Sep 18, 2012
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World Superbike title battle now virtually down to three contenders
Rome (Italy), September 18, 2012 The 2012 eni FIM Superbike World Championship enters into a crucial phase this weekend as the title battle is virtually whittled down to three names on the eve of the penultimate round at the Autodromo Internacional Algarve circuit at Portimao. Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri, two of the most famous riders in world motorcycle racing, will be fighting it out on Sunday together with the revelation of the year, the 26-year-old Tom Sykes from the UK.
It will also be a terrific battle on the manufacturer front as well, with three makes still in with a shot of winning this classification. Two rounds are left, and that means four races and 100 points up for grabs. The venue for this weekend's race will be the Portimao track in the Algarve region of Portugal, with its spectacular ups and downs, with the grand finale coming in two weeks time at Magny-Cours, in France.
A second major upset in two rounds saw the pendulum swing back towards Max Biaggi. At the Nurburgring in Germany the 41-year-old Italian from the Aprilia Racing Team celebrated his fifth win in 2012 (and his 21st in WSB), gaining 28 points over his rival Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad Motorsport), who for the first time came away with no points in a double DNF. Biaggi now leads the table with a 9.5 point lead over Melandri but the two Italians are being pushed hard all the way by the increasingly menacing Tom Sykes, the Kawasaki Racing Team talent who is now just 26.5 points behind Biaggi and 12 behind Melandri. In case of equal points the final positions will be decided by the most number of wins in a season. Currently Melandri has six to his name, Biaggi five and Sykes two.
The title battle is now virtually a three-way affair, even though the reigning champion Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) 70.5 points behind and Northern Ireland's Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team) 92.5 points behind are still mathematically in with a chance. In the Manufacturers battle things are just as precarious: Aprilia moved back to the top again but BMW are just 7.5 points behind, followed by Ducati at minus 42.5 and Kawasaki at minus 62. Honda and Suzuki are no longer in the battle for the title.
Portimao will be the venue for World Superbike for the fifth time. The Algarve circuit was the decider in the 2009 edition, which saw a terrific duel between Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga, but the previous editions have seen equilibrium all the way: Biaggi did the double in 2010, on his way to the world title, while Melandri won here last year. The most successful manufacturer however in Portugal is Ducati with four wins, the last one in 2011 with Carlos Checa, while Aprilia and Yamaha have each won twice.
But Superbike as always offers numerous points of interest and one of the main ones is those riders who are no longer involved in the final standings but who can easily have a say in the outcome. Althea Racing's Carlos Checa has lost contact with the top 3, more through misfortune than anything else and so finishing off the season in the best possible way is priority for the Spanish rider. The same can be said for Jonathan Rea who in this period is racing on two different fronts as Honda HRC has also chosen him as stand-in for Casey Stoner in MotoGP.
One man on form at the moment is Chaz Davies, the 25-year-old British rider whose rookie year so far has culminated in an extraordinary win at Nurburgring: on the Aprilia RSV4 introduced in 2009 the only winner so far had been Biaggi. Next season the 2011 Supersport World Champion will be switching to BMW alongside Melandri.
In Germany the FIXI Crescent Suzuki team was the only one capable of preventing the podium from being an all-Aprilia lock-out as the final place went to a determined Leon Camier. After various problems in the early part of the season the GSX-R is now moving on up, and Camier will surely be a threat at a circuit that exalts his riding style.
The other rapidly-emerging rookies include Italy's Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing Ducati), the 22-year-old reigning Superstock 1000 champion who is consolidating his top 10 position with some encouraging performances. One missing rider will be the injured NiccolÃ² Canepa, replaced in the Red Devils Roma team by Matteo Baiocco, the two-time Italian CIV champion who raced as wild-card at Misano, finishing tenth. Another youngster to watch is Loris Baz, the 19-year-old Kawasaki Racing Team rider who already has one win at Silverstone and three podium finishes to his name.
Points (after 12 of 14 rounds): 1. Biaggi 318; 2. Melandri 308,5; 3. Sykes 291,5; 4. Checa 247,5; 5. Rea 225,5; 6. Laverty 213,5; 7. Haslam 189; 8. Davies 156,5; 9. Guintoli 143,5; 10. Giugliano 125; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Aprilia 384.5; 2. BMW 377; 3. Ducati 342; 4. Kawasaki 322.5; 5. Honda 240.5; 6. Suzuki 120.5.
Portimao will possibly produce at least one winner in Kenan Sofuoglu, who is well on his way to a third Supersport title. The Kawasaki Lorenzini man is unbeaten in the last two races and with four wins this year he has an advantage of 38 points over next man Jules Cluzel (PTR Honda), the only one left with a slim chance of winning. Should the Frenchman take the win, Sofuoglu would be champion with a fourth place, an unlikely result seeing as in the previous 11 races the 27-year-old Turk has scored worse on only three occasions.
Sofuoglu was crowned Supersport champion in 2007 and 2010, both times with Honda. Meanwhile with 21 wins in 67 races, Kenan is already the most successful Supersport rider of all time. An eventual win for Sofuoglu would also be just reward for the Vanni Lorenzini's Kawasaki team, which is based at Pegognaga, near Mantova, an area hit by a violent earthquake a few months ago. Despite numerous problems the work of the Italian team has gone ahead, with exceptional results.
The Portuguese Round will also see a return to the track of home favourite Miguel Praia who gets a wild-card ride for the Honda Ten Kate Racing Products team.
Points (after 11 of 13 rounds): 1. Sofuoglu 198; 2. Cluzel 160; 3. Foret 144; 4. Lowes 141; 5. Parkes 122; 6. Morais 84; 7. Baldolini 78; 8. Quarmby 77; 9. Iannuzzo 60; 10. Tamburini 50; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Kawasaki 237; 2. Honda 237; 3. Triumph 107; 4. Yamaha 97; 5. Suzuki 6.
The Nurburgring threw totally wide-open the race for the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup, the series reserved for under-26 year-old riders, which last year saw top SBK rookie Davide Giugliano crowned as champion. A crash for Eddi La Marra (Barni Racing Team Italia) complicated Ducati's plans and allowed Frenchman Sylvian Barrier to take his BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet machine to just six points from the top. With two rounds to go (and 50 points at stake) calculations are worth nothing as the only strategy for the two contenders is to beat each other. Mathematically, still in with a chance are Bryan Staring (Pedercini Kawasaki), 33 points behind La Marra, Jeremy Guarnoni (MRS Kawasaki) at minus 37, as well as Lorenzo Savadori (Barni Racing Team Italia Ducati) and Markus Reiterberger (Team Alpha Racing BMW), both 41 points behind the leader. In a championship that has produced numerous surprises in the previous eight rounds it is possible that nothing will be decided until the final curve of the final round at Magny-Cours.
Points (after 8 rounds of 10): 1. La Marra 119; 2. Barrier 113; 3. Staring 86; 4. Guarnoni 82; 5. Savadori 78; 6. Reiterberger 78; 7. Coghlan 68; 8. Bergman 68; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 152; 2. Kawasaki 143; 3. BMW 141; 4. Honda 62; 5. Aprilia 17.
The situation is even more uncertain in the European Superstock 600 Championship for under 22 year-olds with a fantastic head-to-head between Michael van der Mark (EAB Ten Kate Junior Team Honda) and Riccardo Russo (Team Italia FMI Yamaha) which has been raging since the start of the year. The Dutchman and the Italian, both 19 years of age, have already swapped places at the top numerous times, the last time at the Nurburgring where Van der Mark won, leaving him with a two-point lead over Russo as they go into Portimao. These two challengers have dominated the season, sharing out the wins equally in the eight rounds so far. Portimao is crucial, in particular for Van der Mark who in case of victory becomes clear favourite for the title and who would only have to keep Russo in his sights at Magny-Cours, whereas Russo would have to play his cards right at the season finale.
Points (after 8 of 10 rounds) 1. Vd Mark 169; 2. Russo 167; 3. Duwelz 78; 4. Vitali 59; 5. Nestorovic 58; 6. Schacht 55; 7. Calero Perez 54; 8. Morbidelli 52; etc.
SBK for Peace One Day
In the same weekend as the Portuguese Round, the SBK World Championship wishes to associate its name with the non-profit initiative Peace One Day, working towards a day of ceasefire and non-violence throughout the world on Peace Day, 21 September. This coming Peace Day - Friday 21 September 2012, Peace One Day are holding a major concert with Elton John at Wembley Arena. Some of the top World Superbike riders have given their support to the initiative by sending messages of solidarity which will be broadcast during the event. Peace One Day would like to thank Carlos Checa, Tom Sykes, Jonathan Rea, Eugene Laverty, Leon Haslam and Leon Camier for their support. For further information, please visit: