WSBK grid 2012 taking shape
Castrol Honda, BMW Motorrad, Althea Ducati and BMW Italia firm its line-ups for the 2012 World Superbike season.
After an unusually stagnant period in the marketplace, the 2012 World Superbike Championship grid was given a boost over the final 2011 round with a handful of crucial announcements being made.
Prior to the weekend, only BMW had firmed its complete line-up for 2012, but even then there were rumours that it was attempting to lure recently-crowned champion Carlos Checa from Althea Ducati right up until race day in Portugal.
Nonetheless, the Spaniard, after some intervention from Ducati itself, will remain with the Italian operation as they look to defend its crown into 2012. He will be joined by a team-mate this time too, with Althea promoting its Superstock champion Davide Giugliano to the Superbikes operation.
BMW, meanwhile, have not only firmed its Motorrad line-up, with runner-up Marco Melandri joining Leon Haslam, but the satellite 'Italia' operation is all set for 2012 too with Michel Fabrizio going alongside 2011 standout Ayrton Badovini in an all Italian pairing.
Following on from Jonathan Rea's confirmation that he will stay with Honda in 2012, he will be joined by 2009 250GP champion Hiroshi Aoyama, who comes to World Superbikes for the first time after two years at MotoGP level.
Over at Aprilia, Max Biaggi will remain for his fourth season on the RSV-4, while Eugene Laverty is also confirmed to be on a factory-specification machine for 2012, though it isn't entirely certain whether this will see him competing directly alongside Biaggi in the 'Alitalia' team.
Finally, World Supersport champions ParkinGO will step up to WSBK with Chaz Davies riding a Ducati, while Supersonic Racing becomes 'Ducati Roma' after it was bought-out by Superstock team SS Lazio.
With Yamaha withdrawing its factory involvement, and seemingly unable to come to an agreement to keep the YZF-R1s on the grid in 2012, just Kawasaki and Suzuki are yet to confirm its line-ups for next season, though the latter has continuously stalled on plans for 2012.
As such, plenty of rumours circulated over the Portimao weekend, with suggestions that Crescent Racing could take John Hopkins to the WSBK stage. Even so, Suzuki - despite original reports on the contrary - could yet still be involved in some official capacity next year having been tempted by the prospect of a Supersport entry with its highly-regarded new GSX-R600.
Kawasaki, meanwhile, has confirmed it will move away from Paul Bird Motorsport by taking its operation in-house, though the Provec Motocard.com team is expected to be heavily involved too. With this in mind, Joan Lascorz is likely to stay in 2012, while Tom Sykes is also now favourite to retain his ride.
Following its dominance in 2011, Ducati could be very well represented on the 2012 grid, with Effenbert-Liberty rumoured to be considering four bikes next year, two in its current guise and two run by Superstock front runners Barni Racing, while PATA Racing, which was formed as a joint venture between BRC and DFX, could possibly split again for 2012.
Finally, 2012 may also see the WSBK debut of KTM, which has strongly hinted at a possible wild-card appearance next season in preparation for a full debut in 2013.