Brimming with confidence
Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) and Ryuichi Kiyonari (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) will arrive in the UK for the tenth round of the 2008 World Superbike Championship this weekend ready to add more World Superbike success
to the victory they earned at the Suzuka 8hr race last week.
Having spent much of the season jetting back-and-forward to Japan for pre-Suzuka testing, Checa and Kiyonari are now back in WSB mode full-time, and the challenge of the awesome Brands Hatch circuit awaits them next.
Although both riders are rookies to WSB this year, they could not have a greater contrast in their previous Brands Hatch experience. Whereas Checa has only seen Brands Hatch on TV, Kiyonari has had vast knowledge of the track from his time in BSB racing, where he won championships in 2006 and 2007.
Checa said: "It was a fantastic experience to win the Suzuka 8hrs race last weekend. For sure the race itself and the travelling has quite an impact on the body, but I can't wait to get on my Fireblade again for this weekend. Brands Hatch is apparently a very special circuit with a great racing atmosphere so I'm really looking forward to making my first laps there."
Currently Checa is the best placed Honda rider in the WSB series, fourth overall, with his points total aided by two race victories in America in June. Kiyonari has one podium to his credit so far, but after the Suzuka win, and finishing top six in both races at the previous Brno WSB round, he is surfing a wave of positive feelings.
Kiyonari said: "I'm very happy with our win in the Suzuka 8hrs. This season I had to make many test sessions in Japan to set-up the new Honda Fireblade for the race but now it has all paid off. Now I have to switch my mind to World Superbike.
Brands Hatch is a track I already know from my British Superbike years, so I will push hard for a good result."
Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR Jr) made a major step along his WSB career path at the Brno round, overcoming poor qualifying performances with two great rides in race conditions. He went from 26th on the grid to tenth in each leg, but even more importantly felt like he was riding a Superbike the way it should be ridden for the very first time since moving up from the Supersport class.
Sofuoglu said: "The Brno race was by far my best race of the season. For the first time I felt in control of the machine and I really enjoyed that feeling. Brands Hatch is a track I like and on top of that I won my Supersport world title last year on this track, so it will bring back some very good memories. Riding Brands on a Superbike will be different to riding it on a Supersport bike, but I'm feeling positive about this weekend."
Roberto Rolfo (Hannspree Althea Honda CBR1000RR) approaches Brands ready to rack up strong championship points at one of his favourite tracks. Currently 20th, four places behind Sofuoglu in the rankings, Rolfo is ready to take on the circuit and his competitors on a new machine set-up he discovered during the previous Brno round.
Rolfo said: "Brands Hatch is a technical and enjoyable circuit and I particularly like it. Last year I obtained a good sixth position in race one and this year I hope to repeat with another good performance or two. After the Brno races I'm more confident in my bike set-up and in Brands it will be very important to find a good setting quickly. I know my team has worked non-stop on the bike and I would like to obtain good results, for them and for all my sponsors."
The 2005 BSB champion Gregorio Lavilla (Vent-Axia VK Honda CBR1000RR) is still the top Honda privateer on the WSB grid and will be returning to the scene of many former glories this weekend.
Lavilla is to be joined in his British-based Vent-Axia VK Honda team at Brands Hatch by a local favourite, and proven WSB race winner, Chris Walker. Walker has been riding a WSS machine in 2008 so far, but is one of the most experienced WSB stars still actively competing, with 138 race starts and 12 podiums in a WSB career that started way back in 1997.
Lavilla said: "The last thee years I have been racing in the UK, but It is not like I have been riding on the Brands Hatch full circuit more than anyone else in World Superbike. BSB goes to the full Brands once a year and so does WSB! The important thing for us at this meeting is that the team has experience at the track, which has not really been the case so far. I think the knowledge we all have of Brands will be a big help to us this weekend."
Karl Muggeridge (DFX Corse Honda CBR1000RR), 15th in the rankings, is still ironing out some new electronics on his private Honda but memories of taking his first career WSS race victory At Brands in the 2000 season, also on a Honda, will be in the back of his mind as he returns to the UK.
Shuhei Aoyama (Alto Evolution Honda CBR1000RR) and his team-mate Jason Pridmore (Alto Evolution Honda CBR1000RR) will be out in action once again, with Aoyama out to get more points on the board.
Aoyama said: "This is another new track for me and I have heard that the Brands Hatch circuit is a very interesting one, but quite difficult to learn. Our bike is improving all the time. I need to get better starts than I had in the last round at Brno to get into the top group, and then our final results will be better."
The World Superbike Championship starts on its summer break after Brands Hatch, with the next round taking place on Sunday 7 September, at Donington Park.