The penultimate round of the HANNspree World Superbike Championship occurs this weekend at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo and Dino Ferrari in Imola, Italy.
The circuit, which was named after Ferrari’s late founder Enso and his son Dino, features 10 left turns and six right turns, and has been kind to Ducati in the past. Currently, the Xerox Ducati team hold the track records: Noriyuki Haga holds the lap record at 1:48.982, and Michel Fabrizio the best lap at 1:47.735.
But a different Italian brand and it’s Italian rider enter Imola with the points lead, Aprilia and Max Biaggi. The Roman Emperor currently holds a 58-point lead over second-place sitter Leon Haslam on the Suzuki Alstare GSX-R1000.
With four races left in two rounds, 100 points are up for grabs, and Haslam has a shot at the championship. But if Biaggi finishes ahead of Haslam in both races in Imola, he’ll quench the championship, which will be his first, and also the first for an Italian rider.
Rounding out the top five in points is Ten Kate Honda rider Jonathan Rea (288), Althea Ducati rider Carlos Checa (224) and Sterilgarda Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow (217).
Here’s what the riders are saying before the action begins at Imola this weekend:
Max Biaggi says: “As I already said, at Imola I will be a reckless book keeper. I’ll battle without ever holding back but, at the same time, always bearing in mind the rankings situation and the importance of every single point. Experience teaches me that, to win the World Championship, I need to be constantly focused, never leaving anything to chance.”
This is why, even more than the other weekends, it will be so important to find the best setup right from the first practice. Imola is a track with a few too many bumps, so we’ll have to work hard to stay in the positions that count.”
Jonathan Rea says: “I’ve been enjoying myself on the Isle of Man since that good weekend in Germany, which made it six pretty good races in a row. I’d really like to carry on that podium run at Imola this weekend, although the races last year weren’t so good. We’ve got a really good team spirit going now, and we worked on a new area of the bike during the Imola test in the summer – really thought outside the box – and made some pretty good progress.”
“We’ll start with something between that and the Nurburgring setting on Friday morning and work methodically from there without getting carried away. Then, I hope, we’ll be there or thereabouts come Sunday morning.”
Max Neukirchner says: “Imola is a very special place – a great circuit to ride and a lot of history. But my memories here until this year are not so good. However, we were able to find quite a good way forward on the second day of our test here in July, so we will start from that position and try to move forward from there.”
“I cannot deny that I was quite upset after a crash in the first race at Nurburgring which was followed by a very different tire in race two; it made the weekend very difficult. But I am feeling positive again now and I am determined to enjoy the last two races of the season as much as possible and get the best results that I can for the team.”
Cal Crutchlow says: “I’m really looking forward to this round. I have unfinished business here from last year, I had a great pole position start in Supersport but crashed out so need to make sure I get a victory here this weekend! I was fastest rider in the test here earlier in the year so I’m confident we can do well.”
James Toseland say: “I had a difficult test here earlier in the year,. We’ve come a long way since then and have improved our set up so I’m confident that we can achieve more and be fighting at the front. I’m going to give it 100 percent as always, I definitely want to be on the podium here.”
Noriyuki Haga says: “I had a great weekend at Nurburgring and this has made me more determined to take wins at these final two rounds of Imola and Magny-Cours. I haven’t been getting much sleep since the birth of baby Kanon but I’ll be ready and raring to go on Friday. I hear we’re going to have a huge number of guests, all coming to the track to support us one last time, so it’s important we put on the best possible show for them.”
Michel Fabrizio says: “Imola is going to be emotional for the whole team. Our final Italian round as part of the Ducati Xerox squad, at Ducati’s home track. Nothing less than a win will do this weekend. Winning is the most fitting way to celebrate these last three years with the factory team and repay all the guys for their dedication.”
Leon Haslam says: ”Since the last round at the Nurburgring, I have been having a lot of physiotherapy on my knee. The problem is that ligaments take quite a long time to mend properly and because of that my knee is not up to full strength yet. I haven’t got full movement and all the power back yet, but I don’t think it’s going to affect me too much once I am on the bike.”
“We’ll see how it goes in practice, but we may decide to put on some strapping and give it some support. I may also strap up the hand a bit as it is OK in certain directions but not so good in some others. Once again, we’ll se how it behaves during practice on Friday. ”
“We tested here at Imola earlier in the year and the first day was pretty good. The second wasn’t as good because I had a couple of crashes. We tried some tyres there, so it’ll be interesting to see what tires are brought this weekend. Imola is very technical track and there is a lot to it. It’s what I call ‘an old school’ track and once you’ve got it right, you know you’ve got it right.”
“I think it has many different characteristics and parts of it will suit some bikes and not others, but all bikes will be good there in some areas. Because of the points advantage Max Biaggi now has, all I can do is to go all-out in both races and hope he makes some mistakes, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Sylvain Guintoli says: “Finally, a track where I’ve been before. Although I haven’t raced there, we did test earlier in the year, so at least I know which way to turn out of the pits! Imola is a technical track and difficult to learn, but I like it a lot. When you know where you are going, it’s a real fun track and a blast when you get it right.”
“The tests went pretty well, so I’m hoping to be on the pace right from the start and then go for my first podium with the team. ”I have been cycling a lot recently and keeping fit and I have also done a bit of cage fighting. The first time I did it, I got well and truly beaten, but the second time was much better. I think this will make me more aggressive on the track and that will help in my battle for a podium.”
Tom Sykes says: “I am looking forward to getting back to Imola because we had a positive test there a few months back. We have had some good settings to work with since then too. We know where we are at with the bike and we have to take the settings we had in Germany on to Imola and get some more results like we had there. We just have to find a balance between the settings we had in the test at Imola and where the bike is now. Imola is a bit like a British track in some ways, some very bumpy sections as well, so you have to concentrate hard.”
Ian Lowry says: “I have never been to Imola before so this will be another learning experience for me. The boys have been there, testing earlier this year, and they said the bike was pretty good there. So I want to get out on track and get into it again. WSBK racing is still all new to me and I think the team are happy enough if I keep progressing and I feel better every time out on it. There are no slow riders out there in World Superbike!”
Troy Corser says: “After the poor luck I had at the Nürburgring I’m looking to turn our potential into race results at Imola. Under normal circumstances we’d have secured a podium finish at least at the Nürburgring. Imola is a very different kind of race track, but I’m confident that, with our bike, we’re in the position to compete at the front of the field again. My aim is to clinch a place on the podium.”
Ruben Xaus says: “I really can’t wait for the races at Imola. The track is one I like very much and I always enjoy riding there. Indeed, I would go as far as describing it as my favourite track in Europe. There’s absolutely no time to take a breather here. It’s a circuit with a lot of character, like the Hockenheimring and, in the past, the long course at Assen. There are a lot of fast chicanes and corners, and the track is always going up and downhill.”
“We were able to set consistently fast times in both races at the Nürburgring, which makes both me and the team very optimistic. We still have to work on one or two small things which have so far prevented us from challenging the leading guys. But I know that my team will give everything so than we can make further improvements to the bike.”
“We just have to find that extra half a second and we’ll be up there at the front. At Imola it’s important that the bike works well through the two tight corners and the chicane; if you get that right then a good result is possible. I’m really looking forward to riding there.”
Matteo Baiocco says: “I like Imola circuit also because it suits my riding style well. I hope we can go there strong, not having to learn the circuit and find very soon the best set up for my bike. I really enjoyed riding on this track also if there are a few bumps. I would like to get some good results in the last four races of the season, so that I can show my real potential and I hope I can battle for points both in Imola and Magny Cours.”
Roger Lee Hayden says: “It’s hard for me to say something about Imola circuit because this will be my first time riding there. I just hope that my machine works well so that I can concentrate on learning this new track. I have to do my best in Imola because it’s one of my team’s home races and I know we have the opportunity to reach a good result. The plan is the same as every race weekend, try to get it all working well in practice and qualifying and then take the best possible results in the races.”