Rome (Italy), Monday 24 January 2011 - The winter preparations for the main protagonists in the Superbike World Championship in 2011 are about to be boosted by another jolt of intensity, as the official IMS test sessions start at Portimao, between 26 and 28 January. There will be one more such pre-season test, at Phillip Island on 21 and 22 February, shortly before the first race of the year takes place on Sunday 27th Feb.
All seven competing manufacturers in the 2011 championship will arrive in Portimao for testing ready to measure their relative progress against their peers, in a series which once more will have no shortage of riders capable of winning races. In terms of potential world champions, every manufacturer has at least one ready to step up to challenge all the way.
The rider everyone has to chase in 2011 is the reigning champion Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia), not only because he will be running the Number 1 plate on his RSV4, but because he fully intends to keep it in 2011. He will be joined in the works Aprilia Alitalia team again this season by rapidly rising WSBK star Leon Camier. There will be three high class Aprilia riders in 2011, as the Team Pata entry Noriyuki Haga sets out on a full season on a machine his team feels confident will be fast enough to challenge for the title itself.
BMW Motorrad Motorsport's official team is not attending the Portimao test, as the factory effort heads to its own sessions in Australia, but the BMW Motorrad Motorsport Team, promoted from the FIM 1000 Superstock Cup series to full WSBK status, will have their two riders out in Portugal. James Toseland, two-times champion in WSBK racing, and new Superstock champion Ayrton Badovini have the potential to be every bit as potent as the official squad, once fully prepared for the new season.
Three Ducati teams will test in Portugal - top three runner in 2010 Carlos Checa for Althea Racing, Jakub Smrz and Sylvain Guintoli for Liberty Racing and Supersonic Racing has top Superstock competitor Maxime Berger as its lone rider in 2011.
The Japanese manufacturers are heavily represented in WSBK racing once more in 2011, and a famous name in World Superbike history returns to the fold this time around - Castrol Honda. The 2011 version is a Ten Kate operated team and they will call on the services of proven winners Jonathan Rea and Ruben Xaus. They have recently tested in Aragon - a new WSBK venue in 2011 - but in very cold weather conditions, so they will be particularly keen to see the Portimao tests bathed in sunshine as the outside world gets to see their new sponsors' livery in motion.
Kawasaki will be back in 2011, and back with an unprecedented number of all-new machines operating under full factory support - three. Tom Sykes is retained for another year, and he has been making extensive tests on the Ninja ZX-10R for some time now. New boy Joan Lascorz is an old Supersport hand, but a rookie in WSBK, and he is scheduled to test at Portimao as he recovers strength in his injured shoulder. Third rider Chris Vermeulen will not test until Australia, as he continues to recover from reconstructive knee surgery.
Suzuki Alstare has lone rider Michel Fabrizio on its GSX-R1000 this year, a proven race winner on a bike that challenged Biaggi almost all the way last year.
Yamaha's duo of stars who will be competing in WSBK this year will also be testing at Portimao, with Eugene Laverty already making a good transition from WSS to WSBK and Marco Melandri hoping to ride to the level he knows he can, after a recent operation to his shoulder. The WSBK scene awaits the arrival of another Italian star in its midst...
A resurgence of interest and entries in the Supersport World Championship class means that there will be over 20 riders at the Portimao tests.
Headliners, for a number of reasons, include the Hannspree Ten Kate (Fabien Foret and Florian Marino), Parkalgar Honda riders Sam Lowes and Miguel Praia, plus Broc Parkes and David Salom (from the Provec Motocard.com Kawasaki squad). Gino Rea is also hoping to move on with his Step Racing Honda, while another rider with big credentials in many forms of racing, James Ellison, moves to Supersport with Bogdanka Honda, alongside Pawel Szkopek.
Possibly the biggest pre-season surprise is a late change of machinery for the ParkinGO Team, which will see Chaz Davies and Luca Scassa now running with Yamaha machines, the same ones which took Cal Crutchlow to the WSS Championship in 2009. Triumph as a manufacturer will be represented in WSS at this test by Marko Jerman (MD Team Jerman).
Action gets underway on Wednesday and concludes on Friday. Attached are the three-day timetable and test entry-lists.
-source: wsbk pr