Manzi swoops for Ten Kate seat, Smith sidelined

| | WorldSBK

Bradley Smith was all but assured of a full-time WorldSSP ride for 2023 until a late call from Yamaha saw Stefano Manzi parachuted in instead.

After Ten Kate Team Manager Kervin Bos talked the former MotoGP rider into a substitute ride at Argentina, for the injured Leonardo Taccini, discussions to make the partnership permanent for the coming season quickly picked up speed and the agreement was set by the close of the season. While the Dutch outfit awaited the green light from Dorna regarding grid spots, however - with the championship looking to reduce the number of full-time riders, in part to alleviate pressure on the freight logistics - an out of the blue move from Manzi and Yamaha threw plans into disarray.

Manzi, who has competed with Dynavolt Triumph throughout 2022 securing five podiums including victory at Portimao, is reported to have turned down an offer to remain with the British-based outfit due to pay concerns, with Dorna and Yamaha Europe picking up the mantle on the Italian’s behalf. Pressure from the manufacturer and organisation, and the apparent threat of financial support withdrawal, left the 2022 Supersport Champions with little choice but to tow the line and install Manzi on the second R6 alongside Jorge Navarro - who was officially announced to be switching from Moto2 in early October.

The late move deals a devastating blow to the Brit’s plans to return to racing full-time next season after a year dominated by serious injury, with the 32-year-old having turned down other offers in favour of the Ten Kate seat.

“This is one of the best Christmas presents a rider can wish for,” Manzi confirmed on the announcement. “It’s fantastic to sign a contract with Ten Kate Racing.

“I have a lot of confidence in this project of Ten Kate Racing and Yamaha. After a first year in the World Supersport championship, I think this is the perfect combination to show my potential. I can’t wait to get on the track and work with this team.”