Thursday, September 18, 2008

BSB: GSE Ditch Ducati for Yamaha

The GSE team, currently running an Airwaves-sponsored Ducati team in the British Superbike Championship, are switching to Yamaha bikes next year. It is yet another surprise from the GSE squad, who have spent most of this year spitting the dummy about BSB technical regs (i.e. the failure of the regs to give Ducati a massive performance advantage.) At least the team now have a solid 3-year deal, which should stop them from regularly claiming that they are pulling out of the BSB series.

Currently, GSE don't build their own bikes, but run factory Ducatis built as race machines in the Ducati factory. The new deal with Yamaha will mean that GSE will have to build their race bikes out of road bikes like everyone else, but a team of their standing will easily find spanner monkeys able to take the indicators off. They will also receive support from the Yamaha Italia squad, who are the semi-factory Yamaha team in World Superbike.

All in all, there is little doubt that the GSE team will be winning races with their new Yamaha bikes in very short order. It will be fascinating to see the new big bang engined R1 being run by a major, well-sponsored team.

The bad news is that bike racing legend Rob Mac, who has run the Yamaha BSB program for donkeys' years, looks to be out on his ear. He has struggled to find enough sponsorship to recreate the glory days when he won 3 BSB titles on the trot with ex-GP star Niall MacKenzie. It all went wrong the year after that when the team ran the disastrous new fuel-injected bike with last-minute sponsorship from Richard Branson's Virgin company. Lately, the team ran Pirelli tyres, which were poor compared to the Dunlops and especially Michelins. This year, they have been unable to use their knowledge of Pirellis (now the control tyre in BSB) due to their rider Karl Harris's horrible luck, which includes being smacked in the face by a flying Suzuki and punted off by a Ducati.

The GSE team have not confirmed their riders yet, but a move to Yamahas wouldn't be what Shakey Byrne was looking for, having rediscovered his love of Ducati bikes. Leon Camier starred last year on a Honda, so a Yamaha should be no problem at all for him.

Yamaha seem to be focussing a major campaign on the UK to shift the revolutionary new big bang engined 2009 model R1. Not only are they snatching one of the top teams in the BSB paddock, but they have also given Tom Sykes a ride in WSBK with Yamaha Italia. These two moves seem to be part of a concerted effort to dominate the UK market. Next year's racing will be very interesting.

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