2012 World Superbike Season Finale
Following 13 rounds of intense competition, he 2012 World Superbike Championship concludes this weekend at Magny-Cours in France.
Heading into round 14, three different riders on three different motorcycles will be vying for the title – Aprilia Racing Team’s Max Biaggi, Kawasaki Racing Team’s Tom Sykes, and BMW Motorrad’s Marco Melandri.
Biaggi, the 2010 World SBK Champion, has the clear advantage, the 41-year-old Italian having the lead with 347 points, 30.5 ahead of Sykes, and 38.5 ahead of Melandri. Before the penultimate round at Portimao in Portugal, the race was tighter, but Melandri was involved in a race-one crash that caused a few cracked ribs, and a DNF and DNS. As for Sykes, he won the first race, but suffered a DNF due to a blown engine in race 2.
As for Biaggi, he finished 4-3 following some incidents at Portimao. But regardless, he left Portugal with a larger lead, giving him the chance to earn a second World SBK title.
The current standings show that Biaggi can easily win the sixth world title in his career with just two sixth places. Even if Sykes takes a double win (50 points), Biaggi just needs 20 to take the title. Judging from his previous form there, the title is within easy reach: he has raced eight times at Magny-Cours and has always finished in the top 6, with four podiums to his name and a win in 2010 when he got the better of Cal Crutchlow in a ferocious duel after he had already clinched the title.
Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing RSV4 Superbike) says: "I want to tackle this race like any other. I know the pressure will be high because of the current standings, but we must not lose focus because we are the ones with the most to lose. Being out front puts you in the bullseye. Our rivals know that any weakness on our part could reopen the competition. In any case I am calm and focused as always. We’ve demonstrated that we can do well when we are able to take advantage of every practice session and I can’t wait to get onto the track and get to work."
Meanwhile, Tom Sykes has never finished higher than eighth, with three crashes to his name. The Kawasaki has improved massively throughout the season however and Sykes has taken three of his four race victories in 2012. Melandri only raced at Magny-Cours last season, twice finishing runner-up after two terrific recoveries.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R Superbike) says: “I am looking forward to getting back on my ZX-10R. I am excited to go to Magny Cours as it is a race that has shown some potential for us in the past and the way we have the bike working now is good. I lam looking to go there and do our usual thing.
"Honestly, I am also looking for a little bit of luck. I am second in the championship, 30.5 points from the leader, so we need a certain aspect of luck to help us out. But, ultimately, it can happen. It happened to me in race two last week and in the last four races for Melandri. So I hope that we can put in two strong races and come out one place better. We are second in the championship and if I had been offered that at the beginning of the year, I am sure myself and the whole team would have accepted it.
"We are here now and we know what we can achieve. No matter what, if we finish top three we will have had a very, very good year. We are still mathematically able to win the championship so I think we should try to do something about it. Other people have made mistakes but at the end of the day everyone has had the same opportunities as us. To be lying second is a good achievement. It is where we really are. We have learned a lot this year and we have had to work hard at some events just because we are still learning. We have come from a long way back, have been winning races and challenging for race wins and I am sure next year we will be even stronger.”
Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad S1000RR Superbike) says: “I spent the time since Portugal back home taking a rest and recovering from my injury. It still hurts, but I am feeling better with every day and now I cannot wait to head to Magny-Cours.
“The last two race Sundays were difficult, but we left them behind us and are motivated as always to fight. For sure the final round of the season will not be an easy one as the top is closely fought. For us it is important to work hard from the first day on in order to best prepare for the races.
“I like the Magny-Cours circuit. Last year I raced there for the first time and had two very good races. It is a difficult but interesting circuit which offers a combination of everything. When I first rode there, it took me some time to find the best way of braking for the slow corners, but then I found a good feeling and was riding pretty fast. I also like it because the surface is very smooth. I had a lot of fun there last year and that is my target for this year, too. I want to enjoy the final round and finish the season with the best possible performance and the best possible results.”
In 25 editions of the Superbike World Championship, this will be the 15th time the title is assigned at the final round. Magny-Cours has been decisive on three occasions: in 1991 Texan Doug Polen took his first title with three rounds remaining, while in both 2004 and 2007 the championship went right down to the wire, with Britain’s James Toseland getting the nod on both occasions – the first when he beat home favourite Règis Laconi, the second against Noriyuki Haga.
The Manufacturers’ battle is also at stake: Aprilia lead the way with 422.5 points, against BMW on 394 and reigning champions Ducati on 375. As well as Max Biaggi the Italian manufacturer can count on excellent support from Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) and Chaz Davies (ParkinGo MTC Racing Aprilia), two youngsters who have already celebrated their first win on the RSV4 in the last two rounds this year, respectively at Portimao and Nurburgring. If they manage to win this title, for Aprilia it would mean a 50th title conquered in Superbike, Grand Prix Road Racing and Off-Road.
At the final round of the 25th edition of the FIM Superbike World Championship, numerous other riders will be aiming to finish off the season with a podium place or a result that may modify the outcome of the title. These will undoubtedly include the outgoing champion Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) who began testing with Ducati’s new 1199, which will be fielded in 2013, after the Portimao round. Teammate Davide Giugliano, at 22 years of age one of the revelations of this year, also took part in the testing.
All eyes will also be on Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team) following his double experience in MotoGP with Honda HRC. The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland has never really had much luck at Magny-Cours but one year ago he did manage to score the Tissot-Superpole.
Expectations are high for the FIXI Crescent Suzuki team following some great recent performances. The Japanese manufacturer has never won on this track, but it does have six second places to its name, so maybe Leon Camier, who went well at Portimao, will manage to buck this trend.
The final round will define the remaining top positions with Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Racing Ducati) currently holding onto the eighth place he has conquered with two wins and some other great races, while another Frenchman Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) is also looking to finish his debut season, with one win and three podiums to his name, on a high note: the 19-year-old is currently 12th overall and will be racing in front of his home fans. Two last-minute changes see the Effenbert Liberty team declare themselves absent from the final round completely, while one of the team’s former riders Maxime Berger lines up for Red Devils Roma in place of the injured Niccolò Canepa.
2012 World Superbike Points (after 13 of 14 rounds): 1. Biaggi 347; 2. Sykes 316,5; 3. Melandri 308.5; 4. Checa 278.5; 5. Rea 255.5; 6. Laverty 241.5; 7. Haslam 189; 8. Guintoli 172.5; 9. Davies 156.5; 10. Fabrizio 133.5; etc.
Manufacturers: 1. Aprilia 422.5; 2. BMW 394; 3. Ducati 375; 4. Kawasaki 356.5; 5. Honda 270.5; 6. Suzuki 130.5.