In the fourth instalment of Crash.net's preview for the World Superbike Championship, we take a look at the few that are staying put for 2009 and assess whether sticking with what they know will help them forge their way up the grid…
Carlos Checa – Ten Kate Honda
History has shown that the transition from MotoGP to Superbikes can be somewhat hit and miss.
Max Biaggi is certainly a good example of how a rider can adapt to a production model having plied his trade on prototypes, although Makoto Tamada
would be evidence to the contrary. Carlos Checa, however, definitely falls into the former category after a fine effort during his debut season on the Ten Kate Honda.
Although a mid-season lull went some way to undermining what had been a storming start to his tenure in the series, Checa's fourth place, with two wins, means he should be expected to go even better in 2009.
The highest classified rider from 2008 to remain with the same team in 2009, Checa was one of the default favourites for this year's title early on during the off-season, although fairly average results in off-season testing, where he has been out paced by Jonathan Rea, hasn't helped his cause.
Nonetheless, Checa showed impressive consistency in his maiden season, a trait that isn't so easy to acquire as a rookie. His time in MotoGP has shown he has speed too, so those combined should see Checa up there from the off in 2009.
Max Neukirchner – Alstare Suzuki
The question of whether Max Neukirchner can challenge for the 2009 World Superbike title seems be more about whether Suzuki can provide him with a bike capable of doing so.
Two wins, five podiums and fifth position overall in his first proper season aboard a factory bike showed Neukirchner is a force to be reckoned with – however, not everyone is convinced Suzuki are.
Still, this is a team that knows how to win races and having condensed their efforts down to two bikes for 2009, Neukirchner could benefit from receiving some more concentrated resources for a GSX-R1000 bike that has shown plenty of promise in testing.
Indeed, Neukirchner has been consistently among the top five during testing, while he is another rider who will have learnt a great deal from last year following his surprise, if brief, run to second place in the WSBK standings.