Melandri: I couldn’t attack Rea or Davies

Returning World Superbike racer Marco Melandri labelled the 2nd race at Phillip Island on Sunday as “tough”, after falling victim to the series’ new qualifying format. The Italian crashed out of race one after contact with Alex Lowes’ Yamaha – who the Italian blamed for the incident – at the Southern Loop in race one, placing him on the 4th row in 10th place for the 2nd outing.

The 34-year-old former 250cc Grand Prix champion made great headway, and with nine laps to go, hit the front of the race. Although close at the end, Melandri’s first finish on his return to the series was a podium, of which the ex-Ducati MotoGP rider was content with.

“It was a really tough race today. I got a good start but lost positions in the traffic early on, so I had to push hard to climb back, asking a lot to both myself and the tyres. When I took the lead, I tried to impose my own rhythm but it turned out not to be the right move”, said Marco after the 2nd race.

Melandri went on to say that the full race distance can be used to indicate where to improve the bike. “With three laps to go, when Rea and Davies gave the final push, I was struggling with grip and couldn’t attack them. Still, we needed a full race to understand where to improve, and a podium shows that we’re working in the right direction with the whole team”.

Unlike Davies, it wasn’t the most productive round of his WSBK career, replicating his 2013 results at the track, with a race one retirement and a third place in the 2nd race, on his way to 4th in the title.

The team head to Thailand next, where they have yet to win a race at the new venue. It will also be Marco Melandri’s first time at the circuit. The meeting takes place across the 11th and 12th of March.

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

Davies: This is a really positive result

Chaz Davies of the Aruba.IT Ducati Team took a brace of 2nd positions as the season got underway at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Australia. The Welshman secured his best ever start to a World Superbike season, and is only 10 points behind double winner and reigning double champion Jonathan Rea.

The 30-year-old former World Supersport champion took the lead at periods throughout the race but wasn’t able to cross the line ahead of rival Rea. The Ducati staying in the slipstream, finishing half a tenth away in both races. 2017 was the first season since he joined Ducati that he didn’t set the fastest lap of a race, although Ducati took that particular honour with Marco Melandri in race two.

“Race two was a bit more difficult to manage than the first, given the hotter conditions. The glass is half full though, without a doubt. We tried something different but we lost a couple of bike lengths here and there and we just couldn’t pass Rea before the finish line, said Davies, who finished last season with seven wins from the last eight races.

“When you look at the full picture, this is a really positive result. It would be easy to be disappointed because we barely missed two wins, but historically this has never been a favourite circuit for me and sometimes I lost precious points here, so two second places are a good building block for the rest of the season”.

The 3rd placed man in last season now heads to Thailand where the WSBK circus starts the next chapter of this year’s already-exhilarating championship. The round takes place on the 11th and 12th of March.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

Rea pips Davies in Tremendous Race 1

Race one of the new WSBK season was an absolute cracker. Rea, Sykes, Davies, Melandri and Lowes all lead the race, exchanging places with Fores and Camier in the mix too. However, the Northern Irishman held the lead by 0.042 to beat Chaz Davies’ slipstreaming efforts on the run to the chequered flag. Tom Sykes managed to hold Yamaha’s Alex Lowes for the final position on the podium, with MV Agusta’s Leon Camier holding on to take his best result at Phillip Island with 5th, ahead of the Barni Racing Ducati of Xavi Fores.

The race got underway and the Kawasaki were swallowed up by turn one and it was returning Marco Melandri who hit the lead, with Davies in 2nd. The Kawasaki pairing fought back, placing 3rd and 4th.

Eugene Laverty made a fairly rapid start, from 13th to 8th, whilst Althea BMW’s Markus Reiterberger went the other way, ending the first lap in 15th.

Slipstream city down the Gardner Straight led to an all-out brawl at the front, with both Ducatis, Kawasakis, Yamahas, Fores’ Ducati and the BMW of Torres were all in the leading group, swapping places at every possible opportunity.

Lorenzo Savadori was the first casualty, having got into 7th, he watched the front group start to escape. As the Italian set off on closing down the gap between the lead 12-wheeler and the Milwaukee Aprilia, he crashed at Siberia but was OK apart from a damaged pride.

The race progressed and early race leader Marco Melandri was down in 4th but remained in the leading group, however it was Alex Lowes who hit the front. The 2013 British Superbike Champion was leading the way, the first time for Yamaha at the front of a WSBK race for 6 seasons.

Rea and Sykes regrouped, with Davies, Lowes, Melandri and Fores keeping them in their sites. Unfortunately for Melandri, his race came to an end as he tagged the back of Lowes at the Southern Loop, crashing out on his return to competition on lap 15. He will start 19th for race two.

The final 5 laps saw the remaining 5 spread out, with Rea and Davies going head to head in dramatic fashion. Davies took Rea at Doohan’s on the final lap but ran wide, allowing arch rival Rea to take the lead back instantly. That was how they finished, as although the Ducati of Davies had a slipstream chance with Rea down the straight on the run for home, the Ulsterman beat him, with Sykes taking the bronze medal position 1 second back.

Alex Lowes took his best finish since his 3rd place in Thailand back in 2015, with a 4th place ahead of the revelation of Leon Camier, who saw off Xavi Fores’ privateer Ducati outfit.

Fellow Spaniard Jordi Torres was 7th, ahead of qualifying crasher Eugene Laverty, the sole surviving Milwaukee Aprilia. Yamaha’s new signing, Michael Van Der Mark was a solid 9th in his first outing on the R1, with Randy Krummenacher storming to 10th place on his and the Pucetti Kawasaki’s WSBK premier class debut.

The rest of the points were sorted out, with former GP champion Nicky Hayden in 11th, ahead of Markus Reiterberger, Roman Ramos Alex de Angelis and former Moto2 Champion, Stefan Bradl on his debut. Russo, Jezek and Badovini rounded out the field, not gaining any championship points.

The only other rider not mentioned is Josh Brookes, who retired his privately entered Yamaha with a technical problem, whilst Leandro Mercado wasn’t racing his Ioda Aprilia through injuries sustained in a testing accident.

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

WSBK Australia Preview: And The Lights Go Green

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The first round of the 2017 World Superbike season is coming from Australia and the Phillip Island circuit, located around 850km away from the capital, Canberra. Three of the top ten closest finishes in the history of WSBK have come from the Australian track, including the most recent one, in race 2 in 2015, when Leon Haslam won from Jonathan Rea. With a series of changes coming in both the series and within the teams, 2017 has all the credentials to be yet another vintage season.

The preseason favourites are without doubt Kawasaki and more-so Jonathan Rea, the reigning double champion. Aiming to become the first ever rider to win three championships on the bounce, the Ulsterman has won at least one race at the track since he joined the Kawasaki Racing Team back in 2015. Rea hasn’t won since the second race at the Lausitzring last season, and if Chaz Davies’ form is anything to go by, then it might not be all in the recently-turned-30-year-old’s favour.

His teammate, Tom Sykes, set a new pole record at Phillip Island last year but came away with nothing better than a 5th and 6th place after the races. Phillip Island is one of only a handful of the current circuits that Sykes hasn’t won at and he will be looking to put an end to that statistic. Having not been on the podium at the track since 2014, he will want a return to form, as he needs to bag points early on to have a real chance of beating Rea. Can the Huddersfielder do it? Only time will tell.

Chaz Davies has been in the top three for the past two seasons, and comes into 2017 as the rider in form. Seven wins from the last eight races in 2016, the Aruba.IT Ducati Team have got every faith in the Welshman to deliver the number one plate direct to Italy. 30-year-old Davies won more races than anyone else last season, but inconsistency – crashes at Phillip Island, Donington Park and Laguna Seca most notably – lead to the bronze medal position in 2016. Having set the fastest lap in at least one race at Phillip Island since 2014, he will be looking to convert one lap speed for consistent race pace, to take his first victory at the track.

Marco Melandri has won at Phillip Island, back in 2006 in MotoGP on the Fortuna Honda. The Italian has been on the podium every season in WSBK at the track since joining the series back in 2011 and has potential to become the first Italian pole-sitter in the history of WSBK at Phillip Island. The last Italian winner was Max Biaggi in 2012 and Melandri will be hoping to rewrite that record. Ducati will also be looking for success, having not taken a victory at the Australian venue since 2012 with Carlos Checa. Melandri could become one of a select group of riders to win on four makes of bike if he manages a victory at some point this season. Keep your eyes on the #33.

Honda are sporting a new look in 2017, revamped with their new bike and with their striking appearance – fashioning a Red Bull livery – it could be love at first sight for their riders. Nicky Hayden took the old Honda Fireblade to its first victory since Portugal 2014 last season at Sepang, on his way to securing a solid 5th place in the championship. The American will be looking to add to that tally, as he begins his 2nd full season in the WSBK category after leaving MotoGP in 2015. Hayden’s best result at Phillip Island was a 4th place in race 2, although this year, the Kentucky Kid will hope for a taste of the champagne.

Joined by fellow former MotoGP star, Stefan Bradl will partner Hayden at Red Bull Honda. The 2011 Moto2 champion begins his career in WSBK at Phillip Island, a circuit he has never won at although he took 2nd in his Moto2 championship season. The German has adapted quickly during in testing for the series but expects to be playing catch up with the new Honda until Aragon in April. On his journey this year, the son of former GP winner Helmut Bradl, will be encountering new circuits such as the Chang International Circuit, Imola, Portimao, the Lausitzring and Magny Cours. Can the German be a threat?

As well as the top three manufacturers from last year, teams such as Althea BMW and Milwaukee Aprilia will be searching for victories throughout the campaign, with former GP stars such as Jordi Torres and Eugene Laverty in the mix for both teams respectively. Alongside them are Markus Reiterberger (BMW) and Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia) – neither of which have scored their first WSBK podium.

The Pata Yamaha Team operated by Paul Denning of Crescent Racing retain Alex Lowes for a fourth straight season and introduce Dutchman Michael Van Der Mark into the fray, as Sylvain Guintoli heads back to BSB. Leon Camier stays on the MV Agusta for another season, hoping to also achieve the team’s first ever podium. He achieved a great 7th place at Phillip Island last season, wanting to do better this year no doubt.

Other riders such as Xavi Fores, who was quickest in testing Down Under, make up the grid. Alex De Angelis switches to the oldest team in the paddock at Team Pedercini Kawasaki, with Ondrej Jezek and Ayrton Badovini joining the Grillini Kawasaki outfit. Roman Ramos remains in the GoEleven Kawasaki team, the Spaniard being the only full time rider last year to finish every race he took part in. Leandro Mercado represents the whole of South America, as the Argentine teams up with Ioda Racing who in turn become a one-man outfit for this season. The grid is rounded out with Italy’s Ricardo Russo on the Guandolini Yamaha, as the team return to the championship, and by former GP star and World Supersport race winner at Phillip Island in 2016, Randy Krummenacher, who steps up to the World Superbike class with World Supersport champions from last year, Pucetti Racing.

21 riders, 13 rounds, 11 countries and over 40 international and national titles between them, it’s hard not to see competition levels on show this year. With new sponsors, new teams, returning riders and tracks, not to mention new, longer-lasting qualifying tyres and the race 2 grid system, World Superbikes is set to have a renaissance in 2017. After the conclusion of the first weekend, we will have a rough idea of who is hot and who most certainly is not, as well as knowing how good the new system for race 2 grid positions will be. The only absentee from proceedings this weekend is Leandro Mercado, who nurses an injury following a testing incident – the team opting not to replace him.

You can follow the season with us this year, with every round covered to the highest standard. Follow us online for exclusive interviews and polls, as well as competitions and live updates from events – our handle is @PitCrew_Online. You can follow me too, for all things bikes, whether it be WSBK, BSB, MotoGP, CEV or the Shell Asia Talent Cup! @MotoGPKiko is where to find me!
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

TeamByTeam WSBK Preview: Althea BMW

 

The final team of our big six previews is the Spanish Althea BMW Team. In 2016, the Althea Racing Team made the switch from being the satellite Ducati team to the Factory BMW team, and with a few good results, the former champions want to return to winning ways now that they have a year of experience under their belt. Keeping to the same bike is crucial but keeping to the same rider line-up is just as vital. Could 2017 see the boys in black and white reach the chequered flag first?

The BMW Factory Team withdrew from competition at WSBK after their 2012 season, leaving the GoldBet BMW squad to be the lead team for the manufacturer. However, after their collapse, it is now the Althea Team who have some backing from BMW HQ. The bike itself is a weapon. It is one of the fastest bikes in a straight line and it handles superbly through the twisty parts of the tracks. However, one issue that has occurred is that throttle control is very difficult to manage. Tyco BMW and Hawk Racing BMW experienced that issue over in the BSB series, but different regulations at WSBK level mean that the issue isn’t as prominent for Althea.

Jordi Torres remains with the team for 2nd consecutive season. The Spaniard came to the championship in 2015 aboard a semi-factory Aprilia, and took his first win at Losail. Having endured last season with no win and no podiums, Torres will feel like he needs to get back where he belongs. A handful of 4th places helped him into 6th come the season’s end, but Torres knows he is top five material, and 2017 has to be the year where he is back up front.

Partnering the former Moto2 winner is double IDM champion, Markus Reiterberger. The German had a solid rookie year at World Superbike level on a bike that is hard to get to grips with. 16th in the championship doesn’t reflect some of the more successful rides that he had in the season, with a season best 5th at Buriram in Thailand. The 5th in Thailand proved that on a more less new circuit, Reiterberger is very fast indeed. Can the 22-year-old be a spoiler from the off in 2017?

As for circuits, Thailand was a very good circuit for the team last season, highlighted by the aforementioned Reiterberger and his 5th. Imola is one of Torres’ favourites, having taken his first ever podium at the track in 2015, and a 4th place last season. The last time a BMW won a WSBK race was at Portimao in 2013 with Melandri, and that very circuit returns after a year absence in 2017.

You can keep up to date with the goings on of World Superbike here at The Pit Crew Online. Give us a follow on Twitter @PitCrew_Online, and keep up with the live text commentary of all the big meetings!

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

TeamByTeam WSBK Preview: Red Bull Ten Kate Honda

 

The Honda World Superbike team come into the 2017 World Superbike season with an all new bike to play with. The much awaited new Fireblade will be used to try and propel the team to their first championship victory since 2007 and James Toseland. The team took 10 podiums in 2016 on the old Fireblade, so can they have a more successful and champagne littered year in 2017.

The bike is a beauty. A more sophisticated chassis, more horsepower and more agility is just what the team wanted and needed to play with in order to fight for the championship. Honda however haven’t endured too much of a bad World Superbike campaign in the last year, as they took their first win since Jonny Rea in 2014 with Nicky Hayden at Sepang. The bike also had one final swansong in British Superbikes with Jason O’Hallaron taking the machine to 5th in the title just in behind teammate Dan Linfoot.

The riders that are guiding the bike to potential success bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team. Nicky Hayden retains his seat for a 2nd season in WSBK, as he looks forward to getting back up the sharp end of racing. The American took one win last season in the wet and took a further three podiums. The Kentucky Kid only retired four times and when he did make it to the finish, it was never outside of the top 10. If he can cut out the mistakes, bag some wins and podiums and keep in the top four, the American could become the first rider ever to win MotoGP and World Superbike titles.

Hayden has a new teammate in 2017, with a fellow MotoGP refugee in Stefan Bradl, who leaves the Gresini Aprilia Team and makes the transition over to the production based class. The German will be wanting to get straight down to business, but as ever with change, there are new challenges. Besides the bike, it will be the tracks that the MotoGP podium finisher will need to learn during the Free Practice sessions. Tracks he hasn’t been on at a competitive level include Buriram, Imola, Lausitzring, Magny Cours and Portimao. However, the former Moto2 champion is a quick rider, and a seasoned campaigner and although his recent career may not be a lot to shout about, Bradl on a quick bike could be something worth watching. Maybe, a potential dark horse?

The new Honda is more or less unproven on the tracks of the World Superbike calendar. However, recent history shows that Phillip Island, Buriram, Assen, Sepang and Laguna Seca to be good tracks, but Imola seems to be their favourite, with a double victory with Rea back in 2014, although 2 lacklustre results at the track last season do throw that statement into disrepute. The season opening round at Phillip Island was good last season, with a double podium for the departing Michael Van Der Mark, but a win hasn’t occurred since 2007 and James Toseland. Can Bradl and Hayden use their MotoGP experience at the track to re-write Honda’s history books?

You can keep up to date with the goings on of World Superbike here at The Pit Crew Online. Give us a follow on Twitter @PitCrew_Online, and keep up with the live text commentary of all the big meetings!

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

TeamByTeam WSBK Preview: Aruba.IT Ducati

 

The Aruba.IT Ducati Team come into the 2017 World Superbike season as one of the favourites to take not just the constructors championship, but a riders’ championship too. The bike, which has no fully acclimatised to WSBK and is up to speed, has been in the series for four seasons now without a title success. Can they go all the way?

The bike itself is a proven race winner in the hands of Welshman Chaz Davies. After initial teething problems, the machine is now firing on all four cylinders (despite it being a twin cylinder), and is ready to take championship success from national, to international race series. Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne took the Panigale to its first British Superbike Championship in 2016 at the first time of asking and Matteo Baiocco took the bike to Italian Superbike glory also. Having finished in the top three in the WSBK on two consecutive seasons, the Aruba.IT Ducati will seek to go on to finish top of the championship tree in 2017. One problem that prevailed last season was the straight-line speed of the bike – yes, you just read that Ducati struggled with top speed! It was an issue in Phillip Island and at Buriram due to the long corners that lead onto the huge straights.

But just who have Ducati hired to take the bike to the top? Unsurprisingly, Chaz Davies signed for a 4th season on the Ducati, having come so close to glory last season. Despite taking 11 race wins – more than anyone else – Chaz could only manage third in the title as inconsistencies in the mid-season put him on the back-foot. 20 wins to his name thus far, can the soon-to-be 30 year old take that all important championship victory?

Out to stop him – or act as wingman – is former 250cc champion and MotoGP winner, Marco Melandri. The famous #33 returns to a series in which he has become known as a nearly man, where the Italian has never been out of the top four, but never took the elusive title win. Having had a torrid time in 2015 for half a MotoGP season, and a retirement year in 2016, Melandri comes back hungrier than ever to challenge at the front. Having had successful surgery to fix an injured leg, he can now focus on returning to former glory and becoming the first Italian to win on the Bologna Bullet since Michel Fabrizio in 2010.

The more troubling issue for Ducati is their start of season form, as they haven’t taken a win in the opening two rounds since Carlos Checa in 2012. They’ve never won in Thailand and haven’t won at Assen since 2012 with Sylvain Guintoli. Donington Park hasn’t been kind to them either, with no win since Carlos Checa back in 2011. However, Davies comes into the championship off the back of six consecutive wins towards the end of last season – the first to win the final six races in a season since Colin Edwards in the amazing 2002 season. Both of their riders are seasoned campaigners and both will be looking for a title win, at any costs…

You can keep up to date with the goings on of World Superbike here at The Pit Crew Online. Give us a follow on Twitter @PitCrew_Online, and keep up with the live text commentary of all the big meetings!

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

TeamByTeam WSBK Preview: Kawasaki Racing Team

With the reigning constructor’s champions are fielding the top 2 riders from last season’s standings, they look the dominant force which has led them to win 3 out of the last 4 championships, and finish in the top 2 in the last 5.

The bike itself will be developed version of the all new-all conquering ZX10-R that was unveiled last season at Phillip Island. Immediately quick out of the blocks, it took the first 4 race victories of the championship before going on to take a staggering 14 race wins in total. That’s not to mention 6 ‘doubles’ and 10 pole positions.

The question is however: can the bike improve even more than last season. The answer looking on paper is obviously yes, but just how do you do it and what are the issues. One of the more prominent issues in the team’s 2016 campaign was downshifting, when Jonathan Rea suffered issues at both Laguna Seca and the Lausitzring which led to subsequent DNFs. Kawasaki have been working hard to try and conjure up a solution, and I wouldn’t put it past them if they have the problems sorted for 2017. Away from WSBK, the new Ninja ZX10-R had a good run out in other championships, with Leon Haslam finishing runner-up in the British Superbike championship and Kazuki Watanabe taking podiums on his way to 6th in the All Japan Road Race Championship.

But what about the line-up that the team has aboard the machines? Jonathan Rea has proven that 2015 was no fluke (we didn’t think it was anyway) and backed it up with his 2nd championship in 2016. Although far less dominant than in 2015, Rea led the series from lights-out in Australia to the chequered flag in Qatar and will be wanting to repeat that in 2017. Throughout the season, the reigning double champion took nine wins and two pole positions, as well as six fastest laps. No one has ever taken three championship wins in consecutive seasons, but if anyone can, then Rea is your man.

Trying to put an end to the Rea onslaught is his teammate-turned-rival Tom Sykes, who was assisted to 2nd in the championship in 2016 by Rea in Qatar. Having stamped his authority on the title by beating Rea in a head to head thriller in Thailand, Sykes failed to put in a convincing title bid, and whilst closing in on Rea at Laguna Seca and again in race one at the Lausitzring, a crash in race two effectively gifted the Ulsterman a 2nd championship trophy. The former champion and three-time runner-up will be looking to beat Rea once and for all in 2017. The Hudderfielder will want to build on the solid foundations he set up on the new bike last season and go one step further in the upcoming season. 5 wins and 20 podiums in 2016 was a great season, but it will take more top step podium finishes for Sykes to level with his teammate on the title front.

And the circuits? Not a problem. The current Kawasaki team has taken victories at all circuits apart from Losail, but they’ll hope to have yet another riders and constructors title in the bag come that time in October. Data shows that Magny Cours and Losail have been difficult tracks for them, and for Sykes, he never goes particularly well at Phillip Island.

You can keep up to date with the goings on of World Superbike here at The Pit Crew Online. Give us a follow on Twitter @PitCrew_Online, and keep up with the live text commentary of all the big meetings!

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

TeamByTeam WSBK Preview: Pata Yamaha

After a four-year hiatus from the World Superbike paddock, Yamaha returned last season with the all new Yamaha YZF-R1. However, it wasn’t quite the spectacle we all expected it to be, with a lot of midfield results, injuries and crashes for both riders. Now, having had a year under their belt, the Crescent Yamaha squad will look to fight for the top positions in the championship and take their first win on their return to the series.

The bike came into the 2016 season with much promise and potential. Carmelo Morales made it look like a real weapon in the Spanish CEV Superbike Championship and Josh Brookes stormed off with the British Superbike championship in 2015. The MotoAmerica pairing of Beaubier and Hayes showcased the Yamaha’s talents but sadly that couldn’t be transformed on to the world stage. A third place in the penultimate race of the year in Qatar for the BSB bound Sylvain Guintoli was all that could be considered good for the team in 2016. Eight DNFs in 2016 mean that Alex Lowes’ 4th year with the Crescent team is a vital one in which he must take wins and podiums and challenge for a top four placing.

Michael Van Der Mark made the dramatic switch from rivals Honda and joined Yamaha as he spearheads the 2017 team. Three podiums from the first four races and strong races at Assen led to Van Der Mark becoming hot property in 2016. Yet to take that elusive first victory, he is hoping that he can bring the glory days back to Yamaha. Magic Michael took a pole position last season as well as six podiums throughout his 2016 campaign and could be a title threat if he gels initially with the bike. The star of World Superbikes is definitely one to watch as he and the Yamaha get quicker lap by lap.

Alex Lowes joins the Dutchman in a champion line up at Yamaha. Despite a poor season in 2016, where he languished in 12th in the standings, Lowes retained his position at Paul Denning’s squad. The 2013 BSB champion had a year of acclimatisation with the Yamaha last season, and stronger results towards the end of the season suggest that the Lincolnshireman could start off the upcoming season as he means to go on. A title threat may be a little too far, but nothing is in the way of podiums and wins for Lowes, who will set out to silence his critics and prove his worth.

Circuits for the Yamaha are all fairly good, although Losail seems to be a happy hunting ground for the team. Yamaha haven’t won at the first meeting of the season since Ben Spies won race two in 2009 and that is a record that quite simply needs to be put right. A track where luck will hopefully be on the team’s side is Imola, after Sylvain Guintoli’s complex foot injury of last season. Sepang was a good meeting for the team over the course of one lap, but with the learning year done, all could be set to change in 2017.

You can keep up to date with the goings on of World Superbike here at The Pit Crew Online. Give us a follow on Twitter @PitCrew_Online, and keep up with the live text commentary of all the big meetings!

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

TeamByTeam WSBK Preview: Milwaukee Aprilia

After a difficult debut year for the team in 2016, the SMR Milwaukee set up switches from BMW to full factory Aprilia, taking on two new riders in the process. The former British Superbike champions come into 2017 with the determination to put last year complexities and troubles behind them, and take victories and podiums on a bike that is a proven winner.

After leaving the sport in 2014, Aprilia have returned to the championship two years later, with a modified version of the bike they’ve left us. Split throttle control means the likes of BMW and Kawasaki will have to work hard but the Italian manufacturers of Aprilia and Ducati can carry on as normal. Shaun Muir believes that this is one of the main reasons that can see the team challenge from the first race of the season in Australia.

The first new rider is returning World Superbike heavyweight Eugene Laverty. Like Stefan Bradl and Marco Melandri, Laverty is another MotoGP refugee, and although 2016 proved to have many top 10 finishes in the Grand Prix world, the Irishman was not accepting any poor deals, and will come back to a paddock he knows well. With 13 wins to his name thus far, it would be fair to say that Norge will be on it from the word GO! Can the former World Supersport champion prove that he can win races even after two seasons away?

Lorenzo Savadori did such a fine job on a satellite Aprilia last season, that he’s been given an upgrade to the real McCoy. Joining the official factory Aprilia team this year, the Italian is definitely one for the future. Having crashed out of podium places on a few occasions last season, he will be determined to prove that he isn’t just a rider who can challenge for top five placings, but challenge for the podium and wins. The winner of the FIM Superstock 1000 series in 2015, the Italian 125cc champ in 2007 and still only 23 years old, Lorenzo will be riding on a crest of a wave this coming season, as he enjoys a 2nd season aboard the same bike. Just the consistency he needs to become a winner.

The Aprilia team have always enjoyed success at Phillip Island and took podiums at Buriram with Leon Haslam in 2015. The last time that the machine won at Aragon however was back in 2012 with Max Biaggi, and you have to go all the way back to Regis Laconi in 2001 since the team’s last victory at Imola. Laverty and Savadori will be looking to set a few records straight when they mount the Milwaukee Aprilia in 2017.

You can keep up to date with the goings on of World Superbike here at The Pit Crew Online. Give us a follow on Twitter @PitCrew_Online, and keep up with the live text commentary of all the big meetings!

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko