Sep 21, 2011
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World Superbike heads to Imola with title there for the taking
Imola (Italy), Wednesday 21 September 2011 Excitement is growing over the 11th round of the 2011 FIM Superbike World Championship, which comes to Imola's Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit, one of the most spectacular in the history of motor sport. A new track resurfacing should help to mix up the cards but in any case Imola, with its legendary title battles of the past still fresh in the memory, still remains a fascinating and atmospheric venue for all fans.
Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) will emerge from the pit garages for the first time on Friday strong in the knowledge than he is the firm favourite for the title. Eleven wins this year (together with a double win here in 2010 on the same bike, on the day of Max Biaggi's 2010 triumph), have left the Spaniard with a 74 point lead over Marco Melandri, and he will clearly be aiming to seal the deal this weekend at a circuit congenial to both him and his machine before heading to the final two rounds (Magny-Cours and Portimao) which could favour the four-cylinder bikes. Checa needs just 26 points to clinch his first-ever world title this weekend, so in any case race 2 could be the decider.
Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team) will clearly be doing everything in his power to keep the title chase open, but the man from Ravenna last raced here in 1999 when he won on a 125 GP machine. Melandri's experience and Superbike rookie enthusiasm will compensate for lack of knowledge of the circuit and after the recent testing at Misano, where Melandri was in terrific form for the entire two days, the Yamaha man could certainly be a contender for the wins.
A wave of uncertainty surrounds the presence of Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team), who will have his protective brace removed on Wednesday following his Nurburgring incident. Even though he has all but given up on any title hopes, the reigning champion desperately wants to race at the Italian round and the final decision will remain with the doctors.
Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare) has a special relation with the Imola circuit, where he won race 2 two years ago and in Superstock 1000 back in 2003, so expect to see the man from Rome produce some good form on the Belgian team's GSX-R1000 machine.
Following the latest FIM deliberations, the Imola round should also see the debut of 'ride-by-wire' throttle control on the Castrol Honda CBR1000RR of Jonathan Rea, the Irishman now finding the Fireblade much more to his liking in Misano testing. This should help increase the winning potential of Rea, who in the past has failed to gel with the track, and together with his recent resigning for the team in 2012 should do wonders to boost his morale.
The same can be said for Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsports) who despite scoring points in five of the six races in which he has taken part at Imola, has never finished higher than fifth, a position he obtained last year, when he battled Biaggi for the title. And still in BMW, this time in the Motorrad Italia SBK camp Ayrton Badovini, who won the Superstock 1000 race here in 2009, will be looking to continue his good form. His team-mate for the final rounds of the season will be Spain's Xavi Fores, who makes his Superbike debut.
Three Italian wild-cards will make up the entry-list: Federico Sandi (Althea Racing Ducati), Matteo Baiocco and Alessandro Polita (Barni Racing Team Ducati).
Points (after 10 of 13 rounds): 1. Checa 376; 2. Melandri 302; 3. Biaggi 281; 4. Laverty 232; 5. Haslam 176; 6. Camier 154; 7: Fabrizio 141; 8. Guintoli 139; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 400; 2. Yamaha 351; 3. Aprilia 336; 4. BMW 214; 5. Kawasaki 171; 6. Suzuki 158; 7. Honda. 132.