WSBK: 2010 season preview

Spies' departure means a new champion for 2010

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Feb. 25, 2010
The 2010 World Superbike Championship kicks off Feb. 26-28 at Australia’s Phillip Island circuit, and with 2009 Champion Ben Spies moving on to MotoGP, the title is up for grabs.

The Phillip Island grid will include 24 riders on superbikes from seven manufacturers: Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha.

With Spies gone, the early favorite for 2010 is Noriyuki Haga of Ducati Xerox. Haga led in the championship standings going into last season’s finale in Portugal, but a Race 1 crash cost him the lead. A second-place finish in Race 2 would not be enough as Spies beat Haga by six points. After a career-best 456 points, eight wins and 19 podium appearances in 2009, Haga enters the 2010 season once again trying to shake the tag of being the best WSBK racer never to have won the championship.

Is this finally the year for Noriyuki Haga?

Haga’s teammate Michel Fabrizio is another early favorite for the 2010 WSBK crown. The Italian racer won three races and earned 15 podium appearances in 2009, including a stretch of eight consecutive podium results. In Fabrizio’s three wins however, second place went to Haga, leading critics to wonder whether Haga would have won the championship with a more helpful teammate.

Spies’ departure opened the way for former MotoGP racer and two-time WSBK Champion James Toseland to join the factory Yamaha Sterilgarda team. Toseland won the 2004 title for Ducati and the 2007 title for Honda. In 2010, Toseland will try to win his third championship with his third manufacturer.

James Toseland will try to win his third WSBK title with his third manufacturer.

Toseland’s teammate will be Cal Crutchlow, the 2009 World Supersport Champion. Crutchlow will try to transfer his success from the Yamaha R6 to the R1, giving Yamaha two riders with world championships on their resumes.  

If it weren’t for Spies winning the championship in his rookie season, Max Biaggi and the Aprilia team could have the biggest surprise of the season. Biaggi finished fourth in the championship standings in the Aprilia’s return to WSBK racing with the RSV4.

Max Biaggi and Aprilia won't catch anyone by surprise this season.

For 2010, the Aprilia team gains a new title sponsor, Italian airline Alitalia, and a new teammate for Biaggi in Leon Camier. Aprilia started the season with Shinya Nakano as its second rider, until injuries forced an early end to both his season and his career. Camier stepped in for the final two rounds and will start 2010 with Aprilia Alitalia.

Jonathan Rea and Max Neukirchner will lead Honda’s WSBK effort with the Hannspree Ten Kate team. Rea won two races in 2009 but was edged out of fourth place by Biaggi by just four points. Neukirchner’s 2009 season was brief as a first-corner crash in round five in Italy broke his right femur. Suzuki Alstare abruptly cut ties with Neukirchner in October despite having another year on his contract, so the German racer will be eager to upstage his former team.

Leon Haslam had a successful 2009 season with a satellite team. He'll try to improve upon that now that he has full factory backing with Suzuki.

Suzuki Alstare will have two new riders for 2010: Leon Haslam and Sylvain Guintoli. Haslam was the top satellite racer in 2009, competing for Stiggy Honda. The team was disbanded due to a lack of sponsors, leading Haslam to join Suzuki. Guintoli rode for Suzuki Alstare at the Portimao finale as a replacement for Neukirchner.

BMW’s debut WSBK campaign wasn’t as successful as Aprilia’s, but the team of Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus showed some improvement through the season. The factory riders will be joined by the Reitwagen BMW satellite team of Andrew Pitt and Roland Resch, putting four S1000RR superbikes on the grid.

Former MotoGP racer Chris Vermeulen heads Kawasaki’s factory team with Spies’ former Yamaha teammate Tom Sykes. Vermeulen will make his return to WSBK racing after several seasons in MotoGP while Sykes’ ninth-place finish in his WSBK debut season may have been more impressive if he wasn’t overshadowed by his championship-winning teammate.

Pedercini Kawasaki will present the lone American rider on the 2010 WSBK grid, with Roger Lee Hayden making the move from AMA Pro Racing. Hayden will years of experience riding Kawasaki motorcycles to the satellite team. Hayden will be joined by Italian racer Matteo Baiocco.

A new champion will be crowned as the 2010 WSBK season kicks off.

The 13-round World Superbike season begins Feb. 26-28 at Phillip Island in Australia and runs to Oct. 1-3 in Magny Cours, France. The series will stop in the U.S. on May 29-31 at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.