Imola: Series preview

Imola shapes up for another legendary Superbike duel The FIM Superbike World Championship, sponsored by Hannspree, returns to Imola's legendary Enzo & Dino Ferrari circuit three years on from its last appearance. With respect to the 2006 race,...

Imola shapes up for another legendary Superbike duel

The FIM Superbike World Championship, sponsored by Hannspree, returns to Imola's legendary Enzo & Dino Ferrari circuit three years on from its last appearance. With respect to the 2006 race, which saw Troy Bayliss (Ducati Xerox) conquer his second world title, the track layout has been slightly modified in the section from the Rivazza to the pit straight with the construction of a new chicane and the circuit now measures 4.936 km. The changes however have not modified the characteristics of the Italian track, which remains one of the most difficult and technical of the entire championship.

Eleven races have been held at Imola, and the list of winners includes Ruben Xaus and Regis Laconi, with three victories apiece, Colin Edwards (2) and one each for Chris Vermeulen, Alex Barros and Troy Bayliss. As for the Manufacturers, Ducati lead the way with six wins, followed by Honda with four and Aprilia with one.

SPIES-HAGA TAKE TWO: The Nurburgring races produced a true changing of the guard at the top of the points table, with Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike) taking over from Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox), who had been in control since the start of the season. The Texan's long chase has included 12 wins in 22 races and he now has a lead of 18 points over his Japanese rival. But 18 points is a slim margin and Haga will be attempting to reverse the situation immediately at Ducati's home circuit, even though he did not take part in July testing as he was still recovering from injury. A victory would be a boost for Haga's title chances but also for his morale, seeing as neither he nor the 1098 have had a win for the last 10 races: the last time was at Kyalami (South Africa) back in mid-May. Team-mate Michel Fabrizio, who went well in July testing, will also try and interrupt Ducati's negative run. The young Italian, even though he is still in with a chance of winning the title, will play a key role in an eventual team strategy, seeing as he is one of the few riders capable of getting close to Spies on the day.

HONDA PRESSURE: A third force, Hannspree Ten Kate Honda, are now quite capable of getting in amongst the battle between Yamaha and Ducati. The four-cylinder Japanese machine has made a quantum leap forward over the course of the season and in the last few races has been virtually on the same competitive level as its rivals. This improvement has also come about thanks to the prodigious talent of Jonathan Rea, who took his second win of the season at the Nurburgring and who will surely be one of the riders to beat in the coming seasons, if not already next year. But Honda can also count on Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate), thrice on the podium in the last four races, and Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing), who is proving to be a difficult customer on all tracks.

APRILIA AND BMW MOVING UP: The challenging Imola circuit will also be an ideal test-bed for the ambitions of Aprilia and BMW. Following his win at Brno, Max Biaggi and Aprilia confirmed they were making good progress with two solid results at the Nurburgring. The Italian will be aiming to continue that form at Imola, a circuit where both he and his machine appeared to struggle in July testing. A major improvement is also being recorded by BMW, now regularly in amongst the front-running group. Troy Corser is proving to be a real certainty for the German manufacturer and is giving considerable input for the development of the bike. Imola should also see the return of Ruben Xaus following his injury at Brno, but his participation will only be decided at the last minute.

TOP 10 AIMS: Suzuki and Kawasaki are currently on the sidelines of the championship battle. Without their leading rider Max Neukirchner, who however will be at Imola for a check-up, the Suzuki Alstare BRUX team's line-up will again be Yukio Kagayama and Karl Muggeridge, who will try and make the most of this second bite of the cherry on a circuit he knows well. The same can also be said of Broc Parkes (Kawasaki WSRT), who is looking for a good result after a disastrous time on the tarmac in Germany. He and team-mate Makoto Tamada will have a series of updates and both of them will be aiming for top-10 finishes.

SUPERSPORT: Despite three wins in the last four races, Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha World Supersport) has still not managed to make a decisive break from his title rival, Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda). Only 22 points lie between the two, but this should be sufficient for the Coventry man to administer in the final three rounds of the season. Cal has proved to be the strongest rider out there in any case and Laverty's task is a tough one. Even though he is still in with a mathematical chance of winning the title, Spain's Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Motocard.com) will just be aiming for his first win to accompany what has so far been an excellent season. Other key protagonists are likely to be Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), who has won two races so far, and Brno victor Fabien Foret (Yamaha World Supersport). Italian hopes lie with Massimo Roccoli (Intermoto Czech Honda) following his excellent fourth place at the Nurburgring, and Michele Pirro (Yamaha Lorenzini). It's all change in the Triumph ParkinGo squad, where Welsh youngster Chaz Davies comes in as a replacement for Gianluca Nannelli as team-mate to Garry McCoy on the 675 machine.

SUPERSTOCK 1000: The Superstock 1000 FIM Cup now looks to be on its way to Belgium for Xavier Simeon following the Ducati Xerox man's three wins in a row in the last three races. A 40 point lead over Claudio Corti (Suzuki Alstare) should be enough to see Simeon take the crown this time around, and he has three 'match points' from now until the end of the season to do it. If he wins and Corti fails to go any higher than fourth, the title is his, while any other results would only need him to gain 11 points over the Italian and not lose more than two against the third force in this year's battle, Maxime Berger (Ten Kate Honda). Javi Fores (Kawasaki Pedercini), Sylvain Barrier (Garnier Junior Yamaha), Davide Giugliano (Suzuki Celani) and Daniele Beretta (Ducati Xerox) are the other men to watch in Superstock 1000 at Imola.

SUPERSTOCK 600 -- The title battle is more wide-open in the European Superstock 600 championship, even though Danilo Petrucci (Yamaha Trasimeno) and Vincent Lonbois (MTM Racing Yamaha) for the moment appear to have an extra gear over their rivals. The Belgian is the man on a roll, having won the last two races, although Petrucci has responded nicely with two second places. All eyes on Imola therefore for a continuation of their battle for supremacy, while outsiders Gino Rea (Ten Kate Honda) and Marco Bussolotti (Yamaha Trasimeno) are also still in with a chance. The young Brit follows, 24 points behind, with the Italian a further two so they will have to go all out for the win this weekend.

-credit: wsbk

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Series World Superbike
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Troy Bayliss , Colin Edwards , Alex Barros , Noriyuki Haga , Broc Parkes , Ruben Xaus , Ben Spies , Fabien Foret , Kenan Sofuoglu , Chris Vermeulen , Yukio Kagayama , Eugene Laverty , Makoto Tamada , Karl Muggeridge , Michel Fabrizio , Leon Haslam , Chaz Davies , Gianluca Nannelli , Max Neukirchner , Jonathan Rea , Xavier Simeon , Claudio Corti , Massimo Roccoli , Daniele Beretta , Davide Giugliano , Maxime Berger , Cal Crutchlow , Laconi Régis , Joan Lascorz , Michele Pirro , Danilo Petrucci , Sylvain Barrier , Gino Rea