This just in from WSBK:
All set for 2013 World Superbike Season Opener at Phillip Island
Phillip Island (Australia), Sunday 17 February 2013 - The countdown to the 26th edition of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship is almost over, as the upcoming Season Opener weekend will officially start the international motorsport year. The six manufacturers involved in the series (Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki) will once again aim to achieve the ultimate goal of victory.
As on a continuing basis since 2009, the production-based racing championship kicks off at the fascinating Phillip Island GP Circuit, one of the most spectacular and renowned track of the whole motorcycle world scene. The refreshed Australian venue has recently undergone a 3 million dollar resurface.
Many potential title contenders among the nineteen full time entries for the crown left unattended by Max Biaggi, including last season's runner up Tom Sykes who missed the final achievement last year for a mere half-point gap. The Kawasaki Racing Team rider - flanked once again by Frenchman Loris Baz - will try his best to bring back the 20 year long awaited title to the Akashi manufacturer.
BMW realignment effort brings Marco Melandri and BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team a double challenge, with the Italian division led by Andrea Buzzoni now in charge of race operations. The Ravenna-born rider sets his sights on what his and Brand's first title in the series would be, after marking his name in BMW history thanks to six individual race wins in 2012. Following a positive Superbike debut season, Chaz Davies was selected as the second rider of the team.
The resounding comeback of Alstare Team and its two-year partnership with Ducati goes hand in hand with 1199 Panigale R World Superbike debut. Borgo Panigale's brand-new bike will be brought on track by former champion Carlos Checa and team mate Ayrton Badovini. A third Ducati will be lined up on the grid by MR-Racing Team and returning Max Neukirchner.
Aprilia launches its two World Title defence campaign with a brand new rider duo, with confirmed Eugene Laverty joined by new signing Sylvain Guintoli. The manufacturer from Noale will have two private teams on its side: Althea Racing Team featuring Italian rising star Davide Giugliano and Andrea Petricca's Red Devils, with Michel Fabrizio as the team's sole rider.
Leon Haslam crossed path again with Honda to join fellow Brit Jonathan Rea. The golden wing brand and its WSBK outfit chose to keep the faith on Northern Ireland's star, the only one rider able to place the CBR1000RR on the top step of the podium over the last four seasons.
FIXI Crescent Suzuki Team takes on its second World Superbike season, following a tough debut year. Jules Cluzel, graduated from Supersport after an impressive rookie season in the series, will be alongside Leon Camier. 2013 is going to be the 16th consecutive year in the series for the Pedercini Team. Sweden's Alexander Lundh - already with the team in the last four rounds of 2012 - and Italy's Federico Sandi will tackle their first full WSBK campaign.
Two welcome comebacks, both onboard BMW S 1000 RR, end our World Superbike season preview: Vittorio Iannuzzo, new signing for Grillini DENTALMATIC SBK Team and Ivan Clementi, a five-season World Superbike veteran who joined forces with the debutant HTM Racing Team.
Tomorrow and the day after (Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 February) Superbike and Supersport riders will go on track for the first official 2013 tests session - see attached schedule.
The FIM Supersport World Championship is now getting into its 15th edition and showing again the competitive level of these mid-sized production-based racing bikes, proved by the increasing interest of Manufacturers in this series - six this year (Honda, Kawasaki, MV Agusta, Suzuki, Triumph e Yamaha) - and the huge number of permanent riders on the starting grid (35 in 2013).
Turkish triple Supersport Champion Kenan Sofuoglu will race this year to defend the current title for the first time. The race bike #1 shows up after three years and it's the ZX-6R of MAHI Racing Team Kawasaki, a new project started less than one year ago, once the season had already started, to build up on 2013 with ambitious goals - the Team also hired 2002 World Supersport Champion Frenchman Fabien Foret.
Performance Technical Racing, better known as PTR, does not sit back and goes for an all-new five rider line-up with an average of 21 years of age. Sheridan Morais will be leading PTR's World Supersport assault after a positive rookie season in the series and a 6th final place.
Former PTR rider Sam Lowes moves to Russian Team Yakhnich Motorsport to join confirmed rider Vladimir Leonov. Pata Honda World Supersport Team's Lorenzo Zanetti and Michael van der Mark will both embark in their first WSS season, as the Italian stepped down from Superbike class and the Dutch rising star promoted after winning the European Superstock 600 title. 2011 runner-up David Salom and multiple race winner Luca Scassa make their comeback to the series after a year. Both of them will be part of Josef Kubicek's Intermoto PonyExpres Kawasaki Team.
The MV Agusta F3 is set to make World Supersport debut thanks to the partnership made by the Italian motorcycle maker with Giuliano Rovelli's ParkinGO Team. Roberto Rolfo and Christian Iddon are the ones chosen to race the 675 cc Italian bike. Suriano Racing switches back to team owner's beloved Suzuki and put the GSX-R 600 in the hands of Mathew Scholtz and Roberto Tamburini.