For Adriatic Riviera scorcher
After the overseas double-header in South Africa and USA, the Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship returns to European soil for the start of the second half of the 2009 season.
Round 8 of 14 will be held this weekend at the Misano
World Circuit on Italy's sun-kissed Adriatic Riviera, with the event holding the denomination of San Marino Round.
The circuit in the Romagna region, a stone's throw away from world-famous seaside resorts Rimini and Riccione, measures 4.226 km and has been the venue for 17 editions of the championship. It underwent a major restyling in 2007 with changes to the layout and sense of direction, which is now clockwise.
Misano is a circuit where Ducati has always dominated. The Italian manufacturer has taken its twin-cylinder machines onto the podium 26 times in 34 races, leaving the other manufacturers with the crumbs: Honda 3 wins, Aprilia 2, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki 1.
As for riders, the most successful at Misano is three-times world champion Troy Bayliss with 6 wins, while Giancarlo Falappa, Regis Laconi and Ruben Xaus all have three apiece. Out of all the riders who have won at Misano, only two will be on the track this coming weekend, the BMW pairing of Troy Corser (2 wins) and Xaus, who was the last to take a victory, in race 2 twelve months ago. Both Régis Laconi (Ducati DFX) and Max Neukirchner (Suzuki), who have also won at Misano, the German in race 1 last year, are currently out of action with injuries.
The splendid double win by Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike) at Miller has reopened the title battle, which after South Africa appeared to be heading the way of Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox). The Japanese rider, bruised and battered in the Utah Round, still has a healthy lead over his rivals (53 points over the American and 64 over team-mate Michel Fabrizio), but is arriving at a circuit that is his ‘pet hate' seeing as he has never won there. In 18 appearances, Haga has only scored three podiums at Misano, his best being in 2007 when he finished runner-up in race 2 behind Bayliss, while in the first he ended up on the ground after a contact with Max Biaggi, while they were fighting for second place.
Both Spies and Fabrizio are aiming to take away further points from the championship leader and they arrive at Misano as the riders most in form. The Texan doesn't know the circuit but so far has always demonstrated that he has no problems in this area, and he is backed up by an ultra-competitive Yamaha YZF-R1. As for Fabrizio, the rider from Rome has made a quantum leap in quality recently, proving that he can fight for the win at every circuit, and he will be aiming high this time around.
At Misano, Superbike can often produce some major upsets and the heat will surely have a major effect on men and machines. The outsiders this weekend include Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing), who has been putting together a string of top 5 results recently. The RSV4 machine is getting closer to the top and the Italian will surely be a difficult opponent for everyone. The Noale manufacturer should bring some new material to Misano and Biaggi will be hoping to upset the applecart in front of his home fans.
The Honda riders are now emerging as front-runners as well after a difficult start to the season. Jonathan Rea, Ryuichi Kiyonari, Carlos Checa (Ten Kate) and Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing) have all been on the podium at least once and the Miller race showed that the CBR 1000 RRs are not that far away from the level of Ducati and Yamaha. All eyes will in particular be on Rea, who is fast becoming a true contender.
Progress is also being recorded by Kawasaki, who will enter American Jamie Hacking once again in place of the still convalescent Makoto Tamada as team-mate to Broc Parkes.
The Suzuki Alstare team will again be present at Misano without the injured Max Neukirchner, who is expected to be back for Brno at the end of July. The team's progress will continue to revolve around Yukio Kagayama, who is not exactly 100% fit after crashing in the USA, and Fonsi Nieto who is struggling to find the best possible feeling with the GSX-R 1000. Attention will also be focused on the BMW Motorrad team, which had a difficult time overseas, but the German squad has had an opportunity to analyze everything back in the factory workshop and both Corser and Xaus will be looking for improvements this weekend.
The Miller round saw Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) right back in contention, and now there are three men fighting for the world title: the Turkish rider, together with points leader Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha World Supersport) and his closest rival Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda).
This trio of riders must be the favourites for the victory, together with Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), who won here last year and who also won his only Superbike race here as well. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki) is called upon to give a further demonstration of his progress this season, while two Italian riders to watch at their home track include Michele Pirro (Yamaha Lorenzini) and Massimo Roccoli (Intermoto Honda), who scored his only World Supersport win at Misano in 2006.