World Superbike returns to Europe for round 3 at Valencia After two exciting overseas races in Australia and Qatar, the 2009 Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship returns to European soil this weekend for the third round at Valencia's...
World Superbike returns to Europe for round 3 at Valencia
After two exciting overseas races in Australia and Qatar, the 2009 Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship returns to European soil this weekend for the third round at Valencia's Ricardo Tormo circuit. The Spanish track has been the venue for World Superbike since 2000, and has a tricky technical configuration where precise set-up plays a fundamental role. Troy Corser has the most wins at the Ricardo Tormo track, five, followed by Troy Bayliss on four and Noriyuki Haga, one of last year's winners, on three.
The first two rounds of the season have been marked by the impressive form of two riders, Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) and rookie Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike). The 34 year-old from Japan is currently leading the championship standings with one win and three second places to his name, and even though he will be racing at one of his best tracks, he will have to watch out for the Texan, ten years his younger, who has set WSB alight with three wins in four races. The gap between the two is 10 points and sparks are sure to fly at Valencia.
But Haga and Spies won't be resting on their laurels as their closest rivals are aiming to cut the gap and challenge for wins. Starting with Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Alstare), who has had an up-and-down start to the season. Last year the German was heading for his first WSB win when he was brought down at the final turn by Carlos Checa and he will be looking to kick his championship campaign into gear this time around. All eyes will also be on Max Biaggi, who has demonstrated that the Aprilia RSV4 is capable of fighting for wins, and Troy Corser, who aims to make further progress on BMW's promising new contender. Michel Fabrizio, so disappointing in the opening rounds after setting the pace in pre-season tests, will be looking to approach that sort of form again on the second factory Ducati 1098 machine.
Spanish fans will be rooting for Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), who came close to the win last year and who has now fully recovered from the recent shoulder injury that conditioned his form in the first two rounds; as well as Ruben Xaus (BMW), who won race 1 here in 2007. The two Spanish riders are not on the top of their game at the moment, but their home track should bring out the best in both of them.
This year's championship already has an impressive line-up, and it gains even more prestige with the arrival of John Hopkins. Stiggy Racing Honda and Roberto Rolfo have ended their collaboration by mutual consent and the team led by former rider Johan Stigefelt immediately snapped up the American. Hopkins, 26 years old in May, was born in Ramona (California), and made his debut in MotoGP in 2002, where he stayed until last year. With 115 races and four podiums to his name, all in 2007, Hopkins' best season was that year, when he finished in fourth place. The Stiggy rider has the bike and the potential to play a major role in the championship, and has declared his intention to win races in his rookie WSB season.
A first step in establishing a series of cost-cutting measures in Superbike will be a new racing timetable that enters into force from Valencia onwards. The big change regards Friday's schedule, with Superbike free practice now beginning at 12.45 and qualifying at 16.15. Supersport, Superstock 1000 and Superstock 600 have just one qualifying session scheduled on the Saturday with Friday devoted solely to free practice.
In Australia and Qatar surprises were the order of the day and the championship is shaping up to be a hard-fought affair. Honda for the moment are monopolizing the scene, with Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate) and Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar) taking the wins, and reigning champion Andrew Pitt leading the points table. Yamaha are becoming a real threat however, with Cal Crutchlow scoring his first Supersport podium in Qatar, while talented Spanish youngster Joan Lascorz, who won at Valencia last year, should go well on the Kawasaki. The three-cylinder Triumph 675 machine is also showing considerable potential in the hands of Garry McCoy and Gianluca Nannelli (Be1 Racing).
Superstock Championships Underway
Valencia will also see the start of the 2009 Superstock 1000 FIM Cup and the European Superstock 600 Championship. In the upper category the favourites for the title must be Belgian Xavier Simeon (Ducati Xerox Junior Team) and Claudio Corti (Suzuki Alstare) but this championship has always had a few surprises in store over the last few seasons. All eyes will be on Tommy Bridewell (Yamaha Lorenzini) and Maxime Berger (Ten Kate Honda), who finished runner-up behind winner Brendan Roberts (Ducati Xerox Junior Team) in 2008. The 600 category looks to be a more open tussle, but judging by their form in 2008 Marco Bussolotti (Yamaha Italia) and Gino Rea (Ten Kate Honda) are likely favourites for the title.
The Spanish Round of the Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship takes place from Friday 3 thru Sunday 5 April. World Superbike free practice and qualifying are held on the first two days, with Superpole scheduled for Saturday at 15.00. The two 23-lap Superbike races are scheduled to run on Saturday at 12.00 and 15.30, with the 23-lap Supersport race at 13.25 local time.
About the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo
Since its inauguration, the Ricardo Tormo Circuit has become an emblem for international motorsport in Spain. This 'Circuit within a Stadium' as it is known, offers the possibility for spectators to see the entire race-track and is one of the few circuits to host both World Superbike and MotoGP rounds. Measuring 4.005 km, the track is unusually in an anti-clockwise direction and it has 9 left and 5 right-hander turns, leading onto the 846 m long main straight.