Ten Kate Honda
Ten Kate Racing, the Dutch Honda motorcycle tuner, will be leading Honda's World Superbike effort again in 2008. They are not an "official" factory team per se but they enjoy generous support from Honda Europe. Last season Ten Kate won their first World Superbike title with James Toseland. King James moved up to the Moto GP class for 2008 and his former teammate Roberto Rolfo has moved to another team in World Superbike.
This year Ten Kate has expanded their World Superbike effort to three bikes and secured the services of three new-to-WSBK riders. Moto GP veteran Carlos Checa, 2-time British Superbike champion Ryuichi Kiyonari, and reigning World Supersport champion Kenan Sofuoglu will be Ten Kate's three pilots in 2008. With those three riders Ten Kate has one of the strongest lineups in the series, yet they are the only top team that does not have any riders with World Superbike experience.
Ten Kate's CBR1000RR
On the heels of their successful 2007 campaign Ten Kate has found themselves at a disadvantage entering the 2008 season. For 2008 the Honda CBR1000RR (known as the Fireblade in other markets) has undergone a full model change. Unfortunately for some reason Ten Kate did not receive their 2008 bikes until very late in off season and as a result were only able to get in one test with the new bike.
In contrast, most of the other powerhouse teams in World Superbike have been testing their machines since late last year. Ducati, who is racing their new 1098R for the first time in 2008, has been privately testing their machine since before the end of the 2007 season and it has shown strong pace throughout the preseason and into the opening rounds of the championship where it has won 3 of the first 4 races.
Given the situation, Ten Kate has done very well in the first 4 races of the season. In the first three races their highest finishes were 6th, 10th, and 6th. A big surprise came in race 4 at Philip Island where Carlos Checa was able to finish 2nd . Checa ended the race a scant 1.1 seconds behind race winner Troy Bayliss on his Xerox Ducati, but Bayliss backed off the pace on the last lap. Had Troy not backed off he would have finished somewhere around 2.5 seconds up on Checa. A 2.5 second gap over a 22 lap race indicates that Ten Kate merely needs to coax an extra .12 seconds a lap out of the bike to fight for wins. There is one month until the next World Superbike race at Valenica so Ten Kate should have plenty of time to find more performance in their 2008 CBR1000RR's.
World Superbike Returns to the United States
World Superbike has not had a round in the United States since 2005 when Moto GP took over its date at Laguna Seca. This year World Superbike makes its return to America at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. Miller is only about 40 minutes away from Salt Lake City and is arguably the most well-designed and state-of-the-art track in the United States. As before, AMA Superbike will race in conjunction with the World Superbike round at Miller.
Tickets are on sale now: http://millermotorsportspark.com/3.0/tickets_packages.php
2008 Honda World Superbike Rider Line Up
Ten Kate Honda
Ryuichi Kiyonari (2-Time British Superbike Champion)
Kenan Sofuoglu (2007 World Supersport Champion)
Gregorio Lavilla (2006 British Superbike Champion)
Alto Evolution Honda
Karl Muggeridge (2005 World Supersport Champion)
American Honda's Riders
A welcome addition to the American Honda Superbike squad this season is former World Superbike and British Superbike champion Neil Hodgson. Neil had his impromptu tryout for the American Honda team last year at Laguna Seca in a one-off ride aboard one of American Honda's test bikes (run under Corona Honda livery). Neil's spirited ride to fifth place and his strong credentials were enough to convince Honda to offer him a 2-year deal. Miguel Duhamel returns to the team after recovering from a tremendous crash at Road Atlanta's notorious turn 12 last season.
Championships: 2000 British Superbike, 2003 World Superbike
Championships: 1991 AMA Supersport, 1993 AMA Supersport, 1995 AMA Superbike, 1995 AMA Supersport, 1996 AMA Supersport, 1997 AMA Supersport, 2004 AMA Formula Xtreme, 2005 AMA Formula Xtreme
American Honda CBR1000RR
The American Honda superbike team was apparently the first of the Honda superbike teams in the world to take delivery of their 2008 CBR1000RR's for this season. This year the American Honda team will continue their in-house development program rather than leasing HRC-supplied bikes.
In the first tests with the bike the team tested a very basic version of the bike without all of the typical superbike racing upgrades. In the last Daytona test the 1000RR began to show some of its promise, but not surprisingly there is still some ways to go in order to compete with Mat Mladin and Ben Spies on their Yoshimura Suzukis. The positive news is that the new CBR1000RR's are already about as fast as the other (non-Suzuki) factory bikes in the series. That said, they've got a lot of work to do in order to close the gap against the dominant Yoshimura Suzuki squad, who won every race last season.
The season opener will be on March 8th at Daytona International Raceway. The race will be airing on Speed Channel at 4:30 pm EST. Also catch the Formula Xtreme Daytona 200 mile race at 1:30 pm EST. Both factory Honda Superbike riders as well as defending Formula Xtreme champion Josh Hayes and former Honda superbike rider Jake Zemke will be riding in the 200.
For 2008 the factory HM Plant Honda team has experienced a total turnover of its a riders as both reigning champion Ryuichi Kiyonari and Jonathan Rea have moved up to the world stage in World Superbike and World Supersport respectively. The new riders on the team are Leon Haslam, 2006 British Superbike runner-up, and Cal Crutchlow, the 2006 British Supersport champion who raced for Rizla Suzuki last season. The two new Honda riders are part of a massive shuffle in the series that has seen all of the factory teams change both of their riders.
HM Plant Honda will be campaigning 2008 CBR 1000RR's like their compatriots in WSBK and AMASBK but they will not have the benefit of being the only team in the series running Michelin tires. The reason, is that next season British Superbike is going to a spec Pirelli tire like their big brother World Superbike, also with Pirellis. This means that we can expect to see some wildcard appearances from BSB teams in WSBK next year. HM Plant Honda's Leon Haslam has already said that he will be doing some wildcard rides next season. Most likely that means he will be doing the rounds at Silverstone and Brands Hatch. It is somewhat of a blow for the HM Plant Honda to lose any advantage they may have gained from their Michelin tires but luckily almost all of the other teams on the teams were using Dunlops so everyone will have the same challenge in adjusting to the Pirellis.
The British Superbike Championship gets underway on April 6th at Brands Hatch.