Last month we reported on the World Superbike grid for 2012 and the sad note that Noriyuki ‘Nitro Nori’ Haga, aka The Sultan of Slide, didn’t have a ride.
Well, he’s back. The Swan Yamaha team in the U.K. has announced that Haga will ride for their team in the British Superbike Championship in 2012. Haga’s good luck comes at the great misfortune of Ian Hutchinson, who’s out indefinitely with a broken leg.
Hutchy, who had an unbelievable 2010, including winning every race at the Isle of Man TT, had the miserable luck to miss most of last season with a badly broken leg; in fact, he was close to losing it. Finally recovered, he had a great initial outing at the Macau street race this year, then fell practicing a stunt for a show and broke it again.
Haga has raced in the BSB series before, on a Ducati, which at the time re-ignited his career at the top and led to a ride with the factory Xerox Ducati team. He’s probably hoping for the same thing this time, saying, “I am now ready for the new season with Swan Yamaha. I feel that after many years in the same series [i.e., WSB] this will be a kind of restart to my racing career.”
With 43 WSB victories to his credit, plus three series runner-ups and four thirds, not to mention his familiarity with many of the British circuits and the quality of the Swan team, he’s obviously going to be a factor in this year’s series.
Meanwhile, John Hopkins’ injury troubles continue. The American superbike racer made headlines after cutting off the tips of some fingers last month – he’d broken his hand in an accident towards the end of the 2011 WSBK season, and the digits weren’t healing properly, or fast enough.
Hopkins’ streak of bad luck continues, though, as he managed to break the same right hand while practicing at Phillip Island. It’s doubtful that he’ll be able to race the WSBK opener. Hopefully he can keep from cutting off any more fingers.