“Of course it will be difficult, but we will give our best”
Having reduced his points deficit from 27 to 18 after his victory at the Imola race last weekend Sébastien Charpentier (Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) is still in a position to retain his world champion status,
despite the magnitude of the task in front of him.
Should he be able to score second or better, and see current leader Kevin Curtain post either a no score or a very low single digit points finish, Charpentier would make history by becoming the only rider to successfully defend a World Supersport crown. His injury-blighted season has been a challenge to the French rider since breaking his pelvis in testing at Brno, but he has easily outscored all his rivals in terms of race wins, with a total of five so far.
Charpentier's recent championship push has been aided immensely by his resurgent team- mate, Kenan Sofuoglu (Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) who has himself scored race wins at Assen and Lausitz. He finished second to Charpentier at Imola, taking valuable points from Curtain, who was a distant third. The 23-year-old Turkish rider has been in potent form for most of the 2006 season, and has comprehensively recovered from a dip in form in the mid-part of the year, having now scored a total of six podiums, four in the last four races. He is now third in the championship table, eight points up on his nearest rival, Broc Parkes.
Both Winston Ten Kate Honda riders had positive results in recent Magny-Cours tests, and have contributed significant points towards Honda winning the Manufacturers' trophy at the previous round in Imola.
Yoann Tiberio (Team Megabike Honda CBR600RR) has been looking forward to his first race in front of a home crowd since his promotion from the Junior Megabike Honda team last year. He has happy memories of his race in the European 600 Superstock Championship during the Magny-Cours SBK race weekend last year, taking the race win on a Megabike Junior Team Honda CBR600RR.
Katsuaki Fujiwara (Team Megabike Honda CBR600RR) demonstrated at Imola that he has lost none of his inherent speed, qualifying in third grid position, even if his niggling wrist injury once more affected his ultimate race result.
Charpentier need only remember the Imola result to see what is possible in Magny-Cours, even without the aid of a vociferous home crowd.
"In Imola we had a fantastic race," said Charpentier, as he moves back to home ground for round 12. "It was good to run away from the rest of the riders with my team-mate. In Magny-Cours it will be another race, difficult of course, but we will give our best, as usual. I feel good again and this is very important: it has been a hard time for me after the injury and trying to get back in shape. Now I can say I am back. And this is thanks to the support of everyone, my family and my team. Magny-Cours will be my home race and I hoping to have many supporters cheering for me. I will try not to disappoint them."
Sofuoglu just wants to keep his run of fabulous form going, and is ready once more to work for a mutually beneficial team result. "These last few races have been fantastic for me," affirmed Sofuoglu. "I am really enjoying riding for the Winston Ten Kate Honda Team. It is a big family; everybody is always ready to help each other. The race at Imola went well, I am happy Sébastien has reduced his gap to Curtain and he still has another opportunity in Magny-Cours next weekend. My goal is, as always, to reach the podium and this is what I will aim for in the French race. I am feeling good and I am only sad that the season is about to finish so soon."
Tiberio found some confidence again at Imola, even if his issues with rear tyre traction held back his ultimate results. He now enters his home round ready to put on a good show for his fans, aiming for at least a top five finish.
"Imola was better than the previous race at Lausitz," stated Tiberio, "and that gives me even more confidence for more of an improvement at Magny-Cours. It is my track, near my hometown, and I want to make my best, because I know what is possible. My target will be to finish inside the top five and maintain my championship position of seventh. If I want this, I have to run a perfect race."
Fujiwara saw a marked improvement in pre-race speed and is out to end an injury-blighted season on the highest note possible. "I was much happier after the Imola race and this makes me confident for Magny-Cours," said Fujiwara. "My injured hand has improved a lot really in the last period, thanks to the training that I did on it. This will be the last race of the season and so I really want to race for a good result. This has not been a lucky season for me, but I know I can finish off 2006 well. The set-up of my bike is OK and my team is organised to support me in the best possible way."
Press Release HRC