The first back-to-back race weekend of the 2010 season besides the final two rounds, World Superbike meets this weekend outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, to compete on the Kyalami Circuit for the second consecutive year since 2002.
Going into Round 6 at the 2.64-mile circuit, the competition is tight, with only three points separating the series’ leader, Alstare Suzuki rider Leon Haslam, and Aprilia Alitalia Racing rider Max Biaggi. But the Italian will compete at Kyalami after three important feats at last week’s Monza round: taking both wins, setting a new WSBK high speed of 202.6 mph, and taking his first-ever pole position.
With Biaggi’s double, his second since the Portimao round, Aprilia currently holds first place in the manufacturer rankings with 184, three points ahead of Suzuki and 35 ahead of Ducati.
Max Biaggi says: "Race 2 was a fantastic conclusion to an exceptional weekend. I couldn’t dream of a more perfect race if I had to."
Haslam couldn’t match the raw speed of Biaggi’s Aprilia RSV4 at Monza, but still managed a 4-2 finish, allowing him to keep the championship lead. But this didn’t come easy; during Race 1, Haslam had a "big moment," almost high-siding his GSX-R1000, but somehow remained on the bike. During the saved crash, the UK native tweaked a previous scaphoid and ligament injury, but sees no problems going into Kyalami.
Leon Haslam says: "Kyalami is a physically demanding track and it is going to give my left wrist a good workout, but I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a problem. It was well strapped up in the afternoon and I didn’t feel much pain. Of course, it would’ve been good to have a bit more of a gap between Monza and Kyalami, but I shall just have to put up with it. That’s assuming of course that the volcanic ash situation doesn’t prevent us from getting there!"
"It’s funny to think that we are all dependant on some stuff outside of our control, but hopefully we’ll all be able to get there and back! Max (Biaggi) went well in Monza, so I will have to do my best to make sure I beat him and maintain my series lead. In Kyalami last year, I qualified 10th, DNF’d in the first race and finished fourth in the second, so I will be aiming to do a lot better than that this weekend."
As for the man currently third in the championship with 110 points after 5 of 13 rounds, HANNspree Ten Kate Honda rider Jonathan Rea, things didn’t go too well at Monza. The Northern Ireland native crashed out of both races, not earning a single point, but walked away uninjured.
Jonathan Rea says "I was a little sore when I woke up on Monday morning, but everything’s fine and I’ll be 100 percent for the weekend. I’m trying to forget about Monza because I think we were in a really good position to make up some ground on our rivals with the speed we had and the momentum we were carrying from Assen. Instead, they’ve opened a bit of a gap because of a mistake from me in race one and someone else’s error in race two. But I know the bike is strong and it’s not like we won’t be in a position to fight for more wins this season."
"People like Colin Edwards and Ben Spies spring to mind and we’re not even halfway through yet – there will be a lot of opportunities to bridge the gap over the coming races. We’ll try to start this weekend at Kyalami, which is a real riders circuit where you need to work hard to go fast. I got my first Superbike podium here last year, so I’ll be looking for at least two more this weekend."
Not participating in this year’s Kyalami race is DFX Ducati, which will also miss out on the U.S. round in Miller Motorsports Park. DFX, which is in its second season as a Ducati satellite team, claims it will not participate in these rounds due to "circumstances beyond its control."
DFX Ducat rider Lorenzo Lanzi currently sits in 16th place after failing to score in the last four races. During last year’s Kyalami round, then DFX rider Regis Laconi crashed, suffering serious injuries. The Frenchman has yet to make a return to racing.
Joining the grid will be South African native Sheridan Morais, who will contest on the third factory Aprilia machine alongside teammates Biaggi and Leon Camier. Morais, who will pilot an Emtek Racing RSV4, won both the South African Superbike and Supersport Championships last year.
Also, there will be one change to the track this year. Due to FIM regulations, more than 150 tons of earth has been removed near the pit exit road to widen the location.
During last year’s meeting at the track containing 17 corners (11 to left, six to right), last year’s championship runner-up Noriyuka Haga took both wins, followed by his Ducati Xerox teammate Michel Fabrizio in both races.
Current World Superbike Standings:
1. Leon Haslam, Suzuki, 181
2. Max Biaggi, Aprilia, 178
3. Jonathan Rea, Honda, 110
4. Carlos Checa, Ducati, 110
5. James Toseland, Yamaha, 106
6. Noriyuki Haga, Ducati, 100
7. Troy Corser, BMW, 92
8. Leon Camier, Aprilia, 72
9. Sylvain Guintoli, Suzuki, 70
10. Cal Crutchlow, Yamaha, 65
11. Michel Fabrizio, Ducati, 62
12. Shane Byrne, Ducati, 58
13. Jakub Smrz, Ducati, 47
14. Tom Sykes, Kawasaki, 35
15. Ruben Xaus, BMW, 35
16. Lorenzo Lanzi, Ducati, 26
17. Max Neukirchner, Honda, 23
18. Luca Scassa, Ducati, 16
19. Chris Vermeulen, Kawasaki, 5
20. Andrew Pitt, BMW, 3
21. Roger Lee Hayden, Kawasaki, 2
22. Joshua Brookes, Honda, 2
23. Broc Parkes, Honda, 1
24. Matteo Baiocco, Kawasaki, 1
Current Manufacturer Standings:
1. Aprilia, 184
2. Suzuki, 181
3. Ducati, 149
4. Honda, 119
5. Yamaha, 113
6. BMW, 95
7. Kawasaki, 37