2012 Nurburgring World SBK
Three rounds, six races and 150 points. That’s what the 2012 World Superbike Championship has come down to, and the final stretch begins this weekend in Germany for round 12 of 14 at Nurburgring.
Mathematically, the top five riders all have a shot at the 2012 World SBK title. Leading the Superbike charge is BMW Motorrad’s Marco Melandri. The Italian became the new leader with 308.5 points after some impressive riding at Moscow Raceway. Melandri has an 18.5-point lead over his fellow countryman, Aprilia Racing Team’s Max Biaggi, and a 41-point lead over Kawasaki Racing’s Tom Sykes.
But with 150 points available, there’s still a possibility of Ducati Team’s Carlos Checa keeping his title status, the Spaniard 75 points behind Melandri. The last rider in contention is Honda World Superbike’s Jonthan Rea, who is 96 points behind Melandri.
World Superbike’s debut in Russia the final weekend in August was a massive success with two exciting races that overturned the situation at the top of the table. Melandri arrived at the Moscow Raceway with 10.5 points to make up on Biaggi, and the BMW S1000RR rider left there with a lead of 18.5. The Tissot-Superpole “King,” Sykes (seven wins in 11 rounds), also made up ground and can now also be considered as a clear threat over the entire race distance.
In the last seven rounds Melandri has taken four wins (out of six in 2012), while in the same period Biaggi has only stepped once onto the podium with a third place in race 1 at Moscow. In this decisive part of the season the BMW man has made up 78.5 points on Biaggi, and now the battle for the world title, which after Misano in mid-June seemed to be in the hands of the five-times world champion Biaggi, has been thrown totally wide-open.
Melandri has reached a total of 10 World Superbike wins (including four in 2011 with Yamaha) and 25 podiums in just 47 races. Biaggi is stuck on four wins this year (out of 20 overall) and hasn’t won since race 1 at Aragon (Spain) on July 1. BMW, which had not won a race in the previous three years, now also finds itself in the lead of the Manufacturers’ title chase.
The Nurburgring, where World Superbike has raced every year since 2008, is the venue for the twelfth round of the season but neither Melandri nor Biaggi have ever won there: the former only raced last year, finishing second and sixth, while Biaggi has never even finished on the podium, with a fourth and a fifth his best results in his title-winning 2010 season.
Last year Biaggi did not take the start due to an unfortunate incident in qualifying that cost him a bone fracture in his left foot. Sykes on the other hand won at the Ring 12 months ago in a race that only went half-distance due to torrential rain. And on the subject, the weekend weather forecast is slightly cloudy, with no rain and temperatures of 21° max/11° min expected. So after finally reaching a constant level of race performance, Sykes could certainly be a tricky customer for the two Italians.
The German round is a decisive one for Checa and Rea who really have to score wins in both races, with DNFs amongst the top 3, to confirm their championship challenges. Here in 2011 the Spaniard scored one of his 15 SBK wins, but this year has not gone according to plan with too many errors and DNFs, and in the history of SBK no rider has ever won the title with six zeros to his name.
Even more difficult is the task facing Jonathan Rea who after two troubled races in Moscow was selected by Honda HRC as a replacement for the injured Casey Stoner in MotoGP. In the next six weeks the Northern Irishman will embark upon a real tour de force, taking part in three Superbike rounds and the same number of MotoGP races.
The Ring could highlight the abilities of Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Racing Team Ducati), who finished second last year in the wet, Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing Ducati), the 22-year-old Italian who is making his name in the top class after winning the FIM Superstock 1000 title, as well as Frenchman Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team). Guintoli has already won twice this year, while Giugliano has two podiums to his name, and Baz picked up the winners’ trophy at Silverstone in difficult conditions.
A fifth place by Leon Camier in race 2 at Moscow Raceway was some reward for the efforts being made this year by a rapidly improving FIXI Crescent Suzuki team. Team-mate John Hopkins has also resolved his injury problems of the early rounds and a podium is surely now not that far off.
The Manufacturers’ battle also sees five different constructors in search of glory: BMW, Aprilia, Kawasaki, Ducati and Honda in that order.
After the German Round this weekend, the championship will then move on to Portimao (Portugal) on September 23 and Magny-Cours (France) for the grand finale on October 7.