There are lots of changes in World Superbike for 2009, with three-time world champion Troy Bayliss’s retirement from his No. 1 seat at Ducati being the prime mover in shaking up the dominos.
The other big mover is the entry of two new factories, as BMW and Aprilia both plan full assaults with new machinery.
BMW first hired Ruben Xaus from the Sterilgarda Go-Eleven Ducati team, then picked Troy Corser away from the Santander-bank-sponsored Yamaha Motor Italia group. Xaus is best known for, um, enthusiasm, while Corser is one of the best development riders out there.
Then Aprilia picked up Max Biaggi from Sterilgarda Ducati when the Roman rider was (to his fury) passed over for Bayliss’s ride at Ducati. He’ll be joined by Moto GP exile Shinya Nakano.
The plum ride at Ducati goes to Noriyuki Haga, who’s never won the WSB title although he’s got a fistful of second- and third-place finishes. Michel Fabrizio returns as Ducati’s No. 2 despite a couple of up and down seasons.
Yamaha having lost both its 2008 riders – Haga and Corser – has decided on a youth movement, hiring Ben Spies from the States and Tom Sykes from the U.K. superbike series. Both riders have tried the new machine already (at Portimao after the last race of the season), and were on competitive times on this first time, which bodes well for their season.
The Sterilgarda team not only lost both its riders (Biaggi and Xaus), but has also lost the Go-Eleven sponsorship and will now be called Sterilgarda-GMD. They’ve hired the 2008 U.K. superbike champion Shane Byrne, who in his first test (at Portimao) was the fastest rider on track with a time good enough for a podium in the weekend’s races. He’ll be joined by Alessandro (Alex) Polita, who rode for Sterilgarda in the FIM’s Superstock 1000 series in 2008, and was European Superstock champion in 2006.
Kawasaki is also going back to square one for 2009, hiring Paul Byrd Motorsport out of the U.K. to run their official team. Byrd has hired Makoto Tamada and Broc Parkes, both of whom have previous world-level superbike experience.
The HannSpree Ten Kate Honda team is staying with the same group of riders, although Kenan Sofluogu (who never got on with the superbike) is going back to the Supersport 600 series with the team, to be replaced by Ulsterman Jonathon Rea. There also seems to be a possibility that Riyuchi Kyonari will run as a separate "team" under Honda corporate colours, albeit still under the Ten Kate operation. Spaniard Carlos Checa is also returning for 2009.