Imola (Italy), Tuesday 22nd September: This year the Imola circuit takes the place of Vallelunga as the third Italian track on the World Superbike calendar, having not featured on the schedule since 2006. In that time various modifications have been made to the track, including the construction of a controversial new chicane just after the start line that the Superbike riders experienced for the first time during the July test session organised by Infront Sports.
During the pre-summer tests, held in extremely hot conditions, it was Michel Fabrizio who dominated the sessions; he was consistently the fastest rider on track which bodes well for the coming weekend’s racing. Noriyuki was unfortunately unable to participate in the aforementioned testing due to the injuries he had sustained earlier at the Donington Park round, and so he returns to a track that he hasn’t ridden since the 2006 event.
At the start of September the German Nürburgring hosted the eleventh Superbike round but although Noriyuki was strong in both Friday’s (wet) and Saturday’s (dry) sessions, taking too his first pole of the season, a race win unfortunately eluded him; after finishing a close second in Race 1, an incident with Honda rider Rea in Race 2 meant game-over and zero points for Nitro-Nori. As a result, Haga, having led the championship until that point, now finds himself in second place, eighteen points behind Yamaha’s Ben Spies, and 57 points ahead of third-placed rider, team-mate Fabrizio. Michel also had a difficult race day at the Ring; having finished seventh in Race 1, he was forced to change bikes before the second race but, for various reasons, found it difficult to fight for the podium and concluded proceedings in ninth place.
Although the World Superbike championship cannot be decided until at least the Magny-Cours round, there is a mathematical chance that young Belgian rider, Xavier Simeon, currently leading the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup with the Ducati Xerox Junior Team, could take the title this weekend in front of the Italian crowd. There are, as last year, four riders still in the running but Xavier currently holds a 40 point advantage over second-placed rider Corti, and so would need to increase this lead to at least 50 points in order to secure victory at Imola.
Another appointment is fixed for Saturday evening, when Imola’s town council, in collaboration with Ducati and circuit managers Formula Imola, will award Ducati ambassador and three times World Champion, Troy Bayliss, with a lifetime career award. Troy Bayliss will be at the track with the Ducati Xerox Team all weekend.
Noriyuki Haga Speaks… (2nd in championship, 346 points)
Noriyuki’s best result at Imola was a third place finish, scored in 2005 – this year only victory will do.
"We came away from Nürburgring disappointed, because we know we should have, and could have, taken at least one race win. Now I am in second place in the championship which means that at Imola it is even more important to finish first. There are 50 points on offer at Imola and the gap between Ben and I is only eighteen… It is of course Ducati’s home track and we haven’t been here for a few years, so, as well as needing the points for the championship, it would be great to do well in front of all the Ducatisti."
Haga’s Superbike form at Imola:
2006: Race 1 – 4th, Race 2 – 6th
2005: Race 1 – 3rd
2004: Race 1 – 4th, Race 2 – DNF
2002: Race 1 – 5th, Race 2 – 4th
Michel Fabrizio (3rd in championship, 289 points)
Although the 2006 Superbike event at Imola didn’t go to plan for the Italian rider, Michel won the Superstock 1000 race held at the same track back in 2003.
"I was very comfortable on this track when we tested here in July, and one of the fastest, but I’m aware that it will be significantly cooler for the race and that may make a difference. The 2006 Imola event was one to forget for me but this year I am much more confident, mainly due to the fact that testing proved the 1198 can go well here. I’m looking forward to the final Italian race event of the season!"
Fabrizio’s Superbike form at Imola:
2006: Race 1 – DNF, Race 2 – DNF
Name: Autodromo di Imola
Circuit length: 4.936 km
Pole position: left
Corners left: 10
Corners right: 6
Race distance: 21 laps = 103.656 km
LAP RECORDS: Fastest lap – Barros (Honda) 1’50.266 (2006). Superpole – Bayliss (Ducati Xerox) 1’48.804 (2006).
2006 RESULTS: Race 1 – 1. Barros (Honda); 2. Toseland (Honda); 3. Pitt (Yamaha). Race 2 – 1. Bayliss (Ducati Xerox); 2. Barros (Honda); 3. Kagayama (Suzuki).