World Superbike previews Donington Park race
The echoes of a splendid weekend of racing at Misano World Circuit are still ringing loud and clear as the Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship crosses the English Channel for its next appointment, round 9 at Donington Park. The British circuit, situated directly under the East Midlands Airport landing strip, measures 4.023 km, has 15 curves and is a difficult track to master, a severe test for the resistance and concentration of riders, especially if it should rain.
The championship heads into its second half of the season with Noriyuki Haga, Ben Spies and Michel Fabrizio the big favourites, but also with Jonathan Rea, who took a fantastic win in race 2 at Misano, now part of the gang of four winners. Haga is the current rider who has the most wins at Donington, three, and he is followed by Troy Corser (2) and Kiyonari on 1. The most successful rider is Carl Fogarty with six wins to his name, followed by Scott Russell with 5. On the manufacturer front, the lion’s share goes to Ducati with 16 in 34 races, then Yamaha and Honda equal on 6, Kawasaki on 5 and Suzuki on 1.
TRADING WINNING PLACES
Even though six rounds remain (and 300 points are up for grabs), the fight for the title appears to be a three-way affair between the Ducati Xerox duo of Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio, and Yamaha World Superbike’s Ben Spies. Nitro-Nori has led the standings since the start of the season, but has not had a positive run recently and has given the impression of racing somewhat in defense. He still has a 48 point lead over Spies, who picked up his eighth win at Misano, but had it not been for the various technical problems that have afflicted him, the Texan would be right there with his rival. At least this time around Spies is not faced with a totally unfamiliar track, having raced here last year for Suzuki in MotoGP as stand-in for the injured Loris Capirossi, finishing 14th. As for Fabrizio, after unleashing all of his talent in race 2 at Monza, the Italian has just kept on going and has accumulated a constant sequence of podiums without however stepping onto the top rung. Fabrizio is in excellent form, has nothing to lose and will surely be a contender this weekend.
HOME RUN FOR HOME RIDERS
Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) might not be a part of the title battle as he is 125 points behind, but he may yet have a say in the matter. Race 2 at Misano brought out the Northern Ireland youngster’s talent, and this, together with the improved competitiveness of the Hondas following a switch to Ohlins suspensions, means that he will be a potential winner this weekend at the only British round in this year’s championship. Eyes out as well for Tom Sykes (Yamaha World Superbike), who finished runner-up to Bayliss last year in race 1, Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda), Shane Byrne (Sterilgarda Ducati), galvanized by his Misano podium, and also Ryuichi Kiyonari (Ten Kate Honda) who, despite clearly not being British, twice won the BSB championship as well as the second race here last year. It will also be interesting to see how the young wild-card, and current BSB points leader, Leon Camier fares on the Airwaves Yamaha R1 machine against the WSB regulars at his home track.
After a positive (Aprilia) and fairly good (BMW) start to the season, the two rookie WSB manufacturers now appear to be in a mid-season slump against their racing cousins, Ducati, Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki. At Misano the Aprilia Racing duo of Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano only succeeded in bringing home a handful of points, without ever getting a look-in. BMW fared even worse, with just two points scored for 14th by Ruben Xaus, and none by a still sore Troy Corser. Immediately after the Donington round both the Italian and German squads have scheduled testing sessions to try out new updates and evolution components. For this weekend Aprilia probably have the higher ambitions, as Biaggi has a particular feeling with Donington; the Italian has finished his four SBK races here with a second, two thirds and a sixth place.
The American contingent in the championship goes up by one at Donington after the Alstare Suzuki team, while waiting for the return of Max Neukirchner, opted to replace Fonsi Nieto with the young American Blake Young. The 21 year-old from Wisconsin is thought to be one of the best young talents around and comes with the ‘backing’ of racing legend and former champion, Kevin Schwantz. Young joins his fellow Americans Ben Spies, Jamie Hacking and John Hopkins in the series.
Derby comes to Donington in the sense that the British Round will probably be another chapter in the derby match between home rider and points leader Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha World Supersport) and his friend-rival Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda) from Ireland. This season both Cal and Eugene have had an extra gear over the rest of the field, and have picked up three wins apiece. Crutchlow has a 14-point lead over his rival, while the rest are still playing catch-up, starting with Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), who ruined his chances with a crash at Misano, and reigning champion and team-mate Andrew Pitt, who has had a disappointing season so far. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Provec) has been in the picture all year but without making a real breakthrough, while Misano podium man Massimo Roccoli (Intermoto Honda), Michele Pirro (Yamaha Lorenzini) and Gianluca Nannelli (Triumph ParkinGo) are all in with a chance of good results at Donington.
It’s a three-way battle in the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup as well, with yet another chapter in the season-long tussle between Xavier Simeon (Ducati Xerox), Claudio Corti (Suzuki Alstare) and Maxime Berger (Ten Kate Honda). The last round went to the Frenchman, with Ducati’s Belgian rider taking over at the top from Italian Claudio Corti. Last year the win went to Simeon, Berger was sixth and Corti crashed at the first turn. In the European 600 category the points leader Danilo Petrucci (Yamaha Trasimeno) looks good for another win, but he is now under threat from his team-mate Marco Bussolotti, who is rapidly making up ground after a difficult start to the year. The Donington race will be a big chance for home boy Gino Rea (Ten Kate Honda) to make up for lost ground lost in the last few races, and become a true title contender.
DONINGTON PARK – 9th ROUND – 26, 27 and 28 JUNE 2009