History to be made in the Eternal City once more
For the first time since World Superbike competition began back in 1988, Vallelunga - the 'home' track of series organisers FGSport - is set to host SBK weekend, with track action beginning on Friday 28th September and culminating
on Sunday 30th.
Work at the 4.110km circuit, located some 30km north of the Italian capital city of Rome, has been ongoing for months to get the paddock and facilities ready for the biggest event the track has ever held. The circuit will feature some unique challenges for both local riders and the massed nations of World Superbike competitors, and it includes ultra-slow and ultra-fast corners.
Despite most of the top teams and riders having tested at Vallelunga at some stage, this will be a new experience for many of them in real race conditions.
James Toseland (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) left the previous SBK round at Eurospeedway Lausitz with a reduced championship advantage of 41 points over the rider with number 41 on his machine, Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia). With local hero from Rome, Max Biaggi (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra), only another 12 points further from Toseland's total of 375, it is still game-on for the top three.
Even the perennial fighting qualities of twice World Champion Troy Bayliss (Ducati Xerox) may not be enough to allow him to make up the 79 points he finds himself behind the championship leader, and another double champion Troy Corser (Yamaha Motor Italia) may even fancy his chances of making up the 42 points he lags behind Bayliss.
The previous round at Eurospeedway Lausitz had a significant effect on the clash just behind the 'big five'. Tough weekends for both Ruben Xaus (Sterilgarda Ducati) and Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati Xerox) allowed Roby Rolfo (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) to push his way towards a possible top six. Xaus is currently on 177 points, Lanzi on 173 and Rolfo on 166, making Vallelunga another pivotal race for all three of them. In the fight for the top ten order, another fascinating battle will hold attention until the last race of the year, with Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Germany) and Yukio Kagayama (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra) currently completing the top ten, with 14 points between them.
Two other riders are determined to make themselves top ten men before the end of the year, however, as Regis Laconi (PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse) is a bare three points adrift of Kagayama's current total, and 2008 factory Ducati signing Michel Fabrizio (DFX Corse Honda) is only a point behind Laconi. Like Biaggi, Fabrizio is another local rider on a mission in front of his home support.
The middle order of the current points standings is packed out with proven riding talent, with two former 250GP forces to be reckoned with, Fonsi Nieto (PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse) and Jakub Smrz (Caracchi Ducati), respectively 13th and 14th in the standings. Some way back in points comes the first Alto Evolution Honda rider, Karl Muggeridge, who has had a more than eventful year. It continues to this moment, as he is tied on points with Shinichi Nakatomi (Yamaha YZF Team). Muggeridge's new team-mate Yoann Tiberio, will be back for his second taste of SBK action.
WSS - ALL TO PLAY FOR BEHIND SOFUOGLU'S LONG SHADOW
Currently leading the World Championship by 100-points Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) has already secured the championship in its own right, but behind him the battle for a top few championship places is still alive with fury and potential upset.
Fabien Foret (GIL Kawasaki) hopes that his 26 point lead over third place rider Broc Parkes (Yamaha World Supersport Team) will be enough to leave him on championship runner-up status, but as Parkes has won the last two races, Foret will have to display all his riding credentials to keep himself ahead of the aggressive Australian, whom he will join in the official Yamaha squad next season.
In fourth place comes Katsuaki Fujiwara (Althea Honda) with Massimo Roccoli (Yamaha Lorenzini by Leoni) only three points behind. With no previous formbook to refer to, local knowledge may play into the hands of the Italian-based riders, as Vallelunga is an integral part of their domestic series.
SBK Press Office