Silverstone World Superbike | Preview

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2012 World SBK Championship

This weekend, the 2012 World Superbike Championship resumes at the iconic Silverstone for round 10, the UK circuit located 62 miles north of London where the world’s eyes are currently watching the Olympics.

This year’s World SBK series, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, is the tightest its been in years after nine of 14 rounds. Heading into Silverstone, five different manufacturers (BMW, Aprilia, Kawasaki, Ducati, Honda) are seperated by only 84.5 points, with 250 points remaining.

Leading that group is Aprilia Racing Team’s Max Biaggi, who has won four races this season, including a double at San Marino. But at the series’ last round in Brno, Biaggi suffered a 6-4 finish. And due to BMW Motorrad rider Marco Melandri’s double at Brno, Biaggi’s lead was cut to just 21 points, Melandri hoping to give BMW its first WSBK title in 2012.

In the past, Biaggi’s Aprilia RSV4 machine has suffered on bumpy tracks like Silverstone. For this reason, the Aprilia Racing Team carried out some test at Mugello to further prepare the RSV4 for this weekend’s double-header at 18 laps each.

Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing Team RSV4 Superbike) says: “Brno left a bitter taste in my mouth – I won’t deny that. A track which has historically been friendly played a dirty trick on us, but we have to turn the page now. We have been working hard to fix the problems that slowed us down, but until the first test session we won’t have a clear idea of our situation. There are a lot of variables at Silverstone, from the weather to the home riders. We’ll have to stay focused on our goal and adapt quickly to the situation. It is a hard championship which will probably be decided in the last round. I want to be in it until the end.”

With his double at Brno, Melandri has five wins, more than any other rider so far this season. He made his Superbike debut in 2011 with Yamaha, twice finishing third, while since its debut in 2009 the German four-cylinder bike has never finished in the top 3 but things have now changed radically: in 2012 the S 1000 RR has been on the podium in every round except Assen.

Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad S1000RR Superbike) says: “I am really looking forward to Silverstone,” says Marco. “I like the track very much; it is one of the fastest and longest circuits of the season. You have a lot of fast corners, so you can adopt a flowing riding style. Last year I was twice on the podium there. For sure it will be not easy as the track is very bumpy but I am confident, so I cannot wait to ride there with my RR.

“I just try to keep consistent, to think from race to race and to have fun while riding. I hope that we will be again fighting for the podium at Silverstone and we will try to get some more wins. But it certainly will not be easy because all the English riders want to win there. Carlos Checa for sure will also try to push for the victory and Max also will be strong. So it will be two very exciting races.”

But there is also much pressure from other riders, including Kawasaki Racing’s Tom Sykes, who is 59 points behind Biaggi, Althea Racing Ducati’s Carlos Checa, who is 67 points back, and Honda World Superbike’s Jonathan Rea, who is 84.5 points back.

Sykes, who has taking seven poles so far this season, suffered a huge crash at Silverstone, his home track, last year in qualifying. The Kawasaki ZX-10R never performed too well at Silverstone, the best finish for the bike seventh with Joan Lascorz, but much progress has been made lately on the Ninja.

As for the reigning World SBK champ Checa, he’s coming off a 3-4 finish at Brno, and doubled last year at Silverstone, a performance he hopes to repeat this weekend.

Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati 1198 Superbike) says: “Last year’s Silverstone races couldn’t have gone any better, I won both and that was the perfect conclusion to what was a great weekend. I like the track and I think we can do well there again this year. The weather conditions are always a total unknown in the UK but after the solid results that we scored in mixed conditions at Brno, I’m feeling confident ahead of Sunday’s races.”

As for Rea, the 25-year-old leader of the Honda World Superbike Team has not won a race since Donington, but he arrives in Silverstone in the wake of a fantastic win in the Suzuka 8 Hours as part of the FCC TSR team, one of Honda’s top squads in this endurance racing classic.

Round 10 will also be a fundamental race for FIXI Crescent Suzuki which is yet to obtain results living up to the team’s and the riders’ expectations. American John Hopkins has been sidelined by a series of injuries and crashes, but he returns to the track where one year ago he set pole position as a wild-card and then finished the two races in fifth and seventh. Silverstone is also a “friendly” circuit for Leon Camier who scored a podium place here in 2010 with the Aprilia Racing Team, World SBK reports.

Silverstone will be the venue for a World Superbike round for the ninth time. The track, flat and flowing, appears to be tailor-made for Ducati, which has won here 11 times in 15 races. In last year’s edition Checa powered to a dominant double win: half-way through this season he appeared to be out of the title battle, but by repeating the same result this weekend the Spaniard has every chance of becoming a key player in the title run-in.

The Manufacturers’ title battle is now wide open, after BMW moved into the lead for the first time ever at Brno by two points over Aprilia but Ducati (15.5 points behind) are still in with a big chance. Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki on the other hand are some way behind.

The forecast for the weekend looks like cool weather and showers, conditions that could bring out the best in Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing Ducati), the 22-year-old rookie who has already stepped onto the podium twice this year. Niccolò Canepa will also be back on his regular Red Devils Ducati machine after missing out on Brno, while in the Pata Racing Ducati team, Lorenzo Zanetti is joined by new signing Sylvain Guintoli, winner at Assen when he was in Ducati Liberty Team Effenbert, World SBK says.

2012 Silverstone World Superbike TV Schedule:

SPEED TV will broadcast Silverstone World Superbike, with race one beginning at 4 p.m. EDT, and race 2 at 5 p.m. EDT.

2012 Silverstone World Superbike Schedule (local time):

Friday, Aug. 3:
11.45-12.30 Free practice
15.30-16.15 Qualifying 1

Saturday, Aug. 4:
09.45-10.30 Qualifying 2
12.30-13.15 Free practice
15.00-15.14 Superpole 1
15.21-15.33 Superpole 2
15.40-15.50 Superpole 3

Sunday, Aug. 5
09.20-09.35 Warm-up
12.00 Race 1 (18 laps 106.236km)
15.30 Race 2 (18 laps 106.236km)

2012 World Superbike Points (after nine of 14 rounds):

  1. Max Biaggi, Aprilia: 271.5
  2. Marco Melandri, BMW: 250.5
  3. Tom Sykes, Kawasaki: 212.5
  4. Carlos Checa, Ducati: 204.5
  5. Jonathan Rea, Honda: 187
  6. Leon Haslam, BMW: 160
  7. Eugene Laverty, Aprilia: 148
  8. Sylvain Guintoli, Ducati: 110
  9. Davide Giugliano, Ducati: 99
  10. Chaz Davies, Aprilia: 93