Before summer break
The legendary Brands Hatch circuit on the outskirts of London greets the HANNspree FIM Superbike World Championship this weekend for round 10 of the series, the Bennetts UK Round, the first of two events on British soil book-ending the summer month of
The Kent circuit has always been a legendary jewel in the crown of World Superbike because it regularly attracts crowds well in excess of 100,000, its undulating and daunting layout tests riders and machines to their limits, and because it always provides great racing.
Before Brno, the situation at the top was wide open, but the same cannot be said now as the championship moves into the final third of the season. Troy Bayliss (Ducati Xerox) again stamped his authority with a dominant double win, his third this year and the fifteenth in his career, to extend his lead to 79 points and for each of his rivals the chances of beating the 39-year-old Australian in the final rush are getting slimmer after each round.
Of the four riders realistically in with a chance of fighting for the title, Max Neukirchner (Alstare Suzuki) is currently the one lying immediately behind Bayliss in the table. While the 25-year-old German can be more than satisfied with his performance so far this season, he still needs more wins to be able to match Bayliss's championship pace. Troy Corser (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB) was the only four-cylinder rider to offer a challenge to the Ducatis in the last round at Brno, and with four second places to his name in the last four rounds, the 36-year-old is emerging as the Italian team's most consistent rider.
Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) scored his third win of the season last weekend, but unlike his double triumph at Miller, this one came in the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance event. The 35-year-old from Barcelona has been off the pace since dominating in the USA, and is fourth on 215 points, but now the Japanese manufacturer has put the prestigious 8 hour race behind it, Checa can surely count on Honda's capacity to react in the second half of the season.
After Nurburgring, Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB) was in a great position to offer a challenge to the points leader, but the subsequent four races have only produced 38 points for the mercurial Japanese rider, compared with Bayliss's 82, results that have put his title ambitions on hold. However Haga and Bayliss have always produced some scintillating battles around Brands Hatch, with Haga winning four races there since 2004, so more of the same can be expected this time round.
Fonsi Nieto's sixth place for the Suzuki Alstare team is rapidly coming under threat from a trio of riders who are able to put together more results in the higher echelons, Ruben Xaus (Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati), Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) and Max Biaggi (Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati), on 148, 147 and 146 points respectively. The two riders from Rome are virtually inseparable both on the track and in the standings as they fight it out to be the top Italian in the series.
Ryuichi Kiyonari showed good form at Brno as he was the best Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider to the flag in both races, and with the advantage of knowing the next two rounds from his BSB days, the 25-year-old from Saitama will surely emerge in this latter part of the season. Once again Régis Laconi and Makoto Tamada are aiming for top 10 positions at Brands Hatch with their Kawasaki PSG-1 Corse ZX-10R machines that are still some way short of the competitive level demonstrated by the other manufacturers.
The Brands Hatch round will also see the return of a British rider to the series as Chris Walker teams up with Vent Axia VK Honda for the rest of the season. Walker is a crowd favourite at Brands and his arrival brings the Paul Bird Motorsport-run team up to two-man status alongside Gregorio Lavilla, another ex-BSB champion with vast experience of British tracks.
FIM Supersport World Championship
Following his maiden World Supersport win at Brno, Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) from Northern Ireland will be flying the flag for Britain in the ninth round of the championship, but he won't be the only one as Craig Jones (Parkalgar Honda) also demonstrated with an unlucky performance in the last round.
Rea and Jones are only fifth and seventh in the points table, which is headed by Australian Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), but they are the men on form at the moment.
Another Aussie, Joshua Brookes (Hannspree Stiggy Motorsport Honda) has now moved into second place as the Yamaha World Supersport attack appears to be waning. Broc Parkes has been unable to convert five successive pole positions into valid results, while Fabien Foret is now out of action for a couple of months following his Brno crash, and the Frenchman will be replaced by another strong Brit, Karl Harris.
Joan Lascorz's attack on the title with the Glaner Motocard.com private Honda has faded since the early rounds as the factory machines have upped their pace and the 23-year-old Spanish rider has been scoreless since Nurburgring.