2013 World Superbike Championship
At Assen World Superbike two weeks ago, Aprilia Racing Team's Sylvain Guintoli nearly had a podium-perfect start to the season.
The Aprilia RSV4 pilot finished third in race one, bringing his podium-finish streak to seven. But he couldn't quite catch the top riders in race two, and finished sixth.
Regardless, with his 3-6 finish at Assen, combined with a 2-2 at Aragon and a 1-2 at Phillip Island, Guintoli has the championship lead with 111 points as the series heads to Monza this weekend for round four of 15.
But there's much competition arriving from three riders that are tied with 83 points in the WSBK Championship - Aprilia Racing's Eugene Laverty, BMW Motorrad GoldBet's Chaz Davies and Kawasaki Racing Team's Tom Sykes.
Guintoli has never won at Monza, though he won last year's Superpole under inclement conditions.
Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team RSV4 Superbike) says: "I am very excited about riding my RSV4 in Monza. We came here as ranking leaders, just as the championship is getting heated up. I like this track and it suits the Aprilia perfectly. Hopefully we can beat the all time Superbike top speed record and come back with 2 strong results."
Laverty, who won the Supersport races at Monza in 2010 and 2011, is coming off the race-2 victory at Assen, and is motivated to gain some points this weekend.
Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team RSV4 Superbike) says: "It was important to bounce back with a race victory in Assen. Honestly I didn't expect to win, which gives me a lot of confidence going into one of our strongest circuits on the calendar. Top speed is very important at Monza and the RSV4 has plenty of that. Let's hope the weather stays dry and that we can enjoy two great races on Sunday."
As for Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja rider Sykes, the Brit arrives in Italy with much confidence after accomplishing his 13th Superpole at Assen, and then taking the race-one win. Last season, Sykes achieved nine Superpole wins, which is a record in any World SBK Championship.
Sykes was also the only winner at Monza last year. He won race two, which was held under very slick conditions due to rain. Race one was red flagged on the third lap and ultimately canceled due to the downpours.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R Superbike) says: “I am obviously very motivated off the back of the Assen weekend. It was so enjoyable there because I went there thinking it was not going to be our strongest point in the season but I almost had the full set of two wins and Superpole.
"Our bike is working great and the changes made to the bike this year look like they are having the desired effect across the board. The wet session in Assen was nice because it ticked off a box that used to have a question mark in it. Moving to Monza now, I am looking forward to it because I won the only race there last year.
"It is a circuit I enjoy because of some good past results and it is nice to ride as well because it has a great history. The Ninja ZX-10R is a very well balanced package and we are going there to do a job now. The championship position is very unusual with three riders on the same points in second place, although I am not too concerned with the championship placings at this stage. I’m just looking forward to keeping up momentum and improving things again in a couple of areas.”
As for Sykes teammate, Loris Baz is riding competitively, and is currently sixth in the points race, trailing Jonathan Rea.
As Leon Haslam recovers from a broken leg sustained during a crash at FP1 in Assen, his Pata Honda World Superbike teammate Rea will be joined by Kousuke Akiyoshi. Haslam hopes to return at Donington later this month.
Rea, who is fifth in the points race, 48 behind Guintoli, already has experience competing with Akiyoshi, an official Honda test rider. The two raced at last year's Suzuka 8-Hours aboard the FCC TSR Honda CBR1000RR, and won the round of the Endurance World Championship.
The two were also at a recent private test in Assen, further tweaking the CBR1000RR for the rest of the World SBK season.
The Italian round will be the first of two for the two Italians currently competing in 2013 World Superbike - BMW Motorrad GoldBet's Marco Melandri and Red Devils Roma Aprilia's Michel Fabrizo.
Melandri will be looking to recover from his DNF and eighth-place finish at Assen. As for Fabrizio, he took his maiden World Superbike victory at Monza in 2009.
FIXI Crescent Suzuki's Jules Cluzel arrives in Monza with some great memories. Last season at Monza while in Supersport, Cluzel took his first win in the series. Cluzel's teammate Leon Camier continues to recover from a knee injury sustained at Aragon last month. Suzuki says Camier has now had the stitches removed from the injury and is working hard to regain full fitness and movement in the joint.
Suzuki says: "Camier is looking to the Monza event to regain his riding fitness following a brave comeback at Assen - just two weeks after having surgery on his knee. He showed true determination and courage to produce two good rides in The Netherlands and will now be aiming to take the next step towards full strength and kick-start his season."
The Ducati Alstare team of Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini are going to be looking for more optimal results. The two have struggled to keep up the pace with the rest of the grid. At Assen, for example, Checa could only manage two 10th-place results.
And the FIM just changed some regulations to maintain more balance between the Desmo Twin of the Ducati and the inline- and v-fours of the other machines (article 188.8.131.52.3. - April 28 after race 2 at Assen TT Circuit). At Monza, the 1199 Panigale R will feature a 52mm air restrictor.
Carlos Checa (Ducati Alstare 1199 Panigale R Superbike) says: "During the last couple of events, especially in the races themselves, I’ve been having some problems with my left shoulder but the evening after the second race in Assen the pain got a lot worse. I went to see a specialist once I got back to Spain after that round and unfortunately he’s told me that I have an osseous edema on the humerus. I will continue to receive treatment in Spain up until Thursday and I hope that that will help me to get through this coming weekend without any problems."
2013 Monza World Superbike on TV
beIN SPort will broadcast 2013 Monza World Superbike live, with coverage beginning at 6 a.m. EDT.
2013 World Superbike Championship Point Standings (after three of 15 rounds):
- Sylvain Guintoli, Aprilia: 111
- Eugene Laverty, Aprilia: 83
- Chaz Davies, BMW: 83
- Tom Sykes, Kawasaki: 83
- Jonathan Rea, Honda: 63
- Loris Baz, Kawasaki: 58
- Michel Fabrizio, Aprilia: 53
- Marco Melandri, BMW: 51
- Jules Cluzel, Suzuki: 41
- Davide Giugliano, Aprilia: 33
- Leon Camier, Suzuki: 30
- Carlos Checa, Ducati: 29
- Leon Haslam, Honda: 29
- Max Neukirchner, Ducati: 29
- Ayrton Badovini, Ducati: 20
- Ivan Clementi, BMW: 14
- Federico Sandi, Kawasaki: 8
- Alexander Lundh, Kawasaki: 7
- Glen Allerton, BMW: 6
- Jamie Stauffer, Honda: 4
- Vittorio Iannuzzo, BMW: 2
- Mark Aitchison, Ducati: 2