WSBK : “I'm fired up and ready to go”
James Toseland (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) answered the call to arms at Losail last week with enough spirit and skill to leave with a share of the championship lead for himself, and Honda as a manufacturer.
Island Toseland will be out to turn previous podium success in Australian into wins. He will also be out to ensure higher points scores than his only race-long rival at Losail, Max Biaggi, to try and lead the championship outright before the end of the season's two long-haul races, and the return to Europe.
Roberto Rolfo (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) had one good and one disappointing race at Losail, and is looking forward to the return to Phillip Island; the scene of one of his best points scores during his rookie SBK season in 2006.
DFX Corse Honda runners Steve Martin (DFX Corse Honda CBR1000RR) and Michel Fabrizio (DFX Corse Honda CBR1000RR) are big fans of the Phillip Island track, but in terms of previous ‘Island' success, Joshua Brookes, (Alto Evolution Honda CBR1000RR) holds the loftiest perch, having won the WSS race for Honda at the 4.445km circuit, two hours drive from Melbourne in the State of Victoria. Karl Muggeridge (Alto Evolution Honda CBR1000RR) is currently the last of six supported Honda riders in the current championship table, but the 2004 World Supersport Champion is well capable of a strong ride at his home circuit, even without a full 2007 spec engine at his disposal yet.
Toseland has made the most of a good winter of testing and machine development, and wants to add a Phillip Island win to his current portfolio of nine previous SBK race victories.
“We had a great start to the season and I came away from Qatar a very happy man”, said joint leader Toseland. “I can't wait to get to Phillip Island and start the next round. I enjoyed racing against Biaggi, although I think there might be a few more of us up at the front in Australia. I got two podiums there last year but I didn't get a race win so that will be my goal – I'm fired up and ready to go.”
Rolfo's love for PI has been plain in previous results at the circuit, and on his rapid Fireblade, he may well be a force to be reckoned with.
“I enjoy racing at Phillip Island – I have had some good results there so I am looking forward to the next round”, said Roby. “Of course, I am hoping to do better than I did in Qatar. The problems were out of my control and that was frustrating but I hope to do well in Phillip Island and put all that behind me. When we tested here in January my times got better each day so I'm quite confident about the circuit.
Home tarmac is a boon for Martin, but he knows that there is still work to do for the machine to be 100% ready for competition at the sharpest end of the field.
“I should go well at any track but track, not just Phillip Island”, said Martin, “and Qatar was good for us because we learned what you can do and what you can't do with this bike, at this stage at least. We still have a way to go before I am happy with the set-up and so on, but I hope to be much further up the finishing order at Phillip Island. I want to get a good feeling with the bike and carry on from there.”
After mixed fortunes and a race one crash because of a collision with another rider at Doha last weekend, Fabrizio is looking to Phillip Island to get his race pace back.
“The bike is good but after 10-12 laps the things change and it's difficult to keep going at the top pace”, said Fabrizio. “Doha was not a great result for me, but in Phillip Island I hope we are back at 100%. The circuit is incredible, very enjoyable, but the most important thing is to get a good start position after practice and Superpole.”
For Brookes, Qatar was a great learning experience on his Fireblade, after riding for a different manufacturer in 2006.
“I finished the Qatar weekend knowing more about the bike and feeling OK about PI this week”, said Brookes. “I am absolutely pumped for the Island race, and I will hopefully crack a top ten.”
Muggeridge, in the points in race two at Qatar, is hoping that a good chassis package will help his cause at the second fast circuit to be raced on in as many weekends.
“I think our bike's potential is good and we know what we need to do with the engine package”, said Muggeridge. “I don't know what to expect in Australia really, but my last two years' experience on the bike will definitely help me. Our chassis will be fine and we will find good settings I'm sure. We need more time to work on the engine package some more but it won't make any difference to my commitment to do my best.”
Honda Motor Sport