Historic circuit gets the WSBK machine back into gear
The 2010 HANNspree FIM Superbike World Championship approaches the final stretch this weekend, with the 11th round of the series taking place at the Nurburgring between 3 and 5 September. Only two subsequent rounds will remain after the restart of action in Germany - Imola on September 26 and Magny-Cours on 3 October.
Located in western Germany, the Nurburgring is one of the most popular circuits for the riders, as it offers a series of challenges along its 5.137km length, and a high degree of rider satisfaction if a 'perfect' lap is achieved. Competition in the World Superbike Championship is far from slowing down as the season begins to wind up, as current leader Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia) has Leon Haslam (Suzuki Alstare) 60 points behind him, but with 150 points up for grabs for any rider who wins the final six individual races.
Both of these riders raced at the Nurburgring last year but neither managed to post a podium finish. They have no shortage of immediate competitors who did in, however, with championship third place rider Jonathan Rea (HANNspree Ten Kate Honda) winning the second race in '09, Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) going second in race one and Carlos Checa, now riding for Althea Ducati, third in each German race. Rea is currently third on 243 points, 130 behind the lead. Checa is fourth, on 204 points.
The long summer break during August has been a welcome one for some riders, but with valuable points up for grabs the mass of WSB riders will be keen to get back into full race mode this weekend. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha Sterilgarda) pushed himself up to fifth in the championship with his first two wins in WSBK racing last time out at Silverstone. He knows his machine can win at Nurburgring, as eventual champion Ben Spies was victorious on the same model of machine in race one last year. Crutchlow's team-mate James Toseland is a two-time World Superbike Champion, but still looking for his first race success in Yamaha colours. He is sixth in the rankings, only nine points behind Crutchlow.
The fight for the last few top ten places is already at fever pitch, with Noriyuki Haga, Leon Camier (Alitalia Aprilia), Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox), Troy Corser (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) and Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki Alstare) closely packed together, from seventh to 11th in the rankings. Even from Crutchlow in fifth to Guintoli in 11th, there is a spread of only 37 points, making almost anything possible in the midfield before season's end.
Since the last round in Silverstone, Max Neukirchner (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) has won a race at the IDM Superbike championship. At his home circuit in Germany he will be particularly keen to make a move back up the championship rankings from his current 18th place. Shane Byrne (Althea Ducati) is a lonely 12th at present; over 50 points clear of Jakub Smrz (PATA B&G Aprilia) and Ruben Xaus (BMW Motorrad Motorsport). Ducati privateer Luca Scassa (Supersonic Team) is the last rider inside the top 15 so far, but works Kawasaki Racing Team man Tom Sykes wants to be on the march forward at this round. He will, in his turn, have Lorenzo Lanzi pushing hard to get ahead of him on his DFX Corse Ducati. Sykes has another new team-mate in the KRT squad this time out, Northern Irish rider Ian Lowry, who is standing in for the injured Chris Vermeulen. Pedercini Kawasaki team-mates Roger Lee Hayden and Matteo Baiocco will be back in the mix in Germany. Replacing Broc Parkes in the Echo CRS Honda team will be Italian WSB debutant Fabrizio Lai.
WORLD SUPERSPORT: Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) now has only one realistic championship challenger, Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda) after the accident suffered by Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Motocard.com) at Silverstone. Laverty has scored a fabulous six wins so far, but he is still behind three-time race winner Sofuoglu, by 17 points. In fourth place ParkinGO Triumph BE-1's Chaz Davies is 43 points ahead of his closest challenger, Gino Rea (Intermoto Czech Honda) who scored his first podium last time round at Silverstone. Robbin Harms (Harms Benjan Racing Honda) is close behind Rea, with David Salom also right in there for fifth, on his Triumph. Michele Pirro (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) will come back into the fray after suffering injury at the Brno round and missing out on the Silverstone round.
SUPERSTOCK 1000: Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia STK) carried off the overall FIM Cup last time out at Silverstone, but at the home country of his machine's manufacturer he will be out to keep his perfect win record intact. Second place in the championship is still a very live fight, with Maxime Berger (Ten Kate Racing Junior Honda), Michele Magnoni (Bevilacqua Corse Honda), Andrea Antonelli (Team Lorini Honda), Davide Giugliano (Team06 Suzuki) and Loris Baz (MRS Yamaha) all set to try and claim runner-up spot by season's end.
SUPERSTOCK 600: Jeremy Guarnoni (MRS Racing Yamaha) leads his fellow Frenchman Florian Marino (Ten Kate Junior Racing Honda) by 26 points, with only these two riders in the final fight for the championship now. Federico D'Annunzio (Martini Corse Yamaha) no scored last time out but is still third, on the same 70 points total as his team-mate Dino Lombardi.
TRIUMPH PARKINGO SERIES: The single make Triumph ParkinGO European Series continues apace in Germany, featuring identical Triumph Street Triple R machines, raced by a mix of experienced and amateur riders. The challenge of the Nurburgring is one that all the riders are eagerly anticipating, especially championship leader Fabrizio Perotti, who could win the title this time out if results go his way. Two rounds remain, at the Nurburgring and then the season finale at Magny-Cours on October 3rd.
THE CIRCUIT: The modern-day Nurburgring is a very different one from the nearby 20th century classic, the 'Nordschleife'. Nevertheless, the 5.137km circuit that welcomes WSBK racing this weekend still has plenty of elevation changes, fast and slow corners and overtaking opportunities. WSBK racing first started at the Nurburgring in 1998 and 1999, and returned in 2008 and 2009. High drama and close competition have been the keynotes of recent races at this venue, although being located in the Eifel Mountains the track can be subject to rapid and sometimes extreme changes in weather conditions.