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Jul 31, 2012

Silverstone World Superbike: More Previews

Kawasaki's Tom Sykes (66) and Loris Baz (76) on the racetrack earlier this season.
World Superbike riders aiming for Silverstone gold

Rome (Italy), 31st July 2012 The eni FIM Superbike World Championship returns to the United Kingdom for its second of two appearances this coming weekend, this time right in the middle of Olympic fever, at the legendary Silverstone circuit, approximately 100 kilometres north of London, where the Games are based.

The 25th edition of the production-based championship is turning out to be one of the most competitive of all time: after nine of 14 rounds five riders from five different manufacturers are separated by just 84.5 points (with 250 still up for grabs) and all of them have their minds set on the title. Once again World Superbike is living up to its reputation of being edge-of-seat, down-to-the-wire, unpredictable stuff and more of the same is expected this weekend in the UK.

The previous round at Brno bunched up the leading group even further as Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) cut the gap to leader Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing Team) to just 21 points. The Italian five-time world champion also lost points to Tom Sykes, Kawasaki Racing Team's charger (now just 59 points down) and to Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati), the reigning champion who is 67 points behind Biaggi. The group of pretenders for the title is completed by Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team), 84.5 points off the top slot.

Silverstone will be the venue for a World Superbike round for the ninth time. The track, flat and flowing, appears to be tailor-made for Ducati, which has won here 11 times in 15 races. In last year's edition Checa powered to a dominant double win: half-way through this season he appeared to be out of the title battle, but by repeating the same result this weekend the Spaniard has every chance of becoming a key player in the title run-in.

Checa's hopes of a resurgence are helped by the fact that none of the three riders ahead of him in the standings have a particularly good record at Silverstone. Max Biaggi has never taken a podium at this track and his best result is a fourth place. The Aprilia RSV4 machine has suffered on bumpy tracks like Silverstone in the past and it was also for this reason that a few days ago Aprilia Racing carried out a test at Mugello in preparation for this important round.

With his double triumph at Brno Marco Melandri has now notched up five wins this year with BMW, more than any other rider. He made his Superbike debut in 2011 with Yamaha, twice finishing third, while since its debut in 2009 the German four-cylinder bike has never finished in the top 3 but things have now changed radically: in 2012 the S 1000 RR has been on the podium in every round except Assen.

Neither can Tom Sykes boast particularly brilliant results at the British circuit, and it was just one year ago that he had to abandon the race weekend following a big crash in qualifying. The Kawasaki ZX-10R's best result here is a seventh place, with Joan Lascorz, but in recent races the Japanese machine has made sensational progress.

Jonathan Rea, the 25-year-old leader of the Honda World Superbike Team, has not won a race since Donington in May this year but he comes to Silverstone in the wake of a fantastic win in the Suzuka 8 Hours as part of the FCC TSR team, one of Honda's top squads in this endurance racing classic.

Round 10 will also be a fundamental race for FIXI Crescent Suzuki which is yet to obtain results living up to the team's and the riders' expectations. American John Hopkins has been sidelined by a series of injuries and crashes, but he returns to the track where one year ago he set pole position as a wild-card and then finished the two races in fifth and seventh. Silverstone is also a 'friendly' circuit for Leon Camier who scored a podium place here in 2010 with the Aprilia Racing Team.

The Manufacturers' title battle is now wide open, after BMW moved into the lead for the first time ever at Brno by two points over Aprilia but Ducati (15.5 points behind) are still in with a big chance. Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki on the other hand are some way behind.

The forecast for the weekend looks like cool weather and showers, conditions that could bring out the best in Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing Ducati), the 22-year-old rookie who has already stepped onto the podium twice this year. Niccolò Canepa will also be back on his regular Red Devils Ducati machine after missing out on Brno, while in the Pata Racing Ducati team, Lorenzo Zanetti is joined by new signing Sylvain Guintoli, winner at Assen when he was in Ducati Liberty Team Effenbert.

Points (after 9 of 14 rounds): 1. Biaggi 271.5; 2. Melandri 250.5; 3. Sykes 212.5; 4. Checa 204.5; 5. Rea 187; 6. Haslam 160; 7. Laverty 148; 8. Guintoli 110; etc. Manufacturers: 1. BMW 292; 2. Aprilia 290; 3. Ducati 276.5; 4. Kawasaki 218.5; 5. Honda 193; 6. Suzuki 72.5.

World Supersport

Uncertainty also reigns in the battle for the World Supersport crown. After eight rounds of 13 Turkish rider Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Lorenzini) is tenaciously holding on to his leadership despite injuries and penalties that have slowed his progress down in the last few rounds. The two-time winner has a 23-point lead over British rider Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda) whose copybook has been blotted with two no-scores at Assen and Misano. His home track will give Lowes a good opportunity to close the gap. Two Frenchmen with the same aim are Fabien Foret (Kawasaki Intermoto Step), galvanized by his win at Brno, and Jules Cluzel (PTR Honda) while Broc Parkes (Ten Kate Racing Products Honda) is not far off the top either but with five rounds to go these three must now pull out all the stops to remain in touch with the leaders. Newcomers on the Supersport scene at this round will include Britain's Dan Linfoot in the newly-formed Kawasaki MSD R-N India team and Moto2 rider Kenny Noyes from the USA on a WK Hampshire Racing Suzuki.

Points (after 8 of 13 rounds): 1. Sofuoglu 137; 2. Lowes 114; 3. Foret 108; 4. Cluzel 95; 5. Parkes 82; 6. Morais 62; 7. Baldolini 54; 8. Quarmby 54; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Kawasaki 176; 2. Honda 172; 3. Triumph 83; 4. Yamaha 66; 5. Suzuki 6.

Superstock 1000

The FIM Superstock 1000 Cup arrives at its seventh round of 10 with Eddi La Marra (Barni Racing Team Italia Ducati) at the top of the table with a 19-point lead over Sylvain Barrier of the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet team. The 23-year-old Italian made the break with a second place in the wet at Brno, capitalizing on the French rider's second successive crash. But after recent results the leading duo now have to keep an eye on Australian Bryan Staring, winner of the last two races. The 25-year-old Kawasaki Pedercini rider from Perth is riding brilliantly and is just 24 points off the top slot. Further down the field and more or less out of contention are Lorenzo Savadori (Barni Racing Team Italia Ducati) and Jeremy Guarnoni (MRS Kawasaki), who however is rapidly becoming a frontrunner at this level.

Points (after 6 of 10 rounds): 1. La Marra 94; 2. Barrier 75; 3. Staring 70; 4. Savadori 67; 5. Guarnoni 62; 6. Baroni 56; 7. Reiterberger 55; 8. Bergman 49; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Kawasaki 110; 2. Ducati 107; 3. BMW 103; 4. Honda 46; 5. Aprilia 16.

Superstock 600

The battle between the Netherlands and Italy continues unabated in the European Superstock 600 Championship. After six rounds of 10 in the under-22 category, the 19-year-old Dutchman Michael van der Mark (EAB Ten Kate Junior Team Honda) heads the field, but by just two points over his fellow 19-year-old competitor Riccardo Russo (Team Italia FMI Yamaha). With three wins apiece, two of the most interesting young talents in Europe have made the championship their own this year and they now have a virtually unassailable lead over Belgium's Gauthier Duwelz (MTM Racing Yamaha), who is however rapidly emerging in his own way with four podiums in the six races. Last weekend Russo was unable to clinch the Italian CIV title at Misano, as both wins went to Franco Morbidelli (Bike Service R.T. Yamaha) who will be racing as a wild-card at Silverstone.

Points (after 6 of 10 rounds): 1. Vd Mark 124; 2. Russo 122; 3. Duwelz 78; 4. Calero Perez 50; 5. Vitali 46; 6. Gamarino 41; 7. Nestorovic 37; 8. Cocco 35; etc.

KTM European Junior Cup

The last race on the Silverstone weekend programme will be the sixth round (of 8) of the KTM European Junior Cup, the one-make trophy series reserved for talented under-19 youngsters. In the previous round at Brno Austria's Lukas Wimmer powered back to the top of the table and now has an eight-point lead over Javier Orellana. The Spanish rider, who turned 15 last Friday, has already had some experience in the KTM Red Bull 125GP series but is also performing well on the Duke 690 machines directly supplied by the Mattighofen factory.

Points (after 5 of 8 rounds): 1. Wimmer 70; 2. Orellana 62; 3. Vidal 48; 4. Demoulin 48; 5. Garcia 45; 6. Wielebski 36; 7. Pasek 35; 8. Odegard 29; etc.

More, from a press release issued by Kawasaki Racing Team:

Home Race For Sykes And High Hopes For Both KRT Riders

WSBK, Silverstone, Great Britain

Englishman Tom Sykes and Frenchman Loris Baz will be out to get on the podium again this weekend, as they each did last time out, with Silverstone providing the second home race of 2012 for Sykes.

Home Race For Sykes And High Hopes For Both KRT Riders

Tom's season on the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R has now included one race win, eight podiums, seven Superpole qualifying victories and three fastest laps. Most significantly of all, his two most recent second place finishes at Brno pushed him back into the top three in the championship, 38 points behind second place rider Marco Melandri and eight points ahead of fourth place rider Carlos Checa.

Tom has occupied a top three place in the championship rankings for virtually the whole season, only dropping out of this ranking after being taken out at Motorland Aragon.

For Sykes racing at his home round will bring extra pressures as well as extra pleasures but the combination of man, machine and team has shown its resilience on many occasions.

Loris Baz scored a personal career high point last time out at Brno, securing a podium finish in third, in only his ninth individual SBK race. The nineteen-year old rider is getting more and more comfortable on his official Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R with every outing and was even moved to say that he felt he had been riding the bike for over a year when he got on the podium at Brno.

The fact that a young talent like Loris, only nineteen and in his rookie SBK season, was able to finish on the podium at such an early stage of his career clearly demonstrates how much progress is being made in race development of the overall Ninja ZX-10R package.

Kawasaki Team Pedercini Superbike riders David Salom and Leandro Mercado will be out to their points tally at a circuit which is fast in places and slow in others. Salom made great strides forward in regulation qualifying at Brno, a factor that fills the team with some more optimism for strong raceday results in England.

Superstock 1000 FIM Cup rider Bryan Staring (Kawasaki Team Pedercini) has now won back-to-back victories and in doing so has moved up to third place in the points ranking overall. MRS Kawasaki rider Jeremy Guarnoni has posted two podium finishes in the most recent races, building his confidence to carry on his upwardly mobile season. He is currently fifth.

Tom Sykes: "I am looking forward to getting to Silverstone to ride in front of a home crowd. If the weather is anything like as nice it has been in the last week then all the better. Going there, especially off the back of a strong weekend in Brno, is a little bit more exciting. I am looking forward to it even more. We made another step in the set-up of the Ninja ZX-10R last time out and that was witnessed by a lot of people. When the bike is working at its absolute best they can see how much better a job I can do. I am confident that when we nail the set-up each time I will be able to back up my strong qualifying performances. Our good results are due to a lot of hard work from Kawasaki, the team, and all our technical suppliers. I am glad we had two good races in Brno and grateful for the way things turned out, but to get two really good results in front of a home round means I will be even more satisfied. Sometimes at home rounds I find myself short of time because I know so many people, and we get to do more signing sessions, etc, so there are a few elements of preparation you have to keep focused on at your home races."

Loris Baz: "I know Silverstone from when I raced in Superstock and from BSB and I like the track; it is really good. It is also difficult because it has fast sections, slow sections, changes of direction and lots of changes in speed. I am looking forward to it especially after the good weekend we had in Brno, so we need to confirm this now. I look forward to going to England again because I speak English almost every day now and we communicate inside the team to work in English because everyone understands it."

More, from a press release issued by Honda Racing:

Rea and Aoyama re-focus on Silverstone

Jonathan Rea and Hiroshi Aoyama are setting their sights on Silverstone in the United Kingdom as they return to round 10 of the 2012 World Superbike championship this weekend (3-5 August).

Both Honda World Superbike Team riders were in action for rival Honda teams at the prestigious Suzuka 8-hours race in Japan last Sunday, but experienced contrasting emotions.

While Rea emerged victorious with his FCC TSR Honda team, becoming the first British rider to win the Suzuka 8-hours, Aoyama saw his MuSASHi Honda team-mate and former Honda SBK rider, Ryuichi Kiyonari, crash out of the race while battling for the lead with Rea's team-mate Kosuke Akiyoshi.

Swapping endurance-specification CBR1000RR Fireblades for their more familiar World Superbike versions this weekend, both Rea and Aoyama will be seeking success at the 5.902km Silverstone circuit near Northampton to make up for a disappointing outing in the last SBK round at Brno in the Czech Republic.

Rea missed the Silverstone round last year through injury, but took two strong second place finishes in 2010. Meanwhile, Aoyama took a top-ten placing in MotoGP in 2011.

Jonathan Rea

The Suzuka race was unbelievable there was so much happening but we managed to stay consistent and bring it home. I'm a little tired and my body is adjusting after we got back to the UK on Monday evening but I'm looking forward to the week ahead. We had a very disappointing weekend at Brno last time out but I'm quite optimistic about Silverstone. I really enjoy the layout of the circuit and, although I missed last year, the bike worked pretty well there for me in 2010. I hope we can develop our new electronics package a little more this weekend and get some better throttle control. It'll be good to come back for a second home race this season it's always great to meet the British fans and ride in front of them.

Hiroshi Aoyama

I am quite tired after Suzuka and travelling back to Europe again, but I have a few days to get over the jetlag before this weekend. Of course, the result in Japan was disappointing but I was happy to be challenging with my team at the front of the race. Now I must focus on Silverstone and try to find again the improved feeling I had with the bike on Saturday at Brno. Unfortunately, we could not make any more steps the following day because of a crash and a technical problem in the races. I will work hard with my team at Silverstone on Friday and try to improve our qualifying position for better races on Sunday.

Ronald ten Kate team manager

We've got some new parts to try for this weekend at Silverstone, but after a difficult weekend at Brno, we first need to go back a step, closer to the base setting that we know has worked at other circuits this season. Both riders are currently recovering from their efforts at Suzuka, but they will return with some confidence I'm sure Jonathan with a good feeling from his victory, but also Hiro because he was dicing for the lead as well. We know how well the CBR can work at Silverstone and it's always a thrill to race in front of the enthusiastic British crowd, so we're all looking forward to the weekend.

2012 World Superbike championship, round 10

Silverstone, United Kingdom weekend schedule (local times)

Friday 3 August

11.45-12.30 Free practice

15.30-16.15 Qualifying 1

Saturday 4 August

09.45-10.30 Qualifying 2

12.30-13.15 Free practice

15.00-15.14 Superpole 1

15.21-15.33 Superpole 2

15.40-15.50 Superpole 3

Sunday 5 August

09.20-09.35 Warm-up

12.00 Race 1 (18 laps 106.236km)

15.30 Race 2 (18 laps 106.236km)

More, from a press release issued by Bogdanka Racing:

Second home race for Lowes

BOGDANKA PTR HONDA's Sam Lowes is a close second overall and aims high for his second home World Supersport race of the season at Silverstone this weekend, having taken his first series victory last time out on home ground at Donington Park in April.

Mathew Scholtz on the other Bogdanka PTR Honda will be looking to get over the bad luck from the recent races to grab a point scoring result he deserves. After the home race for Bogdanka at Brno, Silverstone will be a home round for PTR with the entire crew in top form and ready for the lights to go off at 13:30 local time on Sunday.

Alexander Lundh will be stepping in for the injured Pawel Szkopek onboard the Bogdanka Honda PTR machine, with the Swedish rider making his return to World Supersport on a familiar ground, having raced at Silverstone only last month.

Sam Lowes: "I'm feeling mega and really looking forward to Silverstone. I'm in good spirits and feel fit. I love Silverstone and I'm happy we go there at this time of the season trying to get back in winning ways and pushing hard for the championship. It's my home race and a track that I like so I think it will be a really good weekend for us. Silverstone is fast and flowing which suits my style and I know that PTR is working hard to give me a good bike. A home race means more pressure but I like that and we've shown at Donington that we can get the job done so I want to go to Silverstone and do the same thing."

Mathew Scholtz: "I haven't been to Silverstone before but I've seen a lot of videos and played a lot of Playstation and the track looks really good so I can't wait to try it in front of the British fans. I like fast and flowing circuits and Silverstone looks like fun. I was on course to score points at Brno before a small technical problem so hopefully I can get a point scoring result this weekend and keep moving forward. Things haven't gone as planned in the last couple of races but I know that both myself and the team can do well. I know that I have a good pace. I just need a bit of luck and I can finally show what I can do."

Alexander Lundh: "I'm very happy to be racing at Silverstone again and joining the Bogdanka Honda PTR team for this weekend. It's a very good squad so I'm really looking forward to it. It won't be easy, as I need to re-learn riding the Supersport bike with electronics and Pirelli tyres, but I raced in World Supersport last year so I'm confident we can have a good weekend and after a session or two, I'll learn my way around. The competition is hard in this class but I'm hoping for a dry weekend and a good result at Silverstone which is a track I really like."

Simon Buckmaster, Bogdanka PTR Honda Team Manager: "Sam is riding very well and likes Silverstone, so we will be expecting him to be racing at the sharp end as he maintains his title challenge in front of his home crowd. Mathew has a lot of talent and ability and this is another chance for him to show that as he continues his first learning year in World Supersport."

More, from a press release issued by Team Suzuki News Service:

FIXI Crescent Suzuki is in the UK this week to compete in round 10 of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship at the team's home race at Silverstone in England.

Englishman Leon Camier and Anglo-American John Hopkins are both eager to get back on-track and are looking forward to the team's home race on a track the pair know well and enjoy. Last year Hopkins was a 'wild card' entry for the race with the Crescent Suzuki BSB squad and made the most of it by winning Superpole, much to the surprise of the WSBK regulars. Camier also started from the front row of the grid in 2011, albeit with a different manufacturer, and he and his current team-mate will be aiming to repeat those feats this year.

Silverstone was built on the site of a former RAF airfield after the Second World War and the first car race was held there in 1948. World Superbikes first visited Silverstone in 2002 and this year will be the ninth time the Northamptonshire track has hosted a round of the championship. The 5,902m circuit is generally very flat and features a mixture of fast, slow and technical corners and some long straights, with a few bumps thrown into the equation.

Camier, Hopkins and the rest of the WSB field will first take to the track on Friday morning for the initial practice session, before competing in the opening qualifying practice in the afternoon. Saturday morning will see the second qualifying session to confirm the 16 riders that will progress towards the afternoon Superpole session, which will see them then compete for the best grid positions. Sunday's two races will be held over 18-laps, with the first scheduled for 12.00hrs local time (13.00hrs CEST) and the final race set to get underway at 15.30hrs local time (16.30hrs CEST)

Leon Camier:

"It's always fun to race at home and I'll be doing my best to get good results with my FIXI Crescent Suzuki GSX-R. I qualified on the front row of the grid last year and I will be aiming to do the same again this year, though first I have to have a good Superpole! The bike has definitely improved recently and I'm hoping that it will suit Silverstone and we can all have a good weekend. It would be good to get good results at Silverstone and say thank you to all our fans at home."

John Hopkins:

"To repeat last year's pole position is not going to be easy, but there's no reason why it cannot be done - as long as I have a good Superpole. The competition is very tough, but as long as I get on the front two rows of the grid, I'll be happy - though another pole would be great! I like the track and hope Silverstone will be where I turn around my season and start posting good results again."

Jack Valentine - Team Manager:

"I don't feel any more pressure at Silverstone than any other circuit, but obviously we all want to do well at our home race and make all our fans and sponsors happy. The team has been working its socks off and the recent improvements in the FIXI Crescent Suzuki have made the bike better for Leon and John to ride. Qualifying and doing well in Superpole is our priority and if we can do that, I'm sure good results will follow."
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