The sixth round of this year’s Superbike World Championship takes place at the Kyalami race circuit in South Africa this weekend and promises to be yet another close-fought affair for Team Suzuki Alstare riders Leon Haslam and Sylvain Guintoli.
The season so far is proving to be the most competitive since the series began in 1988 and every practice, qualifying and race has been closely contested.
After taking fourth and second last weekend in Monza, Haslam tops the series by three points and will be looking to extend that lead at the demanding 4.263 kilometre Kyalami circuit.
The track is one of the most undulating circuits on the calendar and features many changes of elevation and bike set-up and a good grid position will be crucial.
In Monza, last weekend, Haslam hurt his left wrist when he had a big ‘moment’ in the first race. He was spectacularly-high-sided but somehow managed to stay on the bike.
In the process of keeping hold of his GSX-R1000 Suzuki, he tweaked an old scaphoid and ligament injury, but still managed to get on the podium in race two.
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."
Sylvain Guintoli says: "It’s going to be new territory for me riding the Suzuki in Kyalami and I will have to learn the track quickly and do well in qualifying. That’s something I have been struggling with recently, but I know that I have to improve my results on Friday and Saturday or else it’s very difficult to do well on Raceday."
"At the moment, I have been finding a bit hard getting into a good rhythm in practice and qualifying and that’s preventing me from doing what I should be doing in the races. Kyalami has many ups and downs and it’s a tough circuit at the best of times. I have to crack it early on and be in a good grid position and that’s what I will be trying my best to achieve."
2009 World SBK Race Results
Race 1: Haga (JPN-Ducati), 2 Fabrizio (ITA-Ducati), 3 Spies (USA-Yamaha). Leon Haslam (GBR-Honda) DNF. Sylvain Guintoli DNS.
Race 2: 1 Haga, 2 Fabrizio, 3 Rea (GBR-Honda), 4 Leon Haslam. Sylvain Guintoli DNS.