Portimao becomes final act in Haga-Spies showdown The Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, situated not far from the seaside town of Portimao (Portugal), is gearing up for the final round of the 2009 FIM Hannspree Superbike World Championship...
Portimao becomes final act in Haga-Spies showdown
The Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, situated not far from the seaside town of Portimao (Portugal), is gearing up for the final round of the 2009 FIM Hannspree Superbike World Championship this coming weekend. This ultra-modern circuit, which opened for business exactly twelve months ago, has in just a short period of time become one of the best in Europe, with its superb infrastructure and a spectacular but testing track layout. Not for nothing was Troy Bayliss, who came here with a third title in his hands, last year's double winner on the first appearance of World Superbike at this circuit.
The Portimao track therefore represents an ideal venue for the final round of the season, which will see the Superbike, Supersport and European Superstock 600 titles all to be decided.
TWO INTO ONE WON'T GO: The battle for the title between Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) and Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike) could go either way seeing as both riders have a similar knowledge of the track and both arrive at the final round in excellent form. The advantage probably lies with the Japanese rider, seeing as the gap between the two is a mere 10 points after a season-long's racing. Should the Texan rookie win both races or find himself on equal points with Nitro-Nori, he would win the title on countback of number of wins this season. The entire race weekend therefore will also be a battle of nerves and the battle promises to go right down to the wire...
THREE'S A CROWD: But the fight for the title in Portugal will undoubtedly see some outside influence from the three other race winners this year, all of whom will be gunning for the win. One of these is two-times winner Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox), whose chief task at Portimao will be to assist his team-mate. At Magny-Cours the Italian was somewhat on the sidelines with two below-par races, but in Portugal he will be required to make a substantial contribution to the Ducati cause should it be required. No team strategy will be on the cards for the other two undoubted protagonists, Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing) and Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda). The all-Italian combination has made considerable progress this season and Max is now constantly in amongst the podium battle. To finish the season with another win would be a major boost for next season, when Max will certainly be one of the title candidates. As for Rea, the young rider from Northern Ireland has proved himself to be one of the top riders in the category and he will surely be one of the favourites this time around at a circuit where he made his WSB debut exactly twelve months ago. Max and Johnny will also be fighting for an overall fourth place, currently in the hands of Biaggi, who has a 14-point lead over his rival.
EARLY DEBUT: The 2009 championship is already looking towards the future, with an early debut for Sylvain Guintoli in the Suzuki Alstare team in place of Max Neukirchner. The Frenchman, who has recently recovered from a nasty crash at Donington in the British Superbike championship earlier this season, is on his way to total recovery and will be one of the new arrivals in next year's championship. BSB champion Leon Camier, who will take the start for the second successive race on the Aprilia RSV4 machine, will be looking to impress the Italian team following his first outing at Magny-Cours. The Noale manufacturer will enter three bikes, with Shinya Nakano returning for the first time since the Nurburgring. Also searching for a place next year will be Britain's Shane Byrne (Sterilgarda Ducati), who may represent an outsider at Portimao. In last year's pre-season testing he surprised everyone by setting the best time and will surely be looking to end this season on a high note.
SUPERSPORT: The title is still up for grabs in Supersport, with Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha World Supersport) 19 points ahead of Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda). The British rider needs just a tenth place, irrespective of what his adversary does, to be crowned champion, before heading up to Superbike next year, when he will team up with James Toseland in the official Yamaha squad. As well as the Riders' title, Crutchlow will also have one eye on the Manufacturers' crown as Yamaha are just one point behind Honda. There will also be a terrific scrap for third place as Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), the 2007 champion, will have to watch out for the talented young Kawasaki rider Joan Lascorz. The Spaniard, all fired up following his splendid win at Magny-Cours, is just six points behind the Turk and will be looking for another top result to finish off his excellent season.
SUPERSTOCK 1000: This is the only category in which the title has already been decided, in favour of Xavier Simeon (Ducati Xerox Junior Team) with one round left to run. The final round is not devoid of interest however, as Simeon will be gunning for his fifth win this year or at least to continue his podium-finish form. Second-placed man Claudio Corti (Suzuki Alstare), who hasn't won since Monza, will have to defend a relatively comfortable 21 point advantage over Magny-Cours winner Maxime Berger (Ten Kate Honda) if he wants to finish runner-up. But Berger will also have to defend his third place from Javi Fores (Kawasaki Pedercini), who is just 11 points behind the Frenchman despite not being a winner this season.
SUPERSTOCK 600: The final championship still up for grabs is the European Superstock 600 title. Four riders are still in with a chance, all four separated by ten points. The favourite is Britain's Gino Rea (Ten Kate Honda), not exactly because he is leading the points table but more due to the fact that he won the race here last year. Early season pace-setter Danilo Petrucci (Yamaha Trasimeno) has hit a negative run recently, wasting away a sizeable lead, but he is still in the running, just three points down on Rea. Seven points away from the top can be found Belgium's Vincent Lonbois (MTM Yamaha), while ten away is Marco Bussolotti (Yamaha Trasimeno), who has to win to take the title.