Just a few days after unusually wintery conditions at Miller Motorsports Park in the USA, the World Superbike teams and riders are heading for the warmer and hopefully sunnier climes of Italy’s Adriatic Riviera for the sixth of the 13 rounds in this year’s calendar at Misano, San Marino.
With the mid-point of the season rapidly approaching, Spain’s Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) currently holds a healthy 61-point lead in the table over his Italian rivals Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team) and Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team).
Last year Checa took home a second and a fifth place in the two races won by Biaggi, the 2010 champion who is still in with a good chance of retaining his crown. But this year, with six wins to his name (including two doubles), Checa is in spectacular form and will be going all out to maintain his advantage this weekend. Biaggi on the other hand is still searching for his first, elusive win this season on the Aprilia RSV4-R machine, and he will be required to call upon all his vast experience and character to bring an end to a series of episodes that have kept him down in third place overall in the standings.
Marco Melandri has already won once this year and his immediate aim will be to repeat that feat at Misano, all the while keeping one eye on Biaggi, who is just one point behind. In his post-Miller declarations, Melandri was not particularly optimistic about the chances of a good result at Misano but after seeing the win escape him at Monza, the man from Ravenna will be going all out to taste the champagne this weekend in front of his numerous home fans.
Ducati, Aprilia and Yamaha must be considered as favorites for the wins at Misano, but Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda), who scored a win here in 2009, and BMW Motorrad challenger Troy Corser, who scored a podium in race 1 last year, will surely also be at the business end of the grid.
Other World Superbike riders aiming for podium places, if not more, will include Monza double winner Eugene Laverty (Yamaha World Superbike Team), Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport), a podium finisher here last year albeit for a different team, and Leon Camier (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team). After their outstanding performances at Miller both Jakub Smrz and Sylvain Guintoli (Effenbert-Liberty Racing Ducati) now also form part of this elite group of contenders.
The Kawasaki Racing Team will be back up to full strength at Misano, with Chris Vermeulen, who missed the last round to focus on his recovery, joining Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz again, while James Toseland also takes another step along the road to full recovery for the BMW Motorrad Italia SBK team.
His World Superbike teammate Italian Ayrton Badovini has been making real progress recently with a string of top 10 finishes, while Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare) has recovered from his debilitating condition at Miller and will again be giving his all on the singleton entry Suzuki GSX-R1000 machine.
Two Italian World Superbike wild-card entries complete the field, the Barni Racing Team Ducatis for Alessandro Polita and Matteo Baiocco.
2011 World Superbike Points (after 5 of 13 rounds): 1. Checa 195; 2. Melandri 134; 3. Biaggi 133; 4. Laverty 109; 5. Haslam 95; 6. Rea 94; 7. Camier 91; 8. Fabrizio 85; 9. Smrz 83; 10. Guintoli 54; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 202; 2. Aprilia 172; 3. Yamaha 171; 4. BMW 117; 5. Honda 98; 6. Suzuki 89; 7. Kawasaki 69.
San Marino World Superbike Prologue
The historic centre of the Republic of San Marino, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will be the scene Thursday morning for the traditional media event involving WSBK men and machines. The appointment is at 10.30 am at the San Marino Grand Hotel, from where a parade of 2011 race machinery will set off on a 300 metre long route through the San Marino streets before arriving in Piazza della Libertà. Here the riders, organizers and authorities will inaugurate the San Marino Superbike Expo, which will remain open until Sunday. This will then be followed by a press conference at the Grand Hotel.
The event will see the presence of Fabio Berardi, Segretary of State for Tourism and Sport of the Republic of San Marino; Paolo Ciabatti, SBK Superbike World Championship Director, Umberto Trevi, Vice-President of Santamonica Spa; Stefano Giannini, Mayor of Misano Adriatico, Amedeo Michelotti, President of the San Marino Motorcycling Federation and the following riders: Leon Camier (Aprilia Alitalia), Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad), Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati), Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare), Chris Vermeulen (Kawasaki Racing Team), Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda), Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Racing Team).