|With just one round remaining before the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship plunges into their summer break, there’s all to play for as Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli hosts round nine, and there are plenty of riders to keep an eye on. With 2018 providing fans with six different winners, eight podium finishers and enough drama to last a full season, riders aren’t on their holiday’s yet and action is about to begin.
As always, all eyes will be on Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), as the three time world champion heads to the destination of his debut WorldSBK victory. Taking the win back in 2009, he has gone on to stand on the top step three more times here on top of four more podium finishes. A strong circuit for the 31 year old, he will have one eye on his 75 point championship lead ahead of the nine week break. After a flawless performance around Laguna Seca last time out, his level of confidence will be strong into the ninth round of the season.
On the other side of the garage, Misano is also a strong circuit for Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) with six pole positions and four victories to his name. Mr Superpole’s record of pole positions around the 4.2km track is outstanding, as he has been unbeaten to the front of the grid since 2011. His record is already impressive without mentioning his wins here, which amount to four from 2014 right through to last season. Taking his second win of the 2017 here last season, the British rider will be hungry for more this weekend.
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was the hero of the weekend last year, as he secured Italy’s 100th WorldSBK victory in race two with a sensational performance in front of his home fans. Taking his first victory with the Ducati team – and his first around Misano – he will hope to replicate this once more this season after some tough rounds onboard the Paniagale R. With three more podium finishes to his name in Rimini, the Italian fans will no doubt be there to support him this weekend.
Yamaha’s leading rider Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) continues to hold onto his third position in the world championship standings, despite a tough weekend around Laguna Seca with two top eight finishes. Heading back to Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli – the scene of almost his debut victory last season – he will look at rectifying this ahead of the summer break. In 2017 the Dutchman led the way in the opening laps of race one, but tyre issues forced him to retire from the fight and the race. Salvaging a fourth in race two, the 25 year old now has two race wins under his belt in 2018, and with one win in STK600 here he will be chasing that top spot this weekend.
Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) was another rider to leave Misano disappointed last season, as the Spaniard was chasing his first victory in SBK® before suffering the same fate as van der Mark, and being forced to retire. Despite this, he was able to take a top four in the opening race and has a consistent record around Misano. Heading there this weekend with his new Italian team, he looks forward to putting in place the updates and changes made to his F4 bike.
Heading to Italy following a stunning podium finish in Laguna Seca last time out, Eugene Laverty and his Milwaukee Aprilia squad are prepared to repeat their performance around their manufacturers home circuit this weekend. Finally finding the rear grip they have spent the last season and a half searching for, Laverty was able to lead the way in the opening half of race two, and took a well earned podium. Misano has been a varied circuit for Laverty in the past and having never having finished on the podium here, it could be a big ask, but with the added bonus of confidence from America his performance will be one to watch.
Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) heads to Misano fresh off the back of his best weekend yet in WorldSBK, after two top ten finishes in front of his home crowds. A boost of confidence will be welcomed on the no.45’s side of the garage ahead of visiting a track he will be familiar with from his Red Bull Rookie’s days – securing a podium. Whilst Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) prepares to bounce back from a tough weekend in America, but is heading to a track which hasn’t been favourable to the Brit in the past. Can he break into that top six? The last time he finished in the top six here was back in 2011, but there’s no time like the present to change this.
Sitting in 11th position in the world championship standings, Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team) makes his return to Misano for the first time since 2014 with WorldSBK, and he will have some fond memories from the east coast circuit. Securing a double podium with Kawasaki in 2014, the French rider has a strong pace in Italy, which will go well when coupled with his improving pace on-board the S 1000 RR.
Don’t miss out on the final WorldSBK racing action before they head into the summer break! Bikes take to the track on Friday at 09.45LT (+2 GMT), before Saturday’s full schedule of Superpole at 10.30 and Race One at 13.00. Lights go out for the final time this July on Sunday at 13.00, and no rider will give in.