WSBK reaches #500 mark with Czech Republic Round at Brno
The Superbike World Championship notches up an important benchmark this coming weekend at the Automotodrom Brno circuit in the Czech Republic as the production-based racing series reaches the #500 mark with Sunday's race 2. The championship got underway at Donington Park on April 3, 1988 and this weekend's round at Brno will see races #499 and #500. Even though the Czech Republic Round is the 252nd in the championship's history, on four occasions (1988 Le Mans, 2001 Phillip Island, 2005 Imola, 2007 Silverstone), only race 1 was held due to inclement weather conditions.
The 2008 championship meanwhile reaches the ninth round on Sunday, with the situation more wide-open than ever. Championship leader Troy Bayliss (Ducati Xerox) scored two third places at Misano to increase his points lead by ten to 259, but the 39 year-old Aussie has not won a race since Assen and is determined to put things right at Brno, even though the Czech circuit has never been particularly kind to the Italian twin-cylinder machines. With his second win of the season at Misano, Troy's closest pursuer on 210 points has now become Max Neukirchner (Alstare Suzuki), who took over that position from Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda). The 25 year-old German is now a regular contender for the leading positions, and seven times on the podium this year is testament to the growth of a potential champion.
The 35 year-old Spaniard, third on 207 points, has suffered since his double win at Miller, a result that had been expected to be a turning-point in the Ten Kate rider's season. On a circuit he knows well from his MotoGP days, Checa will be aiming to improve on his mid-season slump of three fifth places and a seventh in the last four races. Another enigma surrounds Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB), currently placed fourth on 191 points. Prior to the last round Haga had notched up a dominant double win, but conditions at Misano were not conducive to a repeat performance and although the 33 year-old from Japan is having one of his best seasons ever, he is still lacking consistency in his results.
Yamaha Motor Italia WSB team-mate Troy Corser's recent resurgence of form has continued, the 36 year-old showing a notable turn of speed in particular at Misano and a maiden win for the experienced veteran on his YZF-R1 machine is surely not far away. Sixth-placed Fonsi Nieto (Suzuki Alstare) is notching up the points on his GSX-R1000 machine but has not shown anything like his early-season form, while Ruben Xaus (Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati) is hovering just three points behind on 148 and is poised to take over that slot.
The 30 year-old from Barcelona scored a well-deserved and popular win for the private Marco Borciani-run Ducati team at Misano and followed that up with quickest time in the recent SBK test at Vallelunga, so Xaus is on a roll and will surely be a factor from now until the end of the season. His team-mate in the Sterilgarda Ducati squad, Max Biaggi had a lot to smile about at Misano as well, notching up a second place that hopefully has put his season back on the rails after a string of below-par performances. The 37 year-old from Rome is in eighth place on 117 points.
Rounding out the top 10 are the young Italian Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) with 111 points in ninth place and Ryuichi Kiyonari (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) on 94 points. Jakub Smrz (Guandalini Ducati) has also been going well recently and his current 14th place is no true reflection on how the 25 year-old Czech has been performing, something that he aims to put right this weekend. Following a disastrous home race at Misano, the Kawasaki PSG-1 Corse team's season needs to be put back into line and recent testing at Mugello will surely help both Regis Laconi and Makoto Tamada to move up from positions way outside the top 10.
FIM Supersport World Championship
With his fourth win of the year at Misano which took him to 113 points, Andrew Pitt has now firmly got the bit between his teeth and it will be a tough job indeed for anyone to stop the 32 year-old Australian from taking his second World Supersport title. Fabien Foret (Yamaha World Supersport) currently lies in second place on 97 points but it is his team-mate Broc Parkes who is offering the most competition. Four poles in the last four races have propelled Parkes to the front of qualifying, but so far he has been unable to transform that sort of form into valid race results and is ten points down on 87. Confirming Honda's domination of the cadet category, five CBR riders are next up, separated by 35 points. Josh Brookes (Hannspree Stiggy Motorsport) leads Joan Lascorz (Glaner Motocard.com), the early season pace-setter but who has slipped down in recent races, while Craig Jones (Parkalgar) and Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate) are offering the sternest challenge at the front. Denmark's Robbin Harms (Hannspree Stiggy Motorsport) and Italy's Massimo Roccoli (Yamaha Lorenzini by Leoni) lead the rest of the field.
Superstock 1000 FIM World Cup
More hard-fought racing in the Superstock 1000 encounter at Misano produced the fourth different winner this year as 2006 champion Alessandro Polita (Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati) took home the 25 points in front of his home crowd. Emulating Haga at Miller, Belgium's Xavier Simeon (Alstare Suzuki) rode a brave race with a broken collarbone to finish fifth and stay in the lead of the championship table on 84 points. Brendan Roberts (Ducati Xerox Junior Team) is just eight points behind, while Polita in third now has Michele Pirro (Yamaha Lorenzini by Leoni), Maxime Berger (Hannspree IDS Ten Kate Honda) and Davide Giugliano (Cruciani Moto Suzuki) hot on his heels. Matej Smrz (MS Racing Honda) approaches his home race at Brno aiming to score another podium, while one rider whom more was expected of this season is Claudio Corti (Yamaha Motor Italia Junior Team), currently languishing in tenth place.
European 600 Superstock Championship
The rider on a charge in the Superstock 600 category is Patrick Vostarek (Intermoto Czech Honda), who has won the last two races at in Germany and at Misano. The 19 year-old from Prague has gained 14 points on leader Loris Baz (YZF Yamaha Junior Team) in the last two races and will be looking to strike gold with his third win in a row in front of his home crowd this weekend. Britain's Dan Linfoot (StoneBaker Yamaha) lies in third, just one point ahead of Italian Marco Bussolati (Yamaha Motor Italia Junior Team) but the top 3 are the only winners so far this year.
About the Automotodrom Brno
The Automotodrom Brno (officially called the Masaryk Circuit after Tomas Masaryk, the first president and founder of Czechoslovakia) is located close to the city of Brno. It used to be the site for the pre-war Grand Prix race, which was held over a 29 km street circuit layout. In 1987 a new permanent circuit was built not far from the original historic road-racing track, of which the original pits were kept as a memento. The 5.403 km circuit has a fascinating mix of ups and downs and overtaking is common on the wide track surface, with fast corners and long straights always making for exciting racing. Its location in a hilly area provides spectators with spectacular views of the track action.