Don’t you just love this time of the year, with all the rumours, counter rumours and downright bullshit that’s surrounding who goes where in the future?
It’s such fun. In the British Superbike paddock there’s so much gossip right now that there’s people spinning yarns just to see how long it takes to do the rounds and come back to them as gospel!
Sorting the wheat from the chaff is the tough part, but here’s a stab at what seems at least close to the truth……
Their future hangs on what Airwaves want to do. If they don’t want to do World Superbikes then GSE Racing owner Darrell Healey either has to find a new backer, or fund it himself.
If Airwaves stay in British Superbikes it’s hard to see what bikes they would be racing, given that there’s no dispensation yet for Ducati to run aftermarket pistons under the new 2008 Supersport-spec tuning rules.
Darrell Healey races to win and that means at least running a factory-backed effort, even if there’s no factory bikes.
Honda’s already covered on that score, and to a degree, so are Suzuki. That leaves Kawasaki and Yamaha – both with well-established teams running their bike – and neither do big-time factory support in British Superbikes. Or maybe MV is an option?
Under Supersport rules the F4 1000 might be a good package and there’s no doubt GSE Racing have the experience to exploit it to the max.
Leon Haslam is gagging to step up to the world stage and wants to stay with the team but he reckons there’s an option to go with Ten Kate Honda in World Superbikes if Airwaves stay in the UK.
Gregorio Lavilla definitely wants to move back to World Superbikes to try and realise his lifelong goal of winning a world title.
He’s hoping to stick with Airwaves but only in World Superbikes and not British Superbikes. His other options are unclear – though he says he’s willing to work as a development rider for a year with the proviso he gets a team place in 2009.
HM Plant Honda
Bank on HRC cutting back their support for the Louth-based team in 2008, which means a reduced budget won’t allow them to buy in Michelin support.
Expect to see the team running HRC-kit bikes similar to Leon Camier’s 2007 ride and on Dunlops. With HRC downscaling, Ryuichi Kiyonari is 99 per cent certain to join Ten Kate in World Superbikes.
Talk of MotoGP for him is there, and the boss of HRC says there's a chance for the Japanese reigning champion but for me it seems optimistic for 2008.
We’ve heard Jonathan Rea has been offered British Superbikes again by Honda. He also has an offer to join Xerox Ducati but whether Rea would be happy being Troy Bayliss’s understudy for a year is another question. But it would put him in the hot seat for 2009 to lead the team when the Aussie retires.
With HRC cutting back on the HM Plant team it’s hard to see the Bike Animal team continuing to run in British Superbikes next year but there is likely to be an official Supersport team. Its livery is another question. With that in mind, Leon Camier is the hot tip to join the HM Plant squad.
It’s been such a fantastic season for Stobart Honda it’s hard to imagine any major changes in Paul Bird’s team – although they will have a new bike to develop next year if they stick with Honda. The chances of them going back to Ducati appear slim considering there’s no dispensation to allow the twins to run aftermarket pistons.
Shane Byrne has said he’d consider going to World Superbikes but it’s difficult to see any options there.
But it’s not significant that he’s not had any discussions with Birdy about next year yet. Tom Sykes could be on the shopping list for several British Superbike teams following his so far brilliant rookie BSB season but it’s more likely he’ll stay put.
There’s gossip that the team's owner Shaun Muir boss has had enough of British Superbike and will throw everything into the roads next year with Guy Martin.
If they do stay they’ll need to find that missing ingredient to bridge the gap to the front-runners. No-one seems to be talking up Karl Harris’ options for 2008 at this stage.
MSS Discovery Kawasaki
The rumours are they’ll pass their Supersport effort to a satellite team and run two Superbikes in 2008.
Michael Rutter’s future is in doubt following a string of disappointing results – unless he can pull something out of the bag in the final three rounds now that he’s got Akira World Superbike-spec engines and bunch of other new parts to play with.
Stuart Easton could step up to British Suprbikes after promising rides at Mondello Park and Knockhill when Michael Rutter was sidelined by injury, while team owner Nick Morgan could look outside the UK for his riders like he has in the past., with Julien Da Costa and Pere Riba.
There’s no big gossip surrounding the team who are concentrating more on getting James Haydon on board for Cadwell in a bid to sign off the 2007 on a high note.
Team manager Simon Buckmaster is not making any secret that Chris Walker is unlikely to figure in his plans for 2008.
He’s keen to keep Cal Crutchlow but has already told motorcyclenews.com that he’d like to talk to Leon Camier, Tom Sykes and Leon Haslam about their 2008 plans.
He’s also consider bringing Shane Byrne back to the fold but Shakey reckons he’s not interested after being dumped by them at the end of 2006.
Team NB Suzuki
After the sad death of Ollie Bridewell at Mallory Park the team has been put on hold – but they are regrouping and could return to the track before the end of the season.
Ollie’s brother Tommy has talked about having unfinished business in racing but his exact plans are not known. Neither are the long terms plans of the team, which is no surprise considering the tragedy they have all lived through recently.
But it would be such a shame to see all their hard work go to waste after their massive restructure last winter was just beginning to reap rewards.
Team owner Enzo di Clementi says he’s likely to throw in the towel at the end of the year. Dean Thomas has already established his own team and has talked about having one year in a rider/manager role before quitting the sport to concentrate solely on his own outfit.
The Irish-based team will run at least one Superbike in 2008, if not two. British Supersport points leader Michel Laverty has already tested the team’s TT superbike in Ireland and is likely to get the gig for next year.
Virgin Media Yamaha
Providing the budget is in place, Rob McElnea’s Yamaha team will be back next year with a two-man British Superbike team but there’s not much gossip about who’s likely to ride for him yet.
Tommy Hill is keen to progress his career so the works Yamaha ride in World Supersport has to be an option for him to consider. But outside that his name, perhaps surprisingly, isn’t being touted around the rumour mill – yet.