Following seven weeks of downtime since the opening round at Phillip Island in February, the 2013 World Superbike Championship resumes for round 2 of 15 at Motorland Aragon in Spain this weekend.The 3.32-mile circuit containing 17 corners (nine left; eight right) is the first European round on the 2013 World SBK schedule. The round, added to the calendar in 2011, has always been held during mid-season, but this changes for 2013.Heading into Aragon, Northern Ireland’s Eugene Laverty and his Aprilia Racing teammate Sylvain Guintoli share the points lead due to a 2-1 and 1-2 finishes at 2013 Phillip Island WSBK, respectively.Since Aragon hit the SBK calendar, Laverty has always finished between second and sixth. Last season he finished fifth in race one (his former teammate, the now-retired Max Biaggi won), and second in race two only 0.04 of a second behind BMW Motorrad’s Marco Melandri.As for Guintoli, who spent the last year on various Ducati 1198s, joined the Aprilia team for 2013, already adapting well to the power of the RSV41000 V4. But unlike Laverty, Guintoli hasn’t had much luck in Aragon, the Frenchman failing to ever finish in the top 10. Last season, he finished 12-13 at Aragon.The other Aprilia rider to look out for is Red Devil Roma Aprilia’s Michel Fabrizio, who finished 3-4 at Phillip Island. The Italian is currently third in the points, 23 behind his fellow Aprilia RSV4 riders who have 45 each.The quickest man at Aragon is without a doubt Melandri. The Italian, piloting the BMW Motorrad GoldBet S1000RR in 2013 World SBK, has won two races out of four, and finished second in the other two races. The only other rider to have such a record at Aragon was Biaggi, but with him retired Melandri will have one less rider to worry about.Melandri’s season didn’t start off too well. While recovering from a shoulder injury sustained during preseason practice, he was involved in a crash with Alstare Ducati’s Carlos Checa during race one at Phillip Island. This crash aggravated his shoulder injury, though recovery progressed during the seven weeks off. Battling through the pain in Australia, Melandri took fourth in race two, giving him fifth overall in the points race.As for Melandri’s teammate, the Welshman Chaz Davies, he scored his first-ever World SBK last year at Aragon (third, race two). At Phillip Island, he finished fourth in race one, but was involved in a crash in race two with Kawasaki Racing’s Loris Baz, who finished sixth in race one.Checa was also injured during the wreck with Melandri, suffering a concussion, but will participate in his home round this weekend. Checa has zero points due to a DNF in race one, and a DNS in race two. The 2011 WSBK Champion’s teammate Ayrton Badovini is questionable, the Italian still recuperating from a fractured bone in his left foot.Fourth in points is Kawasaki Racing Team’s Tom Sykes, who had a 5-5 finish at Phillip Island. But The ZX-10R rider, who took a record nine poles in 2012 World SBK and finished only a half-point behind Biaggi, just returned from a three-day test at Aragon with FIXI Crescent Suzuki and Pata Honda.During the test, Sykes put in the fastest laps of the test, and is almost back to full fitness. The Brit is recovering from injuries sustained during previous WSBK tests at Phillip Island, Sykes breaking hi slower left forearm and three ribs.As for the Suzuki GSX-R 1000 pilots, Leon Camier and Jules Cluzel had luck testing new engine specs at the Aragon testing April 2-4, giving much positive feedback. Also having much positive feedback was Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam, both of who tested new electronics aboard their CBR1000RR superbikes. Both Honda riders finished within the top 10 at Phillip Island.Practice begins at 11:45 a.m. local time Friday, April 12, followed by additional practice ahead of Superpole on Saturday, April 13. Race one at Aragon gets underway at noon local time Sunday, April 14, with race two at 3:30 p.m.Nineteen riders representing 12 teams will begin vying for points this weekend at Motorland Aragon. 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.2013 Aragon World Superbike on TVBeIN 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 6 a.m. EDT Sunday, April 14.2013 World Superbike Point Standings (after one of 15 rounds): 1. Laverty, 45 2. Guintoli, 45 3. Fabrizio, 29 4. Sykes, 22 5. Melandri, 16 6. Rea, 16 7. Haslam, 15 8. Jules Cluzel, 14 9. Leon Camier, 14 10. Chaz Davies, 13
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.