The double win by Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) in Round 6 of the HANNspree FIM Superbike World Championship two weeks ago at Miller Motorsports Park in the USA succeeded in shuffling the cards in the points standings somewhat as the series reaches
the mid-point of the season.
With Troy Bayliss (Ducati Xerox) failing to score in both races, the Spaniard has now cut the gap to the top man to just 28 points. What seemed a healthy points cushion for the Australian just a couple of races ago, is now not such a large gap after all, proving that anything can happen in the unpredictable world of Superbike racing.
The second new circuit in the space of two weeks is the Nurburgring, which has not hosted a round of the Superbike World Championship since 1999, when the German Round made its second and last visit after the first event in 1998. Four riders in the current world championship line-up have raced Superbike there before – Troy Corser, Noriyuki Haga, Ruben Xaus and Gregorio Lavilla – with the Australian powering to a race 2 win in 1999, while Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi have raced in 500 and 250 respectively and Max Neukirchner in the German championship. Almost one decade has passed since then and this weekend's Nurburgring race is sure to throw up a few surprises.
It was only a matter of time until Carlos Checa scored his maiden win after joining the series this year as a rookie, and he did it in style at Miller Motorsports Park, taking his first Superpole and two fastest laps as well to crown his perfect weekend. The Spaniard has truly got the bit between his teeth and is now on 166 points against Troy Bayliss's 194. His Australian rival has proved to be capable of some extraordinary feats over the years however and with five wins behind him already this year, will be trying his utmost to re-establish a safe margin over his pursuers.
The round at the Nurburgring is particularly interesting because it will mark the first appearance on German soil this year of the 25-year-old from Stollberg, Max Neukirchner. Since the start of the year Max's performances on the 2007-spec Suzuki GSX-R1000, updated to 2008, have been a revelation, culminating in the first win for a German rider in WSBK at Monza, followed by two second places and a fourth. Third on 144 points, Neukirchner will be anxious to please in front of what are surely to be his numerous home fans.
Fourth place in the championship belongs to Fonsi Nieti (Suzuki Alstare) on 126 points, just four ahead of Japan's Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB). Haga raced with a multiple fractured right collarbone in the USA, and had an operation to help heal the break on the Monday after the race, so even though he won't be at 100%, it won't stop him from attempting to score more top 6 finishes, like he did at Miller.
His Yamaha Motor Italia WSB team-mate, Troy Corser is one point behind on 121, and the Australian demonstrated a resurgence of form at the last round with the runner-up slot in race 1 before crashing out of the second race.
Ruben Xaus (Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati) surprisingly could only score 2 points at Miller, the Spaniard also suffering a crash and his seventh place is now coming under threat from Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox), who twice finished on the podium with two aggressive recoveries from lowly positions after starting from the front row.
Ninth-placed Max Biaggi (Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati) also showed what he is capable of with a fourth place finish in Miller race 2, the Italian now recovering fully from his Monza finger injury, while two Japanese riders, Ryuichi Kiyonari (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki Alstare) are ahead of the first true privateer in the series, Gregorio Lavilla (VentAxia VK Honda) in twelfth place.
Makoto Tamada and Régis Laconi, in a lowly 17th and 18th place respectively, are still finding the going difficult on their PSG-1 Corse Kawasaki machines, although the Frenchman was an easy row 2 qualifier in the USA before crashing out of race 1.
FIM Supersport World Championship
A one-month break since the last round at Monza for the Supersport World Championship has seen some of the protagonists put in some vital track time in a national series race in the UK, in particular Hannspree Ten Kate Honda's Andrew Pitt and Jonathan Rea, who are currently fourth and seventh in the table respectively, and the Anglo-Portuguese Parkalgar Racing Honda squad .
Points leader Joan Lascorz (Glaner Motocard.com Honda) is finding his advantage gradually being whittled away by Pitt, race winner twice this year, and also by ex-champion Fabien Foret (Yamaha World Supersport), who powered to the 25 points in the last round at Monza. Yamaha team-mate Broc Parkes is also well-placed in third, ahead of Pitt and another Australian Josh Brookes (Hannspree Stiggy Motors Honda), while Craig Jones (Parkalgar) is always a podium contender.
Nurburgring will see the debut of another British rider, Tommy Hill, for the Hannspree Honda Althea team alongside Gianluca Nannelli. Hill, who suffered multiple fractures in a testing accident six months ago, has now fully recovered and is raring to go for the Italian-based team.