After winning another two World Superbike races at the previous round, the experienced Max Biaggi and his Aprilia Alitalia RSV4 Factory lead the championship into Czech Republic at Brno.
Biaggi now has eight race victories in 2010, and a 37-point championship lead over Leon Haslam (Suzuki Alstare). Haslam enters the World SBK Brno round determined to peg back Biaggi, but the fact that Brno is Biaggi’s favorite circuit of all, where he won a race on his Aprilia RSV4 last year, may hamper Haslam’s ambitions.
But Haslam has been a revelation this year too, which leaves a fascinating battle of nerves all ready to be played out for the benefit of the race fans this coming WSBK weekend.
Leon Haslam says: “I like Brno circuit because it has a bit of everything really. There are a lot of ups and downs and it is a challenging track to ride and one that requires a good bike set-up. Max Biaggi is obviously the rider to beat at the moment because he and his bike are working really well together. But, I’m going to fight all the way this weekend and hopefully claw some of the points back. ”
“It has been very hectic recently because after the San Marino race, we had a two-day test in Imola and then the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Unfortunately I had a couple of get-offs at Imola and bashed a delicate area of my body, but it will not affect me on the bike. I’m fit and ready to battle Brno and Max and I want to start my summer holiday with some more podiums.”
Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati) will be ready to go for more wins and podiums on his well-supported 1098 machine, while his team-mate Shane Byrne will be out to overcome the effects of a nasty left hand laceration suffered at the Misano SBK tests.
Checa still leads the factory Ducati Xerox duo of Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio, but for Michel in particular, Brno is his ideal venue, one he has enjoyed success at both as a privateer and a factory rider. He scored his first ever podiums in WSBK at Brno, and has scored at least one top three finish there every year since 2006. Curiously, he has never quite taken a win at Brno, however.
Brno should be a new track for some riders, but for others it is a well-known venue. Troy Corser (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) has been a rider on the rise this year, and at Brno he has also a strong record, with three of his previous 33 race wins coming in the Czech Republic. His teammate Ruben Xaus is out to eradicate bad memories of a femur fracture he suffered in 2009 at the base of the uphill section.
Troy Corser says: “I’m confident going into Brno. Last year I earned my best result of the whole season there when I finished in fifth place. The bike has come a long way since this time a year ago. I like the track itself a lot, as it suits my riding style. The set-up you run here is quite unusual. There are corners which you brake into going downhill and others which you brake into travelling uphill. That means you have to find a compromise.”
Ruben Xaus says: “I hope that things fall into place at Brno. It was here that all the problems started last year with my crash and injury. Things just haven’t run smoothly since then. I hope that we can draw a line under this unhappy time at Brno. For me it’s critical that I find my rhythm over the next few race weekends. Things are actually looking good. The bike is improving all the time and we’re getting really good power from the engine, which is important with all the inclines at Brno. You also need to ride fluently here, though, as there are a lot of sweeping corners.”
For local riders the sight of Jakub Smrz racing gladdens the heart at any time and for the Pata B&G team rider a last minute swap to Aprilia RSV4 machinery may well bring him back into the upper echelons of the results sheets. In the official Aprilia team Leon Camier (Aprilia Alitalia) will be out, with the second works Suzuki coming from Sylvain Guintoli (Alstare Suzuki).
With seven manufacturers on the grid in 2010, the talent pool is deep and wide, and in the Honda camp Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) is still the man most likely to post the strongest results, despite his team-mate Max Neukirchner and privateer Broc Parkes (ECHO CRS Honda) finding improvements to their respective set-ups during the Imola tests.
Jonathan Rea says: “After the disaster we had at Misano, I’m really looking forward to turning over a new page at Brno this weekend. I’ve really enjoyed riding the circuit in the past and took my first World Supersport win there a couple of years back. So, I’m hoping that my team will be able to take the information we got from Misano and then at the Imola test last week and translate that into a strong package that will allow us to challenge at the front again. W e worked a little more outside the box at Imola to learn more about the bike and tried some fairly radical things. It gave us a small step forward but, at this level and in this environment, it’s really difficult to find big chunks of time. I’m happy that the team has been changed around slightly to help us maintain our challenge and it’ll be good if we can start at Brno on Friday with the same feeling we finished with at Imola last week.”
Yamaha Sterilgarda duo James Toseland and Cal Crutchlow are looking for a step-up in pace to allow them to compete for wins in 2010, a season in which everything has moved forward several steps compared to even 2009. Each is capable and if they qualify well, can be in with a chance on raceday.
Cal Crutchlow says: “I’ve got unfinished business at Brno. I had a really strong qualifying there in Supersport last year and was only two laps from winning the race when an unfortunate mechanical issue forced retirement. I love the track; it’s fast and flowing and should suit our bike really well.”
James Toseland says: “I’m looking forward to the weekend. Brno is a track I’ve always had good results on. Everyone knows its Max Biaggi’s favourite circuit so it’s going to be difficult for everyone here as it’s probably going to be a strong weekend for Aprilia. Having said that, we worked hard at last week’s test in Imola so I’m looking forward to getting out on the track on Friday to see where we stand.”
One squad particularly pleased to have tested at Imola last week is the official Kawasaki Racing Team, and at the Italian venue Tom Sykes and Chris Vermeulen each found a way forward with bike set-up, leaving them more confident of better finishes as the Wolrd SBK season wears on.
Chris Vermeulen says: “I’ve been working as-hard-as-ever on getting my knee in better shape and positioning on the bike. The test in Imola did just that even though afterwards I could hardly walk having completed 162 laps in two days! We made some good progress at the test and although we didn’t put in a fast lap time, I did not use a qualifier tyre, I was confident that our package is getting closer to the where we want it to be. I’m looking forward to heading to Brno this weekend as I enjoy the circuit layout and the fast flowing corners and I think this type of track will suit the ZX-10R machine. We will be giving it our best shot to gain back some valuable points.”
Tom Sykes says: “We had some bad luck in Misano and we missed out on some valuable points there however we made up a lot of ground at the Imola test and I was really happy with my team and bike progress. We tried a number of different settings on the bike and seemed to find a lot of consistency with our lap times. This showed on the time screen as we were consistently in sixth to tenth positions so I was pleased to have come away inside the top ten overall. Coming off the back of the test, I am very hopeful for the Brno race and am feeling really positive. It’s a beautiful circuit and one of my favourites on the calendar so I can’t wait to get back on the bike and take another step forward.”
The impressive Luca Scassa (Supersonic) and experienced Lorenzo Lanzi (DFX Ducati) will be two more privateers competing at Brno and the pairing of Roger Lee Hayden and Matteo Baiocco will be looking for their best WSBK performances of the year on their Pedercini Kawasakis.
Roger Lee Hayden says: “I have never been there before and I’m eager to ride and get to know this new circuit. This weekend I am really looking forward to a fresh start. In the previous races I have not so much luck go my way, but I am determined to be strong from the first practice onwards. Our bike has been working well during recent races and I have confidence in both my crew and bike, so I really can’t wait to get started”
Matteo Baiocco says: “I am going to Brno in a positive mood and I’m looking forward to another challenge. We are glad to have been able to race and win in Misano because the race was a good preparation for the following races of the season. We improved the base set-up of our bike and we found some good solutions to be used in Brno. I want to do my best and reach a good result in Sunday’s races”.
Sylvain Guintoli says: “Fortunately I have been to Brno before, so at least I will not have to start the weekend wondering which way the track goes! It’s a good track and I enjoy racing there and am hoping to be on the pace right from the start of practice and be in a good position come race day. Recently, I feel I have begun to have a better understanding of what World Superbikes is all about and how strong you have to be right from the first moments of day one.
“This is a tough old series and very competitive, so you really cannot hang about at all. The racing is hard and a real battle and I like that a lot. After Brno, we have quite a break, so my goal is to get two very good results this weekend and then enjoy my holiday.”
Max Neukirchner says: “I had a bit of a fever last week during the test so the first day wasn’t so good and it was a bit frustrating that we weren’t able to make any progress. However, I felt better on the second day and me and the team got through a lot of work and tried some new things. We made some small steps forward and I was able to go faster during the afternoon but then, during a quicker lap, I had to slow down because of a crash. I am looking forward to Brno ver y much and, although the results there have not been fantastic, I like the circuit. We’ll have to see how the work we did last week works there, but I’ll certainly have some extra support at Brno, so of course I will try my best for all the Germans fans there.”
Ronald ten Kate says: “The problems we experienced at Miller and then again at Misano were, of course, our biggest focus during the test at Imola last week. We definitely improved the bike and found something of a cure for the chatter that has plagued both riders and we’re looking forward to trying that solution at Brno this weekend. With some luck, it should put us back to the top of the results sheets where we know we should be.”
World Superbike Points (after 8 rounds of 13): 1. Biaggi 307; 2. Haslam 270; 3. Checa 172; 4. Rea 158; 5. Haga 151; 6. Corser 149; 7. Toseland 138; 8. Fabrizio 131; 9. Camier 130 70; 10. Crutchlow 120. Manufacturers: 1. Aprilia 313; 2. Suzuki 283; 3. Ducati 250; 4. Yamaha 177; 5. Honda 169; 6. BMW 152; 7. Kawasaki 47