Withdrawals, controversies, dancing bikes… The World Superbike Championship didn't disappoint with its usual mix of incidents and revelations in 2011, some certainly better received than others…
Indeed, a look back at the ten most-read World Superbike articles on Crash.net
reveals some interesting trends, not least three stories involving controversial Max Biaggi-related incidents, while speculation involving the future of Kawasaki and Ducati was also popular.
Sadly, it was a negative article that would top the pile in 2011, with the magnitude of Yamaha's announcement that it was quitting the series matched only by the surprise of it.
Still, it wasn't all doom and gloom, with Crescent Suzuki confirming it is stepping up next year and, though not strictly WSBK-related, a video involving 'tango-ing' bikes certainly lifted the mood a bit! Roll on 2012…
1. Yamaha announces WSBK withdrawal
- 1 August 2011
Much like Ducati did a year earlier, Yamaha sent shockwaves through the WSBK paddock by announcing it was withdrawing from the series. A surprising decision for many, not least riders Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty, who believed they had firm contracts for 2012 and were seemingly uninformed prior to the press discovering.
2. 'Provoked' Biaggi regrets foolish reaction
- 29 March 2011
Max Biaggi didn't endear himself to many during an error-strewn Donington Park weekend, though it was his bizarre behaviour following qualifying, when he was caught on camera 'slapping' Marco Melandri after an on-track incident, that sent the forums wild. He later apologised in this article… Sort of…
3. Chaz Davies tests World Superbike… Aprilia!
- 3 November 2011
Following his dominant run to the 2011 World Supersport title, British motorcycling fans are eagerly anticipating Chaz Davies's debut on the World Superbike stage in 2012. However, while all rumours originally pointed towards him riding a Ducati twin, he instead appeared aboard a Aprilia RSV-4 during post-season testing, much to everyone's surprise.
4. Toseland forced to quit racing due to injury
- 9 September 2011
With two World Superbike titles to his name, it is a shame that James Toseland's career came to a wholly unsatisfying end in 2011, the 2004 and 2007 champion conceding his injured wrist would never recover enough for him to perform at his race-winning best.
5. Bayliss developing 2012 Ducati
- 9 March 2011
Despite the decision to halt its factory presence in the World Superbike Championship, many anticipate a full-scale return by Ducati in 2013, a rumour that intensified when its former champion was spotted testing the new machine in March, later revealed as the 1199 Panigale. The bike will debut in Superstock form in 2012 with a Superbike appearance due in 2013.
6. OFFICIAL: Crescent Suzuki to WSBK
- 21 October 2011
Considering the worry surrounding Yamaha's withdrawal and Suzuki's dwindling WSBK presence, it was a pleasant - and very welcome - surprise when Crescent Racing announced it would be graduating from British Superbikes in 2012. The British team will run a pair of Suzukis with John Hopkins and Leon Camier assuming riding duties.
7. Kawasaki to drop PBM, Sykes for 2012
- 5 September 2011
Tom Sykes's maiden WSBK victory at the Nurburgring should have been the biggest Kawasaki-related headline to emerge from that weekend, but instead the glory was undermined when his team manager Paul Bird chose his moment to announce that both PBM and Sykes were being dropped by the manufacturer for 2012. As it happens, the claim proved premature, with PBM getting axed but Sykes being retained.
8. Aprilia bitter over 'severe' Biaggi penalty
- 9 May 2011
Following the somewhat embarrassing Donington Park debacle, Max Biaggi sought to make amends on home soil at Monza, but a controversial drive-thru penalty for cutting a chicane and not returning to the track in the correct manner scuppered his victory hopes and thrust him back into the spotlight. Biaggi was upset, his Aprilia team were furious – and opinions were just as divided on the forums…
9. Magny-Cours : It takes two to tango
- 23 June 2011
Racing doesn't always have to be about news, results and controversy… It can be quite humorous, maybe even romantic, as represented by these two runaway bikes indulging in an unusual form of tango. Not that it was happy faces all round, as their 'partners' seemed a bit disgruntled by their defiant dance on the edge of the Adelaide hairpin at Magny-Cours.
10. Biaggi lectures Rea after 'crazy claim'
- 1 June 2011
Following his tweet that he had been 'Simoncelli'd' by Max Biaggi out of the first race at Miller Motorsports Park, Jonathan Rea felt the 'wrath' of his rival in the 'blog-osphere' as the Italian hit back at the 'crazy claims' on his personal website. As ever, readers certainly had their opinions on the incident…