Misano cauldron awaits World Superbike contenders for San Marino Round 8
The action in the 2008 HANNspree FIM Superbike World Championship is undoubtedly set to heat up this weekend as the runners and riders head for the Misano World Circuit cauldron on Italy's Adriatic Riviera coast for Round 8, the San Marino Round organized in collaboration with the motorcycling federation of the tiny, Italian-speaking but independent, Republic state. With 7 rounds done and dusted, the season now enters its second half and the revised Santamonica circuit could not be a better place for this next phase of the championship, with scorching weather expected at the holiday venue to liven up proceedings.
The last two rounds have produced two double winners in Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) at Miller Motorsports Park and Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB) at the Nurburgring, but more to the point they have seen Troy Bayliss's leadership grip on a championship gradually come under threat. Still in the top slot with 227 points, the Aussie however has not won a race since his Assen double at the end of April and has seen his lead whittled down to 39. The main chasers are Checa, who alternates outstanding form (Assen and Miller) with lesser performances (Monza and Nurburgring), and Max Neukirchner (Alstare Suzuki), who has now become a regular front-runner and podium finisher. Checa and Neukirchner are on 188 and 176 points respectively.
However Troy Bayliss is the most successful winner at Misano and out of 10 races contested he has been on the podium nine times, winning six races, so it will take a lot to dislodge the Ducati Xerox rider from the top slot at what is clearly, with 25 wins out of 32 races, a circuit that is favourable to Ducati.
Fourth-placed Haga's season is now coming on strong for Yamaha, and an incredible heroic double win in Germany just two weeks after breaking his collarbone in the USA has truly earned a place for the Japanese rider in the Superbike 'Hall of Fame'. Haga has never won at Misano in the sixteen races he has contested there, managing only three podium finishes and five retirements.
Yamaha Motor Italia WSB team-mate Troy Corser has shown a resurgence in form in the last two rounds, coming close to the win in Nurburgring race 2 before rain brought a halt to the action. The Australian also has a good rapport with Misano, having finished on the podium 14 times, but his last win was in 2000 with Aprilia. Fonsi Nieto (Suzuki Alstare) is 13 points behind Corser in sixth place. Ruben Xaus (Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati) is next up with 110 points, four ahead of the young Italian Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox), who has occasionally shown signs of superb form in his debut season for the factory team. Vying for top Italian in the series with Fabrizio is Max Biaggi (Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati), whose second season in WSBK has so far failed to produce the scintillating performances everyone expects from this multiple champion. Ryuichi Kiyonari (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) brings up the top 10, with just one truly outstanding performance to his name so far, Monza race 2, in his rookie season.
Kawasaki PSG-1 Corse riders Makoto Tamada and Regis Laconi are still lying outside the top 10, in sixteenth and seventeenth place respectively, but the Misano race is the most important of the calendar for the San Marino-based outfit, and they will be making a major effort to perform well in front of their territorial hosts. As well as the usual fanfare of publicity and local support that the team enjoys at this race each year, the Frenchman, a three-times previous winner at Misano, and his Japanese colleague will both finally be able to enjoy the benefits of their latest rear swing-arm design on their ZX-10R machines, which will sport a special San Marino livery for this race.
FIM Supersport World Championship
One of the pre-season Supersport title candidates Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) finally powered to the top of the points table at the last round with his third win of the year, ousting the previous leader, Joan Lascorz (Glaner Motocard.com Honda) from the top slot. The young Spaniard has been on a negative roll recently and has also been overtaken in the standings by Fabien Foret (Yamaha World Supersport) from France and the tough Australian Joshua Brookes (Hannspree Stiggy Motorsport Honda). However with just nine points separating Pitt from fifth-placed Broc Parkes (Yamaha World Supersport), who was unable to produce the winning goods in Germany after leading until the penultimate lap, this year's Supersport World Championship is certainly shaping up into a hard-fought affair. Sixth-placed Craig Jones (Parkalgar Racing Honda) is not far off the front-runners either, the British rider nearly always in the top 6 at every race. The MIsano round will see the debut of ex-DFX Superbike rider Russell Holland in the Hannspree Honda Althea squad as replacement for the injured Tommy Hill.
Superstock 1000 FIM World Cup
In the championship that is the breeding-ground for new talent, Brendan Roberts (Ducati Xerox Junior Team) put the troubles of the previous two races behind him at the Nurburgring to claim a second win of the year on his 1098R. The young Australian however is still only in second place in the table, which is currently headed by the Belgian Xavier Simeon. The Alstare Suzuki man has so far proved to be the most consistent front-runner, scoring three third places and a win in the first four races. Davide Giugliano (Cruciani Moto Suzuki Italia) is also turning into one of the protagonists of the season but such is the competition that just a handful of points separate the Italian from seventh-placed Matej Smrz (MS Racing Honda) of the Czech Republic. The list of disappointments so far this season includes Alessandro Polita (Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati) in sixth and WSB tester Claudio Corti (Yamaha Motor Italia Junior Team) in ninth, while this year's 1000 Cup new entry KTM, are finding the learning curve harder than expected and Austrian Rene Mahr has yet to open his scorecard.
European 600 Superstock Championship
The action continues thick and fast in the Junior Superstock category as well, with the Czech Republic rider Patrick Vostarek (Intermoto Honda) proving to have the legs of 15-year-old French sensation Loris Baz (YZF Yamaha Junior Team) at the Nurburgring to record his maiden win. Third place is still in the hands of the 19-year-old from the UK, Dan Linfoot (StoneBaker Yamaha) with Daniele Beretta (Cruciani Moto Suzuki Italia) failing to score in Germany, but still in fourth. Two more Italians are in fifth and sixth, Danilo Petrucci (Trasimeno Yamaha) and Marco Bussolotti (Yamaha Motor Italia Junior Team).
About the Misano World Circuit
The Misano World Circuit, which was called the Circuito Internazionale Santamonica until 2006, is located close to the seaside resort town of Misano Adriatico in the province of Rimini. Originally designed in 1969 as a length of 3.488 kilometres (2.17 miles), it hosted its first event in 1972 and then in 1993, the track length was increased to 4.064 kilometres (2.53 miles), and new facilities and pit garages were built. The latest reincarnation of the circuit came about in 2006, when the direction was changed to clockwise, the track length was increased to 4.180 km, track width to 14 meters and facilities much improved. Misano has been a regular fixture on the World Superbike calendar since 1991, and a round has been held there every year, with the exception of 1992. The circuit appears to be particularly conducive to double winners, with 11 of the 16 events producing wins for the same rider. The list in chronological order is: Polen, Falappa, Lucchiari, Kocinski, Slight, Fogarty, Corser, Bayliss, Xaus, Laconi and Bayliss again.
The traditional pre-race media event for Round 8 of the championship will take place in the 'Cava dei Balestrieri' in the historic centre of the Republic of San Marino, where a press conference has been organized for six top riders, Troy Bayliss (Ducati Xerox), Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), Troy Corser (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB), Max Neukirchner (Alstare Suzuki), Regis Laconi (Kawasaki PSG-1 Corse), Max Biaggi (Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati). The conference will see the presence of the Secretary of State for Tourism and Sport of the Republic of San Marino, and representatives from FGSport and Santamonica Spa, and will be followed by a photo session in Piazzale della Liberta.
Later in the day, down on the Misano Adriatico beach front, FGSport, in collaboration with championship sponsor IDS, have organized the 4th edition of the now traditional Beach Volley challenge. Top WSBK riders, including Carlos Checa, Makoto Tamada and Max Neukirchner, will take on the rest of the SBK Paddock, made up of teams representing FGSport, Pirelli and Media, in a series of head-to-head matches at the 'Romina' bathing establishment #8 & 9, owned by Frankie Chili and his wife.
And finally the Misano round will be one of the first opportunities to catch a glimpse of the new MiTo, the latest car to come on the market from championship sponsor Alfa Romeo. The MiTo will replace the Alfa Romeo 159 as Safety Car for the championship throughout the rest of the season.