Kyalami: Series preview

Kyalami gears up for World Superbike return The Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship is back in action again just a few days after last weekend's dramatic and exciting races at Monza. On Sunday evening all the bikes and ancillary material...

Kyalami gears up for World Superbike return

The Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship is back in action again just a few days after last weekend's dramatic and exciting races at Monza. On Sunday evening all the bikes and ancillary material used at Monza were crated up and air-freighted to South Africa. This weekend the Superbike and Supersport teams will be getting to grips with the Kyalami circuit on the outskirts of Johannesburg, which will again be the venue for a world championship round for the first time since 2002.

The track is situated on the plateau surrounding South Africa's most important city, and it has always been the scene for some spectacular racing, with a prestigious list of winners over the years. In the five editions held there from 1998 to 2002, Colin Edwards is the most successful rider with three wins to his name, following by Pierfrancesco Chili,

Carl Fogarty and Troy Bayliss, the last winner, on 2 each and one for Ben Bostrom.

The layout of the track, measuring 4.263 metres, is technically challenging. It has 11 left-hand curves and 6 right, and a difference in elevation between the various parts of the circuit, that makes it difficult for riders and forces them to remain fully-focussed throughout the entirety of the lap.

Back in December all the manufacturer appointed test teams, except for Kawasaki, tested here, and unofficial times were well under the previous records of 1'41"321 for Colin Edwards (Honda) in pole position and the 1'42"178 of Noriyuki Haga (Aprilia) as fastest lap. The quickest rider in the tests was Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox), ahead of Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike) and Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox), the only men to dip under the 1'40" mark.

Haga, Troy Corser (who won't be present this weekend), Ruben Xaus, Regis Laconi, Gregorio Lavilla and Broc Parkes are the only riders in the WSBK championship to have raced at Kyalami.

MOVE ON UP FABRIZIO -- With his win at Monza (the first for an Italian there for 9 years) and second place in race 2, Michel Fabrizio can now lay claim to being a true title contender. The win was a weight off the young Italian's shoulders and after his performance in testing here, Fabrizio now hopes to be able to cut loose in the rest of the season. Two more positive results could help him become the third force in the title battle between Haga and Spies.

HAGA BRUISED, SPIES ATTACKS -- Haga's impact with a pigeon at 250 kph in the early part of the race, followed by his crash at the Parabolica, left him with a severe hematoma on his right arm. The points leader underwent physiotherapy but will possibly not be at 100% this weekend, and this could play into the hands of Spies. The Texan missed a big opportunity at Monza to take maximum points after running out of fuel in race 1, but in any case managed to make up 6 points on his rival.

HONDA, APRILIA AND BMW MAKE PROGRESS -- The Italian Round at Monza showed Honda, Aprilia and BMW all making good progress. The Japanese manufacturer was back on form again thanks to two excellent thirds from Ryuichi Kiyonari and a fourth and fifth place from Jonathan Rea, who will be aiming to capitalize on that in South Africa. Aprilia were in the top 6 over the weekend thanks to Max Biaggi, who would surely have obtained a podium had he not received a penalty for cutting the chicane. Positive signs are also coming from BMW, with Ruben Xaus taking two top 10 scores at Monza to make up for Troy Corser's bad day. The Australian will be replaced by his fellow Aussie and the team's tester Steve Martin for the Kyalami race.

ABSENT AT KYALAMI -- Suzuki Alstare probably came off the worst from Monza after losing their number 1 rider Max Neukirchner, who was taken out at the start of race 1 and who suffered broken and dislocated bones to his right leg. The most optimistic of forecasts points to the German being out of action for two months, just in time for the last race before the summer break at Brno. In the four races he will miss, the Alstare Brux team has opted to replace him with Fonsi Nieto, who rode for the team in 2008. Brendan Roberts, who was also involved in the same incident, will also be absent after suffering considerable bruising but the Australian presents no broken bones. Team Guandalini will replace him with Gregorio Lavilla.

SUPERSPORT -- Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha World Supersport) picked up his second win of the year at Monza and the British rider is rapidly becoming the man to beat in the championship. His chief rivals before the season start, Andrew Pitt and Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) are struggling. The two champions are however the only riders to have tested at Kyalami and this could give them an advantage. The only man able to keep up with Crutchlow at the moment is Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda), also a two-time winner this season, while Spain's Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Provec) is making major progress. Kyalami will be an important test for Crutchlow in view of the remaining rounds of the season, while Yamaha, with their R6, have finally produced a valid alternative to the dominating Honda machines after years of trying.

-credit: wsbk

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Series World Superbike
Drivers Max Biaggi , Troy Bayliss , Colin Edwards , Andrew Pitt , Noriyuki Haga , Broc Parkes , Steve Martin , Gregorio Lavilla , Ruben Xaus , Ben Spies , Fonsi Nieto , Troy Corser , Kenan Sofuoglu , Eugene Laverty , Carl Fogarty , Michel Fabrizio , Max Neukirchner , Jonathan Rea , Ryuichi Kiyonari , Cal Crutchlow , Brendan Roberts , Joan Lascorz , Ben Bostrom