World Superbike heads to Portimao
WSBK Round 2
The first round of the World Superbike championship delivered motorcycle racing thrills and excitement at Phillip Island last month. Now, the second round moves around the globe to Portimao this coming weekend, as WSBK reconvenes at another highly rated and very popular racing venue.
The Autodromo Internacional do Algarve is a remarkably feat of modern engineering and design, with the undulating racetrack layout and circuit facilities both coming in for high praise.
The track was completed in time for the WSBK weekend in 2008, making this the third competitive visit to the 4.592 km circuit for some of the riders and teams.
An official test in January of this year saw virtually all Superbike and Supersport World Championship teams set laps in changeable conditions, meaning the one universal wish from a strong 2010 entry is for sunshine on the Algarve coast for the next few days.
A total of 17 regular SBK riders have already scored points of some kind in 2010, and all of the seven competing motorcycle manufacturers: Aprilia RSV4, BMW S1000RR, Ducati 1098R, Honda CBR1000RR, Kawasaki ZX10R, Suzuki GSXR-1000 and Yamaha R1. All have also scored points in the Manufacturers’ Championship at the first attempt.
Leading the Points Championship is Leon Haslam (Suzuki Alstare) who won the first race in Australia, and in doing so took his first WSB win, in his first full factory ride.
He is followed in the early rankings by Michael Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) and Phillip Island second race winner, privateer Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati).
As events in Australia showed very clearly, there will be any number of official or supported private teams who should be capable of podium finishes at some stage in 2010. The combination of experience and relative youth, and the closely regulated technical rules mean that opportunities will be available for all. This coming weekend should be no exception.
The line-up of riders at Portimao features no fewer than 15 who have won at least one SBK race in their careers, plus two former champions in this category, and four other riders with a major world title to their name.
Joining the fray for the first time in 2010 will be Makoto Tamada, riding as a stand-in for the injured Roland Resch in the Reitwagen BMW Team, teaming-up with Andrew Pitt for this weekend only.
If we look to last year as a guide to form in 2010, Fabrizio won the second race in Portugal, while still active SBK riders Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox), Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia) all scored podium finishes on the weekend.
An even better gauge of how this weekend should turn out is possibly the results of the official test at Portimao, between 22 and 24 January this year.
Rea topped the rankings then, followed by Haslam, Shane Byrne (Althea Ducati), Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha Sterilgarda Team), Fabrizio and James Toseland (Yamaha Sterilgarda team).
BMW Motorrad Motorsport riders Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus will be out for an overall improvement on their Round 1 Race results, with Xaus in particular keen to turn around his recent fortunes, having not started either race in Australia.
Joining Max Biaggi in Portugal is Leon Camier, the least experienced of the seven British riders in WSB, but a British-based French rider has already made a real mark in his rookie season. Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki Alstare) finished a close fourth in one race last time out, sixth in the other, and is therefore an impressive fifth overall.
Chris Vermeulen (Kawasaki Racing Team) suffered some knee tissue injuries in a crash at Phillip Island but the tough Aussie is determined to ride in Portugal, alongside his team-mate Tom Sykes.
Max Neukirchner (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) is expecting better results for his new team this weekend, while Pedercini Kawasaki duo Matteo Baiocco and Roger Lee Hayden are determined to move into points scoring places this time out, as is Vittorio Iannuzzo (SCI Honda Garvie Image).
Promising opening weekends for Jakub Smrz (PATA B&G Ducati) and Lorenzo Lanzi (DFX Ducati) in Australia didn’t bear too much fruit so each will be ready for bigger helpings now. Joining the championship at this round is Luca Scassa, on his Supersonic Racing Team Ducati.
WSBK Championship Points (after 1 of 13 rounds): 1. Haslam 45; 2. Fabrizio 36; 3. Checa 34; 4. Haga 27; 5. Guintoli 23; 6. Rea 23; 7. Biaggi 19; 8. Corser 16; 9. Camier 10; 10. Lanzi 9. Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 45; 2. Suzuki 45; 3. Honda 23; 4. Aprilia 19; 5. BMW 16; 6. Yamaha 7; 7. Kawasaki 3
Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda) dominated the first race of 2010 at Phillip Island and the last race of 2009 Honda at Portimao, and he is out to repeat the trick at his team’s home circuit this weekend.
His toughest opponents will surely be Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Provec Motocard.com) but in a field with real quality in its upper echelons, riders like Fabien Foret (Lorenzini by Leoni Kawasaki), Davide Salom (ParkingGO BE-1 Triumph), Katsuaki Fujiwara (Kawasaki Motocard.com) and many others will have a real chance of top five places.
Arguably the rider most keen to shine is local competitor Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda) who wants to put in a career best finish in front of his local fans. Matthieu Lagrive (ParkinGO Triumph BE1) joins the championship for this round, alongside regular rider Chaz Davies.
Championship Points (after 1 of 13 rounds): 1. Laverty 25; 2. Lascorz 20; 3. Sofuoglu 16: 4. Salom 13; 5. Foret 11; 6. Roccoli 10; 7. Harms 9; 8. DiSalvo 8; 9. Praia 7; 10. Rea 6. Manufacturers: 1. Honda 25; 2. Kawasaki 20; 3. Triumph 13.
The Superstock classes kick off at this the first European race of the 2010 season, with the Superstock 1000 category featuring a number of possible champions and a vast number of competing manufacturers.
Maxime Berger (Ten Kate Race Junior), Davide Giugliano (Team 06 Suzuki), Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia) and others are well established riders in this competitive class, but with some top riders moving up from 600 Superstock racing, and a field of over 30 riders in total, Superstock at Portimao is set to be fight all the way.
A mass exodus of the top riders in 2009 means that the European Superstock 600 class is completely wide open in 2010, for riders of Honda, Suzuki, Triumph and Yamaha machinery.
Nine countries will be represented by at least one rider in this class where the machines on show most resemble the streetbikes they are based on. A new era of Superstock 600 is beginning and new stars are about to be born.