The Superbike World Championship continues to struggle as it morphs into a complement instead of a competitor of MotoGP since MotoGP commercial rights holder Dorna also took over the administration of WSBK.
Alstare, one of the cornerstone teams of the championship, will not field a team in WSBK in 2014 after negotiations between team boss Francis Batta and Aprilia were fruitless. Alstare, long associated with Suzuki, ended its affiliation with Ducati after one disappointing, acrimony-filled season in 2013.
The team also had talks with MV Agusta, which instead paired with the standout World Supersport team Yakhnich. Various reports also indicated Batta had negotiated with Italian manufacturer Bimota about a return to WSBK with the BB3 machine debuted at the Milan bike show. But that was a pipe dream, as Bimota doesn't produce enough BB3's to meet FIM homologation requirements for WSBK.
Batta will move to auto racing to manage a Jaguar team in the Superstars touring car series. That championship is managed by the same Flammini brothers who ran WSBK until private equity group Bridgepoint - which owns MotoGP and WSBK - assigned commercial rights of both series to Dorna late last year.
Belgians Francis and Patricia Batta have been staples of the WSBK paddock for 20 years. Francis Batta first served as general manager of the championship and then debuted Alstare in WSBK and World Supersport in 1996. Previous to that he was one of the first team managers of the Cagiva GP team.
Another prominent team, Red Devils Roma, also apparently will not return to WSBK next season. The team could not overcome the financial problems that led it to lose rider Michel Fabrizio.
Former MotoGP rider and 2010 Moto2 champion Toni Elias joined Red Devils late this season and competed in four races, with a best finish of fourth at Jerez. That gave the team hope it could use Elias' results and name value to lure sponsors.
Instead Elias is out of a ride. European media reports indicated he may land a ride with a Kawasaki EVO-class machine with Provec as a teammate to David Salom.
WSBK grid sizes still should approach the mid-20s next season due to the introduction of low-cost, lower-technology EVO bikes. But the loss of a legendary team and an established outfit never is a good sign for a series as it molts its skin into a new identity.