Race Teams Preview This Weekend’s WSB Race In South Africa

Race Teams Preview This Weekend’s WSB Race In South Africa

© 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.

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From press releases:

DUCATI CORSE PRESS INFORMATION
WORLD SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 3 – Kyalami (South Africa), 7 April 2002

PREVIEW

With two rounds down and eleven to go, the second of three consecutive fly-away races for World Superbikes takes place this weekend at the high-altitude Kyalami circuit on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa. A scintillating start to the season by the reigning world champion Troy Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada), with four wins and maximum points from Valencia and Phillip Island, has catapulted the Australian, who celebrated his 33rd birthday last week, into a commanding championship lead. However Bayliss knows that the championship is far from over and anything could happen in the remaining races, starting from this weekend’s round at Kyalami.

“The last two races in Spain and Australia have obviously gone very well and they were both circuits where we tested during the winter. We’ve also tested here as well and improved on last year’s performance, so I’ll be aiming to continue where I left off at the last round” declared Bayliss. “I love coming to Kyalami, it’s a great track and we always have a good time so I’m looking forward to racing here on Sunday. The whole package gets better every year, Ducati make improvements with the bike, the engine and the tyres and I’m sure we’re going to go a lot faster than we did last year if we get good weather.”


Ducati Infostrada team-mate Ruben Xaus’s season switched into top gear in Australia when he twice finished on the podium with third place in both races. The 23-year-old from Barcelona finished ninth and fifth in the two South African races during his first WSBK season, but now believes he has the ability and the results behind him to take on the front-runners.

“I just want to improve all the time and finish races in the top positions like in Australia because last year I made a lot of mistakes” declared Xaus. “To be on the podium would be OK for me here. The Phillip Island races have given me a lot of confidence but the season is long and I want to go well in these overseas rounds before we get to Europe where I know the circuits better. Kyalami is very difficult but it’s a really nice track, this one has something special and I hope to do well here.”


Ben Bostrom (Ducati L&M) holds all the records around Kyalami after his performance at this track last year when he finished fourth in race 1 and won the second. The 27-year-old Californian comes to Kyalami confident that the track will offer a more level playing-field and enable him to repeat his 2001 results.

“Kyalami is a great place to race and I sure hope that we can challenge for the lead on Sunday. It’s a bit frustrating to know that you want to race for the win, but are not in a position to do so, like it was in Australia” declared Ben.

“Things should go a lot better around here, I know the circuit well, having won here last year and the bike was perfect last time around at Phillip Island. I aim to get a good start to the weekend tomorrow and then we’ll get down to some real action on Sunday”.


THE KYALAMI CIRCUIT

Kyalami means ‘My Home’ in Zulu and has been the home of South African motorsport since it opened in December 1961. The complex has been remodelled a couple of times in its history and the latest version of the circuit dates back to 1991. The complex, located in the Midrand area of Johannesburg, which is the fastest growing industrial and commercial area in South Africa, is at 1700 metres above sea level, which results in an engine power-loss of around 10% due to the thinner atmosphere.



CIRCUIT RECORDS

Lap Record: Bostrom (Ducati) 1:42.928 (2001). Superpole: Bostrom (Ducati) 1:41.689 (2001). Qualifying: Bostrom (Ducati) 1:42.089 (2001).



EDWARDS CHASING SOUTH AFRICAN GLORY

Castrol Honda’s Colin Edwards is looking for two wins in Sunday’s third round of the World Superbike championship at the Kyalami circuit in South Africa as the American bids to close the points gap to current series leader Troy Bayliss.

Edwards arrives at the Johannesburg circuit in confident mood, having won at the hillside venue for the last two years. Improvements to his SP-2 machine and a three-day Michelin tyre test at Kyalami in January are expected to benefit the 28-year-old’s chances of adding to his 20 career wins.

Edwards has won three of the last four races at Kyalami and believes the South African round will launch his 2002 title challenge.

“I love the place and the circuit and feel really at home here,” says Edwards. “I’ve always had success here and won the first race of the year on
the new V-Twin Honda two years ago so this place has some good memories for me.

“After Kyalami I’m looking to the next four rounds knowing I can win at all of them. If I can get the sequence under way on Sunday I’ll go to Japan in two weeks on a roll.”


HONDA ACES CHASE SOUTH AFRICAN SUCCESS

Honda’s World Supersport duo of Karl Muggeridge and John McGuinness are chasing success in Sunday’s third round of the World Supersport championship at Kyalami in South Africa.

Muggeridge believes victory is achievable after the Australian rider moved through to fourth place in the last round in Australia before a retirement ended his chances of a podium finish.

“The team’s worked very hard since Australia, we’ve improved the motor a lot and I’m confident I can be there to win on Sunday,” says Muggeridge.
“Kyalami’s a good looking circuit and I can’t wait to get going.

“We know the Pirelli tyres will be good here but Kyalami’s about 6000 feet above sea level so every machine loses about 20 per cent power. But that’s the same for everyone so it won’t be a problem.”

McGuinness – like Muggeridge – is making his debut at Kyalami and the British rider is also returning to action after a shoulder injury ruled him out of the last round in Australia.

“I raced in the opening round in Spain and the pain from the shoulder was too much,” admits McGuinness. “The four-week break has done me good and I’m confident I won’t feel any more pain.”



ANDREW PITT OUT TO MAKE IT TWO IN A ROW AT KYALAMI

Fuchs Kawasaki’s Andrew Pitt arrives in South Africa for the third round of the 2002 World Supersport championship keen to continue the run of form that saw him take his first race win in the series at his home circuit of Phillip Island just two weeks ago.

A three day visit to the famous Sun City resort was designed to allow Pitt and the rest of the Fuchs Kawasaki team to acclimatise themselves to the South African heat, but the reigning World Supersport Champion ended up contracting a stomach bug, from which he’s only just started to recover. Despite not feeling 100% for tomorrow’s opening practice and qualifying sessions, Pitt is still hopeful of making it two wins in a row at Kyalami.

‘I’m looking forward to the weekend, for sure,’ commented Pitt. ‘I just wish I wasn’t suffering with the stomach problems I’ve had for the last few days. Apart from my guts, we’re in pretty good shape for the weekend ahead. We’ve already got workable settings from the test we did here last year and we know which tyres work well, so we should be able to concentrate on setting a good qualifying time from the off. If everything goes well for us, then there’s no reason why we shouldn’t top the podium again this weekend.’

Kyalami was the venue for James Ellison’s first full test aboard the Kawasaki ZX-6R and the reigning European Superstock Champion is looking forward to returning to the 4.263Km South African circuit, despite having had problems with suspension settings and tyre choice on his first visit.

‘I didn’t have much luck here in preseason testing, but it was my first proper test on the bike and, after two races, I know it a lot better now,’ said Ellison. ‘We’ve also taken delivery of some new front suspension components, a different rear shock and new tyres since that first test, so we should be able to find a good set-up during practice and qualifying. I’m looking forward to the race and I’m pretty confident I can improve upon my finishes so far this season.’

The altitude of the Kyalami circuit brings with it a significant reduction in power for both Superbike and Supersport machines; something that Hitoyasu Izutsu, the leading four-cylinder rider in the championship, is very aware of.

‘With its constantly changing gradients, Kyalami is a real power circuit,’ said Izutsu. ‘Unfortunately, because of the altitude, we’re down on a power when we need it most. But it’s the same for everyone, so nobody gains any real advantage from it. I guess I’ll just have to ride harder through the turns this weekend, to make up for the speed we lose down the straights.’

Chris Walker celebrated his 30th birthday with two top ten finishes at Phillip Island, and the ‘Stalker’ – as he’s known to his army of fans – is determined to continue that success at Kyalami this weekend; starting with qualifying.

‘I need to improve my qualifying position this weekend,’ said Walker. ‘Although I’m pretty good at getting the bike off the line, there are less people to box you in at the first corner if you get a good start from the front of the grid rather than the middle. My face is continuing to improve, but for some reason my eye is no better. With the heat here in South Africa I’m expecting to have the same problems with sweat running into it that I had in Australia. I’ve got a sweatband that I’ll be wearing under my helmet to try and combat the sweat, but I won’t know if it actually works until I actually get out on track for the first practice session.’


The now traditional annual SBK pilgrimage to the capital of African motorsports, Kyalami, hosts the third race weekend of the 2002 season.


And now a release from the series organizers, SBK:

Kyalami is indisputably one of the best tracks on the SBK calendar, and remains a true test of any motorcycle racer’s skill and commitment to the task of winning.

With a great propensity for providing close racing at the sharp end, yet with the curious habit of also delivering frequent double winners, Kyalami is always a backdrop for controversy and contention.

Last year the American duo of Edwards (Castrol Honda) and Ben Bostrom (L&M Ducati) were the conquerors of the 4.263km track, which features 11 left and six right hand corners, and a total spectator capacity of 86,000.

Colin Edwards would have possibly won both races in 2001, had he not had engine problems on his factory VTR1000, but the man who capitalised on Edwards’ misfortune, Ben Bostrom, was a deserving winner in any case, and holds the race lap record for the track, 1:42″928.

Thus far many riders have challenged for podium finishes in the four races that have comprised the 2002 SBK season, but there has been only one in possession of the complete package required to score wins – Troy Bayliss.

The reigning world champion and his speedy Ducati Infostrada machine have swept all before them so far, and have created history with their 100 points after four races.

Twice the Kyalami bridesmaid in his first full debut season in 2001, Bayliss looks likely to be in the running for yet another podium-topping consummation, as he attempts to extend his honeymoon period to more than four races.

Ruben Xaus, the impatient young charger in the factory twins’ pack, will also fancy himself to improve on his Phillip Island brace of third places, armed as he is with an identical machine to Bayliss.

The factory four cylinder riders have yet to take a podium this year, but the fact that Kyalami has seemed to favour neither Michelin or Dunlop, twin or four cylinder machines – or at least not to the extent of other circuits on the calendar – will give any of them an opportunity to take at least one podium finish.

The men and machines we are talking about are of course Gregorio Lavilla (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra) and the Kawasaki Racing Team pairing of Hitoyasu Izutsu and Chris Walker.

The privateer dark horse is NCR rider Pierfrancesco Chili, who took a fabulous double Kyalami win for the factory Ducati squad in 1998. Now on a year old works Ducati, Chili will try to rekindle his old flames of brilliance on his Dunlop-shod machine.

Another man with similar equipment, Neil Hodgson, was fastest in Kyalami winter testing in the run up to the 2001 season, but unlike the factory Honda and Ducati teamsters, Hodgson has not tested at Kyalami this year, which may prove to be a serious disadvantage.

In Supersport, the championship returns after a two-year leave of absence, with all the top runners out to prove something to themselves and others on their return Africa.

The only previous World Supersport race at Kyalami was won by Iain Macpherson, in 1999, during his debut Kawasaki factory season. Naturally enough, he is still the World Supersport lap record holder, with a 1’48″343.

Now riding for the Ten Kate Honda team, alongside Valencia race winner Fabien Foret, MacPherson may not be a favourite this time round, but there are no shortage of possible race winners. The Belgarda Yamaha pairing of Paolo Casoli and James Whitham plus Yamaha Motor Germany entries Jörg Teuchert and Christian Kellner lead the Yamaha chargers, while Stephane Chambon and Katsuaki Fujiwara ride the top Suzukis.

The reigning World Champion, Andrew Pitt will be hoping that Kyalami really is a Kawasaki track, but for Piergiorgio Bontempi (NCR Ducati) the Kyalami circuit would be a perfect venue if it proves to be a twins’ circuit. Second at Phillip Island, Bontempi was something of a surprise package, but this time around, his rivals will be ready for him.

Mark Willis plays the part of the stand-in Saveko Yamaha rider this time around, while a healthy entry of local wild cards will include Greg Dreyer, Arushden Moodley, Stewart Macleod, Trevor Crookes, Noel Haarhoff and Graeme van Breda.

The Superside Championship takes to the track for the second round of the three-wheeled world championship.

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