Yamaha has announced they are returning to the World Superbike series for the 2016 season.
Yamaha left the WSB series at the end of the 2011 season, but said they’d consider a return if costs were put under control. This morning, Yamaha announced that return would happen next season.
Yamaha is partnering with Crescent Racing and title sponsor PATA to bring their R1M into World Superbike competition for 2016. They’ve signed Sylvain Guintoli and Alex Lowes to pilot the machine, so they’ve hired some of the best help they can get. Guintoli won the WSB championship in 2014, although he’s currently in sixth. Lowes isn’t having a great 2015 (he’s in ninth right now on a Suzuki GSX-R 1000), but he’s won BSB in the past, so he knows how to get up front and stay there.
A Yamaha return to WSB could create some interesting upheaval. In the past few years, Kawasaki and Aprilia have been the teams to beat; throwing Yamaha into the mix, especially with a former champion on board, could disrupt that pattern.
Yamaha could be helped by the fact that they have the R1M in the lineup. Due to changing World Superbike regs, it’s become advantageous for manufacturers to have their “standard” superbike, as well as a more premium, high-spec variation (see: BMW HP4, Ducati Panigale R, etc.). With the R1M, Yamaha has their own model along those lines, and it’s already proved itself by winning the Suzuka 8-Hr endurance race. Next year, we’ll get to see how it stacks up in WSB.