WSBK championship shaken up after Silverstone's soaking
Given its location close to Italy's Adriatic Riviera and the fact that it is usually held in the heat of a June weekend, Misano has been a favourite on the SBK trail, ever since it first appeared in 1991.
then SBK has only missed one appointment with summer racing Italian style, making this 17th running of the event something of a minor classic - especially in the year SBK racing celebrates its 20th year of life.
This happy relationship between championship and venue has been given a further boost this year, as Misano has now been resurfaced, slightly redesigned and - most radically of all - reversed in comparison to previous years. The slightly lengthened 4.180km layout has been tested out already by some of the championship's big names but until the full heat of June has soaked into the tarmac few believe that the true nature of the track in race trim will unveil itself.
James Toseland (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) is still the leading light in a furious battle for ultimate supremacy in the 2007 championship, but after a brave eighth place finish in the one and only Silverstone race, the championship battle has just got even more interesting than it was already.
Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia) is some 23 points behind Toseland (with no fewer than 12 points scoring races still to go, including Misano) while Max Biaggi (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra) is now 13 points behind Haga but only 12 ahead of Silverstone race winner Troy Bayliss (Ducati Xerox). Any one of those four riders is still more than capable of winning the series outright, with only 48 points between long-term leader Toseland and the relentless Bayliss.
Troy Corser (Yamaha Motor Italia) has already tested at Misano, like Haga and Bayliss, which should help his early charge towards cutting the gap back to the leading four. Bayliss is now some 38 points ahead of Corser, but Corser has almost that same level of advantage (35 points) back to overall sixth place rider, Lorenzo Lanzi.
Lanzi is going for podium number two of his 2007 season campaign, and like his closest rival Ruben Xaus (Sterilgarda Ducati) has enjoyed a test at the new-look Misano. Xaus is a previous Misano race winner, and has been a victor at the similarly tight and twisty circuit of Valencia this season.
Roby Rolfo (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) was cruelly robbed of at least one podium finish at an Italian round this year, but he hopes to eradicate the disappointment of missing out at Monza by posting another strong display in only his second year of SBK competition.
Max Neukirchner has an SBK podium finish to his name already, albeit way back in 2005, and of the current privateer bunch, he is the leading rider, in ninth place on a year-old Suzuki.
Regis Laconi (PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse) and Fonsi Nieto (PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse) have not had the happiest of seasons so far but an equal best season performance of fifth in the wet at Silverstone slotted Laconi back into the top ten again, for only the second time in 2007. Nieto is currently 13th, with only six points scores to his name so far. Injuries and a heavy testing schedule for the Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra team rider have put Yukio Kagayama down in 111th place thus far, and kept him off the podium at any race.
Roman rider Michel Fabrizio (DFX Corse Honda) may be on the opposite side of Italy from his native city, but for him Misano will be another motivational high point in what has been an up and down season. Sixth at Assen he fell in the wet at Silverstone, and thus sits 12th overall, ahead of Nieto and then another strong private rider, Jakub Smrz (Ducati SC Caracchi). Josh Brookes (Alto Evolution Honda) rounds out the current top 15, with his team-mate Karl Muggeridge 12 points behind after a season which has been plagued by injuries for Muggeridge and misfortunes for both riders.
SSP - SOFUOGLU SET TO GET BACK ON TRACK
The seemingly inexorable rise-and-rise of Turkish rider Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) was brought to a weather-inspired end at Silverstone, but having scored wins in five previous races his lead is still an impressive 45-points.
Second to him is his only real championship concern, Fabien Foret (GIL Kawasaki) some 45 points behind. Katsuaki Fujiwara (Althea Honda) has been trying hard to shed his bad luck from the 2006 season and despite some high profile incidents (mostly the work of other riders) the Japanese star is still third overall. Fourth in another rider with a DNF or two against his name, Robbin Harms (Stiggy Motorsports Honda) and the resurgent GSX-R campaigner, Barry Veneman (Pioneer Hoegee Suzuki) is fifth, showing the strength in depth of entries from various competing factories in 2007.
Gianluca Nannelli (Caracchi Ducati SC 749R) is down to ride at Misano, as is a long-time injury worry, Kevin Curtain (Yamaha World SSP Racing). WSS stars in their own right, Sebastien Charpentier (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Broc Parkes (Yamaha WSS Racing), will each be out for their first win of the 2007 season.
SBK Press Office