Magny-Cours set to be the climax of another thrilling season
One week after Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia) won the 2010 HANNspree FIM Superbike World Championship at his home round of Imola, he and the entire paddock will take part in the final round of the year, at Magny-Cours in central France.
The 2010 championship has provided drama and excitement all the way as usual, and there will be much to look forward to in France, as the Manufacturers' title and the final rankings behind Biaggi are still to be decided. With the off-season looming and many riders still unsure of their 2011 plans, there will be private battles throughout each 23-lap race in France.
Despite the disappointments of losing the chance to fight for the Riders' Championship right until the end, when his machine failed in the final race of the Imola weekend, British battler Leon Haslam (Suzuki Alstare) is ready to reload and go for more race wins, having taken three this year already. Haslam is now in a safe second place, 62 points up on third.
Behind him, Jonathan Rea is in a battle to be fit to race in France, having cracked his collarbone and left scaphoid while riding for his Hannspree Ten Kate Honda Team in Superpole at Imola. Rea is a four-time race winner this year. The star of the podium show in the previous round was convincing double winner Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) who is now in a strong position to pass Rea and take third spot in the overall rankings. He is only 14 points behind Rea, and out to improve on his current win total of three in 2010.
Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha Sterilgarda) is now locked in a personal battle with Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) to keep fifth, although both those riders are still capable of taking a top four, if Checa no scores and they make the required mix of podium results. Haga is only a single point behind Crutchlow. A disastrous double no score at Imola for 2004 and 2007 champion James Toseland (Yamaha Sterilgarda) has left him only three points ahead of Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki Alstare) and Guintoli will be understandably fired-up for his home round in his first year of WSBK participation.
Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) is now ninth and Troy Corser (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) tenth in the rankings, after Leon Camier (Aprilia Alitalia) missed the Imola round through injury. Leon is another British rider fighting to be fit to race in France, as he recovers from surgery on his broken right scaphoid. Shane Byrne (Althea Ducati) had two good top ten finishes last time out in Italy and is now only ten points adrift of Camier. Ruben Xaus (BMW Motorrad Motorsport), Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Jakub Smrz (PATA B&G Aprilia) complete the top 15 with one round and two races to go.
A quite fabulous home round for DFX Corse Ducati privateer Lorenzo Lanzi (DFX Corse Ducati) saw him finish second in race one at Imola, and he is now 16th in the rankings, only six points behind Smrz. Lanzi is a former race winner at Magny-Cours, a fact he will no doubt be reminding himself of all the way to the line for Sunday's races. Luca Scassa (Supersonic Team) and Max Neukirchner (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) are having their final races for their respective teams at Magny-Cours, and will want to go out with strong results.
Roger Lee Hayden and Matteo Baiocco (Pedercini Kawasaki) are looking for season best finishes this weekend, which would mean 12th place or better for the American and 13th or higher for the Italian. Fabrizio Lai is out to do what he did in race two at Imola, score points for his ECHO CRS Honda squad.
In the Supersport World Championship it would be difficult to imagine that there could be last minute drama greater than that which occurred last weekend - but it has happened in various classes at Magny-Cours in the past. Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda) fell on the final chicane at Imola last weekend and restarted to score valuable points. It is very much advantage Kenan, as he is 16 points ahead. Intriguingly, because Laverty has more wins this year (seven to Sofuoglu's three) a no-score for Sofuoglu and a third for Laverty would bring about a tie on points, with Laverty winning the title on the number of races won. But there is any number of combinations of points that would make either rider champion, and the small matter of several other riders keen to put both contenders behind them. Injured rider Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Motocard.com) is a guaranteed third now, Chaz Davies (ParkinGO Triumph BE-1) is an unassailable fourth but he is desperate to get his first win in this class. Michele Pirro (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) won the last round and with so much at stake for all riders, another first-time winner is certainly possible. Broc Parkes has made a huge impact in his recent return to this class, with the Provec Motocard.com Kawasaki, and he and his team-mate Katsuaki Fujiwara are proven winners from previous seasons.
The question on everyone's lips in the run-up to Magny-Cours is can the 2010 championship combination of Ayrton Badovini and his BMW Motorrad Italia STK S1000RR make it a perfect ten wins in the Superstock Championship? The question is still very much unanswerable until Sunday because Maxime Berger (Ten Kate Racing Junior Honda) will be racing on home soil this weekend, and he is extremely keen to get a win as reward for some great rides in 2010. In a guaranteed second place in the series, he now has nothing to lose in his quest for a win. A four-way fight for third is a nerve-wracking prospect for Michele Magnoni (Bevilacqua Corse Honda), Andrea Antonelli (Lorini Honda), Davide Giugliano (Team06 Suzuki) and Sylvain Barrier (Garnier Racing Junior BMW).
Jeremy Guarnoni (MRS Racing Yamaha) made himself champion last time out and Florian Marino (Ten Kate Junior Racing Honda) is a very safe second, but the following three riders only have nine points between them. Berardino Lombardi (Martini Corse Yamaha) with Federico D'Annunzio (Martini Corse Yamaha) and Davide Fanelli (Team All Service System by QDP Honda) are very much in competition this weekend. Home rider Romain Lanusse (MRS Racing Yamaha) is also capable of a final top three, in mathematical terms at least.
TRIUMPH PARKINGO SERIES: The Triumph ParkinGO European Series reaches its finale in France, pitting riders on identical Triumph Street Triple R machines against each other once again. There have been some thrills and spills this season, and more to come no doubt. Fabrizio Perotti is already the champion, with Tony Salom, Giuliano Rovelli and Samuela Di Nardi all in with a chance to get second spot.
Magny-Cours is a 4.411km long circuit with a lot of history and a 4.271km version was first used for WSBK racing in 1991. The circuit returned to the calendar in 2003 in its 4.411km form and it has been a permanent fixture ever since. Spacious and well-appointed, Magny-Cours has been the scene of some classic moments in WSBK history, with Ducati, Honda and Yamaha riders posting wins here. No fewer than five 2010 riders have won at this track. The form man in France is Noriyuki Haga who has won on both Ducati and Yamaha machinery, most recently in 2009, and five times at Magny-Cours in total. Magny-Cours has many different faces, both slow and fast sections, and features some epic hard braking zones, particularly into the slow Adelaide corner.