Seven Aussies for 2005 world Superbike action

Seven Australian riders -- the largest number ever - will compete in the 2005 Superbike World Championship with news that Steve Martin and Garry McCoy have signed deals to ride under the Foggy Petronas banner.

The Aussie duo, who both competed on privateer Ducati 999RSs in the 2004 SBK title, have replaced countryman Troy Corser and Englishman Chris Walker in the Anglo-Malaysian, Carl Fogarty-managed team, and will get their first taste of action on the FP1 triple at Valencia in Spain next week.

With their incumbency at Foggy Petronas confirmed, Martin and McCoy will be joined by Andrew Pitt, Corser, Chris Vermeulen, recently crowned world Supersport champion Karl Muggeridge and Warwick Nowland for next year's championship, which is set to kick off in Qatar on February 26.

Corser, the 1996 world Superbike champion and founding Foggy Petronas rider, has switched his loyalties to Alstare Suzuki for 2005, while Pitt has been drafted into the Yamaha Italia operation. Reigning world number four Vermeulen, like Pitt also a former world Supersport champion, will remain with the Dutch-based Ten Kate Honda equip, where he will be joined by Muggeridge. Finally, Nowland, a two-time world endurance champion, will again ride under the aegis of Zongshen Suzuki.

With seven Aussies in action next year, that number will exceed the previous best for full-time championship representation -- five riders in 2001 and 2004 respectively.

McCoy, a five-time winner in the 125 and 500cc world championship classes, finished sixth in his debut SBK season, including a race win at Phillip Island's round two. The 32-year-old said of his new deal with Foggy Petronas: "I am really looking forward to it. It is still only early days for the FP1 but, from the results the team has been achieving lately, it's clear it has potential. I never set myself targets; I just go out to win.

"But I am really hoping to do better than last year as I now know a lot of the tracks that I didn't know in my first season, which made it really tough. I am also really pleased to have Steve as a teammate and the chance to share information in trying to get the bike up there challenging for podiums."

Martin, the 1999 Australian Superbike champion, has competed in the past four SBK titles on 'customer'-spec Ducatis, with his best result coming this year -- 18pts behind McCoy in seventh position. He also finished eighth in 2003. The 35-year-old Adelaide native is now feeling sanguine about what lies ahead as Foggy Petronas embarks on its fourth year of world Superbike.

"I am really excited by this opportunity and I am going to give it everything I have got," he said. "The team has a great bunch of guys and a great bunch of technicians who will be right behind me and I am sure that we can challenge consistently for podiums....

"I have seen the FP1 out on track and it clearly handles really well and had good pace for only its second year of racing. It improved a lot during last season and I am sure that the improvement will continue and that we will be on the pace for 2005."

In addition to the posse of Aussie SBK pilots in 2005, multiple Australian champions Kevin Curtain and Broc Parkes will spearhead the Yamaha Germany world Supersport offensive. Parkes finished second in 2004 on a Honda, while Curtain was sixth.

The 18th instalment of the Superbike World Championship will be held over 12 rounds in 2005, with the local round slated for Phillip Island (Vic) from April 1-3.

-Motorcycling Australia