Crash.Net WSBK News
WSBK Season Preview – New Homes
25 February 2009
In the latest instalment of Crash.net's
preview for the 2009 World Superbike Championship, we take a look at those that are seeking better fortunes with new teams in 2009…Noriyuki Haga – Ducati Xerox
Will 2009 be the year of Noriyuki Haga?
The question crops up at the start of nearly every season and yet Haga continues to be haunted by the fact that he doesn't have a World Superbike crown to his name.
Haga has taken a proactive step to try and change that in 2009, by joining Ducati Xerox as a replacement for retired champion Troy Bayliss.
His motivation to join Ducati doesn't take much explaining, but having spent much of his career as a Yamaha rider, Haga's decision to defect still came as a surprise.
With 33 career wins to his name, including seven in 2008 alone, Haga is, along with former team-mate Troy Corser, the most decorated rider left in the series, and he is also on a championship winning bike. Naturally, the Japanese is an obvious favourite for this year's title,
Even so, many are waiting to see how he performs over the first few races before rushing to a judgement. Indeed, Haga can be renowned for his rollercoaster form, being superb one weekend and then nowhere the next. With the added element of a new team and bike to adapt to, success is expected, but by no means guaranteed.
His consistently quick - if not outstanding - form in testing is a promising indicator for Haga, although the amount of time he has been off the Ducati is equally notable.
So, is 2009 Haga's best ever chance to win the World Superbike title? It should be…Troy Corser – BMW
Although not many were particularly surprised when Troy Corser confirmed he would be joining BMW's new World Superbike project, many did wonder whether he had made the right decision.
While his tenure at Yamaha didn't yield any wins, the runner-up spot in the 2008 standings nonetheless signalled an impressive return to form for the experienced Australian. It is a shame then that his time with the team will probably be best remembered for the fact he never stood on top of the podium.
Indeed, Corser had an excellent chance to rectify the situation in 2009, particularly with Bayliss retiring and his most obvious rivals switching teams, but he has instead opted for a new challenge with the German manufacturer.
No doubt motivated by the opportunity to turn one of the world's best known brands into a winner on two-wheels, Corser's reputation for developing burgeoning projects always made him an obvious choice for BMW.
With the right amount of money and the right people behind them, few doubt that BMW will be a successful at some point, although it isn't so clear as to when that will be.
Nonetheless, Corser has shown flashes of promise during testing and the S1000RR seems to be developing at a quicker pace than any of its rivals.
So, while there may be unanswered questions about the bike, there is nothing uncertain about Corser - he is capable of turning BMW into a podium contender at some point this year and his consistent form should continue to pay off in the final standings.Ruben Xaus – BMW
It is occasionally easy to forget Ruben Xaus' success rate in the World Superbike Championship.
With 11 race wins to his name, Xaus is the third most coveted rider to compete in this year's series, although he hasn't raced on a factory supported bike for five seasons now.
Nonetheless, that is all set to change in 2009 having been snapped up by BMW to join Troy Corser in forming the most successful rider partnership (on paper) of any other team.
It's a big break for Xaus, who showed flashes of brilliance in 2008 - particularly at the start of the year - although it was undermined by a series of disappointing performances that saw him end the season with more of a whimper than a bang.
A long-time Ducati rider, Xaus can hide behind the fact he is developing a completely new bike for 2009, although that only works so long as he can keep up with Corser, which he so far hasn't during testing.
Indeed, Xaus has been consistently the slowest factory backed rider through the off-season, with Corser stretching the chasm between them with every outing.
However, the Australian is renowned for his developmental nous, suggesting the difference should decrease through the season as Xaus gradually becomes more accustomed with the S1000RR.
What is clear though, this is a big chance for Xaus and he needs to take it with both hands.Max Biaggi – Aprilia
When Max Biaggi took victory in his first ever World Superbike race at the start of 2007, most would have been forgiven for thinking the MotoGP race winner was destined to become a legend of the discipline.
However, while he has certainly been a regular front runner and lost none of the characteristics that continue to make him a controversial figure, Biaggi hasn't quite been the revelation that his maiden win in Qatar promised.
It isn't through lack of trying though. Biaggi was quick with Suzuki in 2007, but fell victim of the team's decision to chip away at his wage demands, while his time at Sterilgarda Ducati in 2008 was expected to act as a prelude to a Xerox switch.
This never occurred though and, after a winless 2008 season, Biaggi is heading for his third team in as many seasons after being snapped up by WSBK returnees Aprilia.
An Italian team with an Italian icon at its helm, Biaggi on an Aprilia certainly makes sense because when the 'Roman Emperor' is happy, he is quick. Of course, Aprilia has not developed a race winning machine yet, but Biaggi and team-mate Shinya Nakano have shown flashes that the RSV-4 can be a front runner eventually.
It means Biaggi can expect to eke his way up the grid as the season progresses and podiums are certainly not out of the question. After two seasons of failing to get entirely settled with his surroundings, Biaggi has a good chance to finally make his home at Aprilia.Tomorrow: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again...