The World Superbike World Championship makes its second visit to the southern hemisphere in 2010 for the Kyalami round in South Africa, from May 15-16.
Having seven different motorcycle manufacturers and a host of potential race winners on show this coming weekend, the local spectators can expect the same kind of high-speed, high quality, action which has made the 2010 edition of WSBK a must-see for racing enthusiasts all over the world.
Kyalami’s 4.246 km circuit features dramatic elevation changes and mix of fast and slow corners and is therefore a real challenge for even the most experienced competitors.
The teams and technical support staff also have an almost unique challenge this weekend, as the high altitude of the venue requires a change of approach towards set-up, simply because the thin air robs the engines of outright power at the very top of the rev-range.
After the double World SBK win for Max Biaggi and Aprilia Alitalia at home at the super-fast Monza last weekend, the gap between Max and championship leader Leon Haslam (Suzuki Alstare) is down to three points.
Last year in South Africa the factory Ducati duo of Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio ruled the roost in each race as the four-cylinder machines struggling to keep in contact with double winner Haga and close second Fabrizio.
This year the factory Ducati riders have been struggling by their own high standards and Kyalami may well be the ideal place for them to re-sharpen their competitive edges.
The previous round at Monza displayed that the power-balance in World Superbike is still a very fluid dynamic, as the BMW Motorrad Motorsport team took its first ever podium thanks to Troy Corser.
His teammate Ruben Xaus also had a personal BMW best of sixth at Monza.
The Kawasaki Racing Team made a breakthrough with Tom Sykes, who posted a top five finish and was in the leading hunt from qualifying onwards.
Chris Vermeulen, Sykes’ KRT teammate, is still trying to overcome the effects of his Phillip Island knee injury, but his strength is improving every weekend.
With top class riders like 2009 Kyalami podium finisher Jonathan Rea and his team-mate Max Neukirchner running for the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team, and proven World Champions James Toseland and Cal Crutchlow competing for the official Yamaha Sterilgarda team, there are boundless possibilities to look at in terms of podium finishers.
Crutchlow and Toseland have already been inside the top three this year and Cal has taken two Superpole wins in his rookie season in WSBK, which he entered as reigning Supersport World Champion.
The pre-race complication is all the more intriguing in 2010 as unlike last year there was no official winter test at Kyalami, so everyone should at least start the weekend on level terms.
Kyalami will also be a first time circuit for some in World Superbike, most notably Leon Camier, a full-season rookie on his Aprilia Alitalia RSV-4 but already on the podium at Assen, while local interest should include Sheridan Morais, on an EmTek Aprilia.
Privateers have already had a great influence in the 2010 championship, with Althea Ducati rider Carlos Checa having won a race in Australia.
His teammate Shane Byrne is a talented rider looking for his first 2010 podium at a track that may suit his Ducati very well.
Jakub Smrz (Pata B&G Ducati) and Luca Scassa (Supersonic) are also riders to watch on twin-cylinder machinery. Kawasaki fields two privateers in the Pedercini team, American Roger Lee Hayden and Italian Matteo Baiocco, while ECHO CRS Honda makes its first Kyalami date with rider Broc Parkes, after scoring its first WSBK point last weekend.
Points (after 5 rounds of 13): 1. Haslam 181; 2. Biaggi 178; 3. Rea 110; 4. Checa 110; 5. Toseland 106; 6. Haga 100; 7. Corser 92; 8 Camier; 72; 9. Guintoli 70; 10. Crutchlow 65. Manufacturers: 1. Aprilia 184; 2. Suzuki 181; 3. Ducati 149; 4. Honda 119; 5. Yamaha 113; 6. BMW 95; 7. Kawasaki 37.
The Supersport World Championship went from a close fight between three riders before the previous Monza round to an even more tightly contested struggle after Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda) took his third race win of 2010 last weekend.
Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Motocard.com) and Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) have also recorded a single win each in 2010, with the current points standings showing Lascorz on 101, Sofuoglu on 97 and Laverty with 91.
Laverty was a convincing winner at Kyalami in 2009, but few expect anything but another close encounter of a top three kind this coming weekend. Triumph have had ParkinGO BE-1 rider Chaz Davies on the podium already, at Portimao.
With this race meeting taking place outside of the European theatre of operations, there will be no Superstock Championship classes, but there will be local 1000 and 600 races on Sunday.
Points (after 5 rounds of 13): 1. Lascorz 101; 2. Sofuoglu 97; 3. Laverty 91; 4. Davies 55; 5. Salom 40; 6. G.Rea 40; 7. Harms 35; 8. Pirro 34; 9. Fujiwara 34; 10. Lagrive 30. Manufacturers: 1. Honda 120; 2. Kawasaki 101; 3. Triumph 65
THE CIRCUIT: Kyalami is no stranger to World Superbike and this is the seventh weekend of South African action for WSBK since the first visit in 1998.
This year some widening of run-off areas at turns two and three, and a modified pit exit, will be welcome novelties for the Superbike and Supersport riders to encounter.
The bumpy and venerable tarmac surface is another characteristic the teams will have to allow for. A traditionally large and enthusiastic crowd can get close to the action all around the circuit, thanks in part to its many contours, making for a special atmosphere on raceday at this icon of African Motorsports.
A new spectator area has been created at turns two and three, using materials removed from the area around the new pitlane exit.