on that. So, you never know what you can find. Some material will arrive in the future.

“I want to keep alive this, because it’s normal and has to be like this, but to fight against Marc in this moment in a realistic way is difficult. But this doesn’t change our approach.

“We have to improve because it’s not enough to beat him, but this victory gives us a lot of energy for the future.”

WorldSBK rider rumour mill hits warp nine

Author: Edgar Jessop at Quinta do Lago|WorldSBK

Picture: GeeBee Images

Ducati sporting director Paolo Ciabatti may lose Alvaro Bautista to Honda in a wages war. The little Spaniard’s stock – to the factory at least -– has nosedived somewhat following the series of crashes that have let Jonathan Rea put one hand on a record fifth WorldSBK title.

The Bologna outfit has made Bautista an offer for his services in the works team but the salary will have been somewhat reduced as he is no longer the champion-elect, merely the rookie runner-up. By all accounts, HRC has swept in with a larger cheque and the promise of a decent motorbike on which to compete.

This has shaken up the paddock as the man who was dead cert to stay where he was looks likely to have made available the seat which everyone wants. There will be a not-so-orderly queue forming at Ciabatti’s front door should this come to pass and in it will be Scott Redding, if he isn’t already sitting down in the lounge with a cigar, wearing Ciabatti’s best monogrammed smoking jacket.

Redding has impressed everyone with his performances in the Bennetts British Superbike series, particularly his ability to turn up to a track he has never before seen on a Friday, set pole on Saturday and win on Sunday. It’s similar to what Bautista did in WorldSBK until he began to fall off.

With Bautista on a Honda, and the one next to him almost certainly taken up by HRC’s Suzuka star Takuma Takahashi, Leon Camier will be looking for somewhere to live and much-talked scenario is he replaces the struggling Markus Reiterberger at BMW.

Camier has history with the marque and has a great relationship with sporting director Marc Bongers after riding for BMW Italia in the Evo class. With a year of development under its belt, the S1000RR should be a weapon in 2020, which is exactly what Camier needs – a bike that is capable of winning and not another in a procession of sheds that he keeps being handed.

One chair that has many people circling is the one that Toprak Razgatlioglu has vacated to apparently replace Alex Lowes at in the works Yamaha squad. After being left out of Kawasaki’s Suzuka Eight-Hours raceday line-up, manager Kenan Sofuoglu properly spat his dummy out and pushed his Turkish charge towards Paul Denning’s mob.

Which has left Lowes – third in the championship right now – without a works ride, it would seem. He has the option of staying with Yamaha but in one of the satellite teams or pushing for the Puccetti seat. But with crew chief Phil Marron already installed, it might be an easier win for team boss Manuel Puccetti to employ Eugene Laverty who has a long history with the likeable spannerman.

Swapping race winner Lowes for Razgatlioglu is a strange choice by Andrea Dosoli but he does come with a load of money from the Turkish government, and his Red bull athlete status isn’t a problem even though Yamaha’s MotoGP team is title sponsored by Monster.

There are other spots available Lowes but they’re beneath him so even though he is being effectively demoted by Yamaha after doing the best job of any of their riders, he doesn’t look like he has much choice in the matter.

2019 Ulster GP: Hickman dominates opening Superbike practice

Author: Road Racing staff|TT and Roads

Picture: Derek Wilson

Smiths BMW rider Peter Hickman dominated the opening Fonacab Ulster GP Superbike practice today, going almost 5s faster than Conor Cummins in second place.

Hickman put in a 131.237mph lap on his S1000RR to top the session with Cummins’ Milenco by Padgett’s Honda Fireblade in second on a 128.299 lap. Davey Todd took his Penz13.com BMW to third place before a rain shower brought the action to a halt with nine minutes remaining.

“My plan was to go and do a steady lap, put in two fliers and then come in and that’s what we did,” Hickman explained after setting his quickest time on his third circuit.

Hickman made a lengthy pit stop after the third lap to lower his S1000RR’s gearing but failed to improve his time as the conditions worsened.

Lee Johnston managed a 127.395 on the Ashcourt BMW for fourth with Dean Harrison’s Silicone Kawasaki in fifth. Newly-crowned Irish Superbike Champion Derek Sheils put the Burrows Suzuki in sixth, one ahead of Paul Jordan.

The injured Michael Dunlop put in a 126.671 for eighth with Honda’s David Johnson in ninth place. Jamie Coward completed the top ten with a 124.683 on the Prez Yamaha.

Phil Crowe, Michael Sweeney, Sam West, Brian MacCormack and David Jackson rounded out the top 15.

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