Gregorio Lavilla has been left without a ride in this year's World Superbike Championship after being released from his Pro Ride Honda contract before he had even had the chance to race with them.
The former British Superbike Champion signed with the Italian team, formerly Alto Evolution, at the end of the 2008 season after finishing as one of the top privateers aboard the Vent-Axia VK Honda.
However, despite being one of the first to confirm a 2009 entry and making an appearance during pre-season testing, Pro Ride were forced on the sidelines for the first two rounds following a last-minute withdrawal of a key sponsor.
With the global economic downturn subsequently preventing them from attracting new backers before the third round of the season in Valencia, Pro Ride have confirmed they will simply enter the three Italian rounds at Monza, Misano and Imola, as well as a handful of other European events.
Their reduced activities means Lavilla, a WSBK veteran of 180 races, has been released from his contract and is free to seek employment with another team.
“We had the dream environment this season,” said team manager Marco Nicotari. “Experienced technicians, good internal organisation, very good rider. The bike has achieved a point of development where we believed that Gregorio, with his talent and experience, would be able to give us amazing moments. We felt that finally we were close to the points and to come back to the top ten. But the economical crisis does not have eyes for these kind of things.”
Although Nicotari provides a telling insight into the difficulties of keeping an independent team afloat during a global economic downturn, he is nonetheless hopeful that they can use this opportunity to focus on 2010.
“Nobody inside the team is happy. We are very angry and disappointed with a situation that is simply out of our control. We are a Team and we want to ride…But how? “Sponsorship” has become almost a forbidden word inside most of the companies nowadays. The key word inside the marketing departments worldwide is 'save money' and who lives from sponsorship suffers deeply.
“Telling my technicians that 'we don't have Lavilla anymore and I'm not sure how many races we can do this year' was one of the worst moments of my career. Gregorio was a choice that I made with both my brain and my heart. I feel sad for all this and I hope Pro Ride will soon develop the other commercial possibilities that will allow us to be as more independent as possible.
“We are still fighting for new sponsors (which are close but not 'in' yet), the project for 2010 is ready and we are aware that sometimes an army must take one step back to restore its strength and make many steps further.”
Despite Lavilla's withdrawal, the two other riders forced to miss the first two rounds of the year, David Checa and Roland Resch, are expected to make their season debut in Spain.