2013 World SBK Championship Preview
The World Superbike Championship enters its 26th year this season, the opening round set for Phillip Island Friday through Saturday (Feb. 22-24). The Australian venue has been the WSBK season opener since 2009, the year the American Ben Spies won his only title in the series.
The 2.761-mile circuit just south of Melbourne that overlooks the Bass Strait will be the first of 15 rounds in 2013 World SBK, a season that will bring multiple new challenges to teams and riders. Part of the these challenges arrive from three new venues on the 2013 schedule – Buddh International Circuit in India, Jerez in Spain, and Laguna Seca in the U.S.
Along with the new venues is the switch from 16.5-inch tires/wheels to a 17-inch setup. Following some private and official testing, though, the teams appear satisfied with the performance of the newly mandated 17-inch tires from Pirelli, the spec manufacturer.
Nineteen riders representing 12 teams will begin vying for points this weekend at Phillip Island. And the disparity of machines on the grid will once again bring about intense competition; all together, there are six manufacturers – BMW (S1000RR), Aprilia (RSV4) and Kawasaki (ZX-10R) will each field four bikes, Ducati (1199 Panigale) three, and Honda (CBR1000RR) and Suzuki (GSX-R1000) two each.
One key rider will be missing this season – Max Biaggi. The reigning World SBK champion, who won two WSBK titles with Aprilia (2010, 2011) has retired from professional motorcycle racing. Piloting the Aprilia RSV4 factory machines will be Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli. Also competing on Aprilia superbike machinery will be Red Devils Roma Aprilia’s Michel Fabrizio and Althea Aprilia’s Davide Giugliano.
Besides Aprilia, two other manufacturers will represent four bikes each – Kawasaki (Kawasaki Racing Team’s Tom Sykes and Loris Baz; Pederecini’s Alexander Lundh, Federico Sandi, ZX-10R) and BMW (GoldBet’s Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies; Grillin Dentalmatic SBK Team’s Vittorio Iannuzzo and Ivan Clementi, S1000RR).
Next up is Ducati with three bikes. The 2011 World SBK Champ Carlos Checa and Aryton Badovini will pilot the Alstare Ducati 1199 Panigales that are backed by the factory, and Max Neukirchner the MR-Ducati 1199 Panigale.
Finally, Honda and Suzuki will each field a two-rider team – Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam on the Pata Honda CBR1000RR superbikes, and Leon Camier and Jules Cluzel on the FIXI Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000 machines.
Heading into this weekend’s round, the grid was at Phillip Island for a two-day test Monday and Tuesday. Camier was quickest on day one, and Checa on day two. On the second day, the top 11 riders were within a second of each other, and all faster than the WSBK lap record of 1:31.7 set by Biaggi during last year’s Phillip Island round.
Biaggi set the lap record last year en route the race-one win at Phillip Island. During the race, Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes would start on pole, and be stalked quickly by Biaggi and Checa.
But on the third lap, Biaggi overtook Sykes to take the number-one spot. Checa also passed Sykes, and began chasing down Biaggi. But on the sixth lap, Checa lost the rear on his Ducati, high-siding into the gravel. Luckily, Checa was able to remount his Desmo and finish the race, although 23rd.
This left Biaggi alone up front, who put in a lap record of 1:31.785 en route to taking the first race-win in 2012 World SBK. Sykes gradually lost time as his tire wore during the 22-lap event, allowing BMW Motorrad’s Marco Melandri and Effenbert-Liberty Ducati’s Jakub Smrz to pass.
Biaggi eventually would finish by 7.104 seconds over BMW’s Melandri, with then Effenbert-Liberty Ducati’s Jakub Smrz taking the final podium position.
As for race 2, Checa would come back to dominate. Checa began in second behind Sykes, but would take the lead on lap four, never to be challegened again.
Although impressive due to coming off a crash in race one, the man who truly impressed was Biaggi. The Italian had some contact with Sykes in the beginning of the race, and had some brake-lever issues.
Biaggi would restart the race dead last, but eventually charge into second place, where he finished. Taking third was Sykes.
And this was how intense 2012 World Superbike began, turning into a battle to the very end when Biaggi would take the championship by a mere half a point ahead of Sykes. En route, Sykes would earn a record-breaking nine poles in 14 rounds.
Will 2013 be as competitive? Stay clicked to UltimateMotorCycling.com for the latest from practice on Friday to Superpole on Saturday and finally the doubleheader on Sunday.
2013 Phillip Island World Superbike on TV
Unfortunately for stateside World SBK fans, as of this writing SPEED TV will not broadcast any races. But following a few emails, BeIN Sport TV, owned by Time Warner Cable of New York and Al Jazeera, will stream the races live (Google “BeIN Sport TV Live Streaming for various services), and, according to its website, broadcast race one at 8 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 23 (Australia is 16 hours ahead of EST).
To see if BeIN Sport TV is available near you, click here.
2013 Phillip Island World Superbike Schedule:
- Free Practice, 11:45 a.m. local time (Australia is 16 hours ahead of EST)
- Qualifying Practice, 3:30 p.m.
- Qualifying Practice, 9:45 a.m.
- Free Practice, 12:30 p.m.
- Superpole 1, 3 p.m.
- Superpole 2, 3:21 p.m.
- Superpole 3, 3:40 p.m.
- Warm up, 9:20 a.m.
- Race 1, Noon
- Race 2, 3:30 p.m.