As the WSBK championship arrives in Germany
With three rounds and thus six individual points scoring races left to run in the SBK championship, an overall season strategy can be put aside by the top contenders.
For long-time championship leader James Toseland (Hannspree
Ten Kate Honda) all he needs to do is keep racking up points and podiums to maintain or increase his impressive 66-point championship lead.
For the rest of the top five (the only riders still in with even an arithmetical chance of the championship win itself) have to make up Toseland's advantage, without worrying about the progress of any other rider. This simplification of the rules of engagement should heighten, not reduce the ferocity of the front running competition, which recommences after a month's lay-off since round ten at Brands Hatch. At that event Toseland scored a double win, his first in World Superbike, but his rivals will be hoping that a change to the flat, featureless and generally tight EuroSpeedway Lausitz circuit will allow them to get back into closer company with Honda's top rider.
Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia), Max Biaggi (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra), Troy Bayliss (Ducati Xerox) and Troy Corser (Yamaha Motor Italia) comprise the chasing section of the top five quartet, and testimony to how accessible World Superbike has become since the advent of single make control tyres comes from that fact that there are four different makes of machine in the top four places - Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Ducati.
Of the top four chasing riders, Corser, some 128 points behind Toseland, has only a marginal chance of overhauling the Englishman, but almost as worryingly for the rest, no rider with the kind of lead Toseland has at this stage has ever surrendered it in the previous 19 years of World Superbike competition.
In terms of how fast any single rider can circulate the 4.265km EuroSpeedway Lausitz circuit, Troy Bayliss is the current best lap holder (1'37.623), fastest in Superpole (1'37.923) and official lap record holder, (1'38.635). Despite all these performances coming in his second championship-winning year for Ducati in 2006, Bayliss scored his three Lausitz race wins some time ago, in 2001 and 2002. In terms of recent race wins, three manufacturers have won at EuroSpeedway Lausitz, Honda (twice), Ducati and Suzuki (one apiece).
Significantly, Toseland is the most recent winner of a Lausitz race, but aside from the aforementioned Bayliss, two other current SBK riders have been victorious at this track. Last year Yukio Kagayama (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra) scored the first race win, and in 2005, Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati Xerox) secured his first-ever SBK race win. Each of these riders has scored podium finishes this year, but it is Kagayama who has the best recent form in the 2007 season.
Sunday's 24-lap races will prove if history will been repeated or not, but it may be significant that no Yamaha rider has ever won at EuroSpeedway Lausitz, and despite a test here earlier in the year, Max Biaggi has never raced at the German circuit before.
Ruben Xaus (Sterilgarda Ducati) enters the EuroSpeedway Lausitz race with a slim two-point lead over the officially entered 999F07 machine of Lorenzo Lanzi. Xaus is the only rider outside the top four to have won a race this year, with the current win total reading Toseland 8, Bayliss 5, Haga 3, Biaggi 2, and Xaus 1 (at Valencia in April).
Talented Italian rider Roby Rolfo (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) will be out for his first podium of the year at Lausitz, Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Germany) is ninth overall going into his only home race of the year, and the pre-Lausitz top ten is completed by the aforementioned Kagayama.
Behind the top ten the roll of talented riders continues unabated, with privateer Michel Fabrizio (DFX Corse) having scored a podium again this year, in 11th. Former championship challenger Regis Laconi (PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse) is now leading his Kawasaki team-mate Fonsi Nieto, Jakub Smrz (Caracchi Ducati) is 14th and 15th placed rider, Shinichi Nakatomi (Yamaha YZF Team) is ready to score more points.
A couple of old faces re-appear on new bikes for Lausitz, as Karl Muggeridge is joined in the Alto Evolution squad by former WSS race winner Yoann Tiberio, and a man rapidly earning he title ‘Super-sub' - Steve Martin - replaces the still-injured Alessandro Polita in the Celani Suzuki team. Luca Morelli (DFX Honda Corse) and Dean Ellison (Pedercini Ducati) complete the regular roll call of riders, with Martin Bauer (Holzhauer Racing Promotion) and Jiri Drazdak (Yamaha Junior Pro SBK Team) providing some one-off wildcard spice.
WSS - KENAN BACK ‘HOME' WITH TITLE IN THE BAG
After Brands Hatch Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) was crowned 2007 World Supersport champion, and it is fitting that his adopted country of Germany is the venue for the first stop of his whistle-stop championship celebration. Sofuoglu moved to Germany from his native Turkey to further his career, and he can be sure of many supportive fans in the Lausitz grandstands - and they can be sure that Sofuoglu will be keen to take more wins to underline a stellar year.
The battle for second in the championship is still on, with Fabien Foret (GIL Kawasaki) attempting to keep his 39-point lead over Katsuaki Fujiwara (Althea Honda, Lausitz race winner in 2002) while simultaneously resisting challenges from the ever-competitive Robbin Harms (Stiggy Motorsports Honda) and Brands Hatch race winner, Broc Parkes (Yamaha World Supersport Team).
Other riders to look out for include Joshua Brookes (Stiggy Motorsports Honda), Massimo Roccoli (Yamaha Lorenzini by Leoni), Barry Veneman (Pioneer Hoegee Suzuki) and Craig Jones (Revè Ekerold Honda) - and maybe 2005 and 2006 champion Sebastien Charpentier (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) who went pole at Brands Hatch, only to be excluded from the final results. Previous Lausitz form? Sofuoglu was the race winner in 2006.
SBK Press Office