The Ring gets ready to Rock with renewed Haga-Spies duel The 2009 Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship is back in action following the summer break with the eleventh round of the championship taking place at Germany's legendary Nurburgring...
The Ring gets ready to Rock with renewed Haga-Spies duel
The 2009 Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship is back in action following the summer break with the eleventh round of the championship taking place at Germany's legendary Nurburgring circuit, an hour or so from Bonn. The German Round is the first in a series of the final four (the others being Imola, Magny-Cours and Portimao), which will lead to the crowning of the 2009 world champion. The eventual winner will now come from a short-list of three: points leader Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox), Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike) and Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox).
The Nurburgring circuit is one of the most spectacular in the world, with its 5.137 km layout offering numerous unique features. Each lap is made up of 17 curves, some of which, in particular the three after the start-finish line, are extremely tricky from a technical point of view, while the track surface is exceptional in both wet and dry conditions.
World Superbike has been to the Nurburgring three times: twice before the track underwent modifications (1998-1999) and then last year. The winners were Aaron Slight (Honda) and Pierfrancesco Chili (Ducati) in 1998, while the following year Ducati scored a double with Carl Fogarty and Troy Corser. Nine years later the German track was witness to another double win, this time by Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia), who pulled off this incredible feat just two weeks after breaking his collarbone in the previous US Round at Miller Motorsports Park.
STAR WARS -- The memories of Haga's amazing performance twelve months ago could be just what the Ducati rider needs to galvanize him into action, as he arrives in Germany in a similar position due to his recovery from the injury he suffered two races back at Donington. The Japanese rider will have to be on top form indeed to hold off his closest rival Ben Spies, who is currently on the crest of a wave with three wins in the last four races. There are just 7 points between the two at the moment and the German Round could see a sensational changeover at the top. Ducati Xerox team-mate Michel Fabrizio could also play a key role in proceedings this weekend. Not only is the young Italian in the midst of the title battle, albeit 53 points behind Haga and 46 behind the Texan (with 200 points still up for grabs), but team strategy could also play a major role. At Brno he unwittingly took Spies out of the action thus allowing Haga to keep the championship lead, but in Germany he could easily take away points from the American with careful race tactics.
APRILIA ON THE MOVE -- After the last round Max Biaggi and Aprilia will now surely be key players at the German track. The win at Brno helped to boost morale in the Italian team and even though it came at a circuit where the RSV4 had already been tested, it goes without saying that the four-cylinder machine from the Noale factory is making major progress towards the top in its return season in WSB. Biaggi raced here last year and can undoubtedly give the right indications to the Aprilia engineers to get the RSV4 machine to the top this time around.
WATCH OUT FOR HONDA -- The Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team have had an up and down season so far but at least they have seen the rise of Jonathan Rea, the only winner for the Japanese manufacturer this year and surely one of the men to watch in WSB in the future. Rea is a true fighter and the German track, which he is familiar with after racing here in Supersport, is another chance for him to shine. Carlos Checa has shown signs of a renaissance in recent races, while over in the Stiggy Racing Honda camp Leon Haslam aims to put in another solid performance to become top Honda man ahead of Rea. Further possible surprises could come from Shane Byrne (Sterilgarda Ducati), who is having an excellent second half of the season.
BMW PLAY AT HOME -- The BMW Motorrad men showed major improvement at Brno, with Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus both capable of getting onto row 2 in Superpole and the Australian bringing home the best result of the season for the team with a fifth place finish. The German squad is working hard to close the gap on the frontrunners, and with their home round ahead BMW obviously want to make a good impression. It hasn't been an idle summer for Kawasaki either as the Paul Bird Motorsport team raced successfully in a BSB round at Brands Hatch, giving an opportunity for Broc Parkes to try out some new material, while the injured Makoto Tamada remained at home to recover for the race. Over in Suzuki Alstare the Belgian squad cannot count on their top rider Max Neukirchner, who was injured again in Imola testing. After racing singleton at Brno, Yukio Kagayama will be flanked by Karl Muggeridge, released from his contract by the Celani team, which will not be present in Germany.
SUPERSPORT -- Just when everything appeared to be going Cal Crutchlow's way, the gremlin that sidelined the Yamaha man at Brno has meant the battle for the title is wide-open once again. The Coventry rider now has just a 17 points advantage over Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda), the only man who can take the title away from him. Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) is still in with a mathematical chance but the 2007 champion is 57 points down with four rounds remaining and has little chance of making up that disadvantage. Crutchlow can count on the full support of his team-mate Fabien Foret, who scored his first win of the season in the Czech Republic. Another surefire frontrunner will be Spain's Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Provec), who is having an excellent season, while following his re-emergence at Brno, Anthony West (Stiggy Racing Honda) will be hoping to continue his good run of form. Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) officially abdicated the title he won in 2008 one race ago, but wants to salvage something from this season in a race he won last year. Other Supersport men to watch will be evergreen Garry McCoy on the dark green Triumph ParkinGo 675 bike, and Italians Massimo Roccoli (Intermoto Czech Honda) and Michele Pirro (Yamaha Lorenzini), who comes to Germany just days after taking his first-ever domestic title in the category.
SUPERSTOCK 1000 -- Maxime Berger's crash at Brno as the Ten Kate Honda man was heading for victory handed victory on a plate to Xavier Simeon (Ducati Xerox), who now has a clear run to the title with a one-win gap to second-placed Claudio Corti (Suzuki Alstare), and almost two to Berger, his chief rivals. With four rounds remaining Simeon is in a good position to administer his points lead and not make any mistakes. The Nurburgring race could also see Davide Giugliano (Suzuki Celani) up at the front, especially seeing as the talented Italian has excellent memories of the German track, seeing as he finished runner-up last year behind winner Brendan Roberts (Ducati Xerox). In his rookie Superstock 1000 season Daniele Beretta (Ducati Xerox) is also showing positive form and the Nurburgring race will be the start of a late-season effort to get onto the podium.
SUPERSTOCK 600 -- Five riders are still in with a chance of taking the 600 title. Young Italian Danilo Petrucci (Yamaha Trasimeno) leads the way but he would have an even bigger advantage had he not been taken out twice in two races while in the lead. Petrucci now finds himself just 13 points ahead of Belgium's Vincent Lonbois (MTM Yamaha), 14 ahead of Britain's Gino Rea (Ten Kate Honda), 19 ahead of Frenchman Jeremy Guarnoni (MRS Yamaha) and 22 ahead of team-mate Marco Bussolotti. The German race could see a break-away by Petrucci however as the Italian has shown himself to be the strongest overall performer this year.