The British Superbike silly season is stalling mainly because everyone is waiting to see what Airwaves Ducati are going to do.
Once they announce their plans expect everyone else to announce their own deals. But in the meantime here’s a round of up of all the rumours, lies, deceit and the occasional grain of truth of what’s being talked about on the British Superbike paddock rumour mill….
The million-dollar question is what are GSE Racing going to do? The rumours say team owner Darrell Healey wants to go World Superbikes but that’s going to cost around £3million.
And Airwaves want to stay in the UK. If GSE did stay in British Superbike it would require a rule change for them to run the new 1200 Ducatis. Both riders are keen to go World Superbike with GSE Racing.
Leon Haslam has an offer from HM Plant but is holding out to see what Airwaves are going to do. Gregorio Lavilla says he has options in World Superbike and back home in Spain with second level teams. He wants to race in World Superbikes but would stay in British Superbikes with a top-level team.
Want to step up from Superstock to British Superbikes but they would need a massive budget to buy factory bikes – although we’ve heard Ducati Corse are keen from them to run the UK show.
An alternative route would be to build race bikes from the new production Ducati but again, experience shows with the 1098 that they would need so relaxation of the new supersport-spec rules to make the bike competitive.
Signing Brendan Roberts would be a key factor in them securing factory backing. John Laverty has done a god job in Superstock and has British Superbikes experience.
Also said to be keen to step up to British Superbikes after preparing a top level 749 Ducati for Martin Jessop in British Supersport. Team boss Phil Jessop could probably find the budget required for factory bikes too but again, it would rely on a rule change.
But Martin Jessop is talking about getting a couple of Hondas – a much easier and less costly option than trying to build Ducatis or buy factory bikes.
HM PLANT HONDA
With Ryuichi Kiyonari and Jonathan Rea off to Ten Kate in World Superbikes and World Superstock respectively HM plant need to find two replacements. Leon Haslam is top of the shopping list.
But the second berth depends on what happens with the Bike Animal team. If that runs against then Leon Camier will stay put. If not, he’ll be slotted into the HM Plant team.
If he stays with Bike animal then Cal Crutchlow is tipped to take the second HM Plant berth – and he’ll be first choice if Leon Haslam stays with Airwaves.
And if Bike Animal do quit, expect HM Plant to run a one-man supersport effort too. After a shaky start, Ian Hutchinson’s doing a good job on the 600 and he’s a top roads man too – even though Honda almost certainly will not officially support the TT in future.
Shane Byrne and Tom Sykes are likely to stick where they are but there’s a nagging rumour that Paul Bird might cut back to a one-man team.
Personally I don’t think that will happen but I could see him running bikes in two different styles of livery to appease his impressive portfolio of sponsors, which is maybe where the one-bike Stobart rumour emanates from.
With some doubt about Cal Crutchlow staying at Rizla, Tom Sykes could be poached but only if they want to shell out the £100,000 to Bird to buy Sykes out of his contract.
The only definite seems to be that Guy Martin has signed with this much-improved-for-2007 team. Quite what happens to Karl Harris is unsure.
After a positive Oulton things have slid and team boss Shaun Muir won’t be happy being a bit-part player in the series.
It’s unlikely Michael Rutter will figure in this team’s 2008 plans and even currently injured Stuart Easton’s future with them is shaky where at one time he was destined for the superbike ride.
Team boss Nick Morgan and his crew have been rejuvenated by the arrival of young James Webb on the supersport for his youthful enthusiasm. Morgan might well go for younger riders to fill the two superbike berths next year and is talking about foreign imports with Spaniard Julian Manzueco on the top of list.
Michael Rutter has £250,000 from Alistair Kennedy to help promote the North West 200 over the next two years. The plan is that he’ll take the cash to an existing team and run bikes in NW200 livery but there’s no hint of who that team might be at this stage.
Hawk boss Stuart Hicken always plays his cards close to his chest but Scott Smart and recent signing James Haydon are likely to be in the frame to stay with the team in 2008.
There’s no certainty it will be Kawasakis, even though Stuart Hicken has a long history with the marque. It all depends on how good the new ZX-10 actually is.
Quite amazing really that after picking themselves up this year following two disappointing seasons it could be all change at Rizla Suzuki in 2008. Instead of building on continuity, there’s a new manager in Jack Valentine and, if rumours are to be believed, Japanese rider Atsushi Watanabe will be joining the team.
They were hoping to keep Cal Crutchlow but he could end up on a Honda and Chris Walker’s future is uncertain with the news of Watanabe’s possible signing.
Rizla were seen in talks with Tom Sykes after the Donington Park round but whether they would stump up that £100,000 buy-out of his contract with Paul Bird is another matter.
There will be no NB next year, leaving team boss Norris Farrow to find a new backer if the team is to continue. One option might be to run Michael Rutter with the Alastair Kennedy NW200 backing but Norris Farrow’s known about NB quitting the sport for sometime and has been on the case looking for a replacement.
Dienza team boss Enzo DiClemente is talking about quitting the sport one minute, plotting his 2008 season the next, but essentially his plans hang on what Samsung want to do in the future.
Dean Thomas is going to manage his own supersport team next year anyway so if Dienza do run again Enzo DiCelement’s mate Sean Emmett is the likely contender for the ride.
Newly-crowned British Supersport Champion Michael Laverty will race in British Superbikes next year for the Relentless by TAS Suzuki team.
The team have also signed Aussie sensation Cameron Donald for the National Superstock series as well as the roads and are expected to run Ian Lowry again in Supersport. He’s vastly improved this year and will be expected to defend the title for the team in 2008.
Everyone thought Tommy Hill had a World Supersport deal stitched up but now that seems to have gone. There’s a strong possibility Tommy Hill will remain at Virgin Yamaha, especially as it seems they may run Dunlops next year – even if there’s no control tyre rule.
Team boss Rob McElnea insists he will field two superbikes and two supersport riders next year but there’s also a rumour that Yamaha are backing a new supersport team with Hudson Kennaugh on one bike and the 2008 RcCup champion BJ Toal on the other – but only if Virgin don’t run supersport.
The other new Yamaha supersport may will be Embassy Racing who step up from superstock with current riders Glen Richards and South African Allan Jon Venter.
AIM may be strong on the roads but struggling on short circuits, but there’s every indication the team will continue in British Superbikes next year and there’s a place for Steve Plater if he wants it.
Plater is hoping to continue with the factory Kawasaki team in World Endurance. He also would like to race on the roads again, especially at the North West 200 where he’s now the man to beat and might be keen to switch to the green bikes for British Superbikes (and the roads) if there’s a seat going with MSS or Hawk.
Revitalised thanks to the injection of cash from Lloyds British and renewing links with engine tuning wizards Race Techniques, the small but dynamic Jentin team go into the 2008 with confidence.
They will run one, possibly two R1s in British Superbikes next year and desperately want to keep the promising Simon Andrews though there’s no hint who the second rider might be if that went to a two-man team.