WSBK to race a record 32 entrants

More manufacturers enter the series despite economic downturn

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Jan. 15, 2009
While MotoGP organizers work to stop the shrinking of its starting grid, the World Superbike Championship will feature a record number of entrants in 2009.

The International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) released its official entry list for both the World Superbike and World Supersport Championships. The official WSBK roster includes 32 regular entrants from ten countries racing on bikes from seven different manufacturers. Include a couple of wild-card entries and a WSBK starting grid would be double the size of MotoGP’s current roster of 17 bikes.

“I am delighted with the success of the entry list for the 2009 WSBK championship, which is the best ever,” says Paolo Flammini, chief executive officer of series promoter Infront Motor Sports. “It is a true demonstration of the success of a formula that allows teams to compete in a high-level series with relatively low costs, and which also gives the possibility to private teams to go well.”

Italy leads all nations with eight riders on the entry list. Great Britain joins Japan and Spain with five entries thanks to the addition of three British Superbike riders, Shane Byrne, Leon Haslam and Tom Sykes. Australian race fans will miss the retired 2008 WSBK champion Troy Bayliss but they will have four other countrymen to cheer for. Germany, France, Austria and the United States each have one rider on the roster including three-time AMA champion Ben Spies.

Ben Spies will be the lone American in the 2009 World Superbike Championship.
Noriyuki Haga joins Michel Fabrizio to try to extend Ducati's WSBK success.
Aprilia's Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano will be one of the new factory teams competing in 2009.

Coming off its 15th manufacturer’s title in 21 campaigns, Ducati leads all manufacturers with seven entrants riding its 1098R. Noriyuki Haga will try to fill Bayliss’ spot in the paddock, joining Michel Fabrizio on the factory Ducati Xerox team.

Despite the withdrawal of its MotoGP program, it’s business as usual for Kawasaki’s WSBK efforts. Factory-backed Paul Bird Motorsport will field Broc Parkes and Makoto Tamada while PSG-1 Corse and Team Pedercini add four more ZX-10R bikes to the grid.

“In Superbike, factory assistance is being increased with the Paul Bird team and there is more collaboration than before with Kawasaki Motors Europe and Kawasaki Heavy Industries,” says Steve Guttridge, Kawasaki’s European race planning coordinator. “This should lead to big improvements in the team and the bike. It’s early days yet, we just started everything up before Christmas but at the first race we should be up to speed.”

Suzuki will have four GSX-R1000 K9 bikes on the grid including factory riders Max Neukirchner and Yukio Kagayama.

Yamaha will have three bikes on the grid including factory riders Tom Sykes and Spies who impressed onlookers at the winter test session in South Africa on the “long bang” YZF-R1.

Aprilia and BMW are the two new brands entering the WSBK series. Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano will race Aprilia’s new four-cylinder RSV-4. BMW will place its new S1000RR in the hands of Ruben Xaus and two-time WSBK champion Troy Corser.

“The validity and the stability of the technical regulations have also helped to bring about the entry of two important new manufacturers, Aprilia and BMW, which takes the number of manufacturers present to an all-time record for Superbike,” says Flammini. “The rider quality will also be very high, with the arrival amongst others of the reigning AMA and BSB champions, as well as a number of talented new riders. In a moment of global economic difficulty Superbike can look to the future with serenity and optimism.”

The World Supersport entry list is even more diverse than the Superbike roster, with 30 riders from 15 countries. Honda remains the most popular Supersport manufacturer with 16 racers riding the CBR600RR. Yamaha has six YZF-R6 motorcycles on the grid. Suzuki will race two GSX-R 600 bikes while Kawasaki enters a pair of ZX-6R Ninjas. Triumph will be the only non-Japanese Supersport entrant with four riders racing the 675 Triple.