World Superbike 2008 - Round Eight - Misano (Spain) - Preview
The see-sawing battle for world Superbike supremacy continues on Italy’s Adriatic Riviera coast this weekend, with the championship reconvening at the popular Misano circuit.
With Italy now well into summer, conditions are again expected to be oppressive at the 4.180km layout, which has been kind to championship leader Troy Bayliss over the years.
The Aussie has won six of the 10 races he has contested at Misano, including clean sweeps in 2002 and last year. Despite his outstanding record, the dual world champion can’t really pinpoint why it’s been such a fertile environment for him.
“I'm not sure why I’ve always been fast around Misano, but it just seems to be a track that works for us and for the Ducatis,” said Bayliss.
“It's also one of my favourite tracks and I know it very well so that probably helps too. We'll now see how well the (2008 model Ducati) F08 goes there.”
After seven rounds, Bayliss leads the world Superbike title by 39pts (227 to 188) over Spain’s Carlos Checa (Honda), with the duo experiencing fluctuating fortunes over the last two rounds.
Bayliss failed to score any points in America’s round six, while Checa, in his rookie Superbike year, stormed to a clean sweep and reduced the Australian’s lead to just 28pts.
Then perennial slow starter Checa wasn’t as impressive in Germany’s round seven, while Bayliss’ two top-four results were enough to see him re-consolidate his hold on top spot.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha) was the star at Nurburgring, winning both races to move to within 4pts (172 to 176) of German Max Neukirchner (Suzuki), who has now become a regular front-runner and podium finisher.
Australia’s Troy Corser (Yamaha) is another rider who’s really starting to hit peak form, and he’s fifth in the standings on 154pts.
The quartet is all chasing Bayliss, whose superb start to the year - five wins in the opening eight races - set him up nicely in his quest for a third world title.
“We made such a great start to the season while some of the other teams were perhaps struggling a little bit, so it was inevitable that those guys would then pick-up and be more of a challenge to us,” said Bayliss.
“We're only half way through so no-one can say how it will turn out. I'm just getting my head down and focusing on what I've got to do in the next rounds.
“I'm also physically feeling quite good. I feel overall very fit this season, and I have worked hard to stay in the best shape possible. I'm not as young as I used to be, so I think I'm working harder to stay fit now than I did a few years ago.”
Bayliss spent an exhaustive three days testing at Mugello last week with teammate Michel Fabrizio, logging hundreds of kilometres in an attempt to iron out some bugs which have crept into his factory machine.
“We found a couple of new set-ups that we'll try at Misano so that was positive,” said Bayliss. “And it had been a while since I had ridden at the track, so it was good to see how fast I could go there. It was tiring as we covered a lot of kilometres over two days, but if we can see the results at Misano, then I can say it was worth it.”
Corser is a four-time winner at Misano, last tasting success in 2000 when he was riding an Aprilia.
“I got a fair bit in front of everybody that year and really raced well,” said Corser. “It was the year after I left Ducati, so it was nice to go and win on their home track!
“Misano has always been one of my favourite tracks, but now it’s really a new layout because it’s run in reverse direction.”
After struggling in the opening five rounds, Corser’s bike now “feels much more complete” and he’s confident of a good result in Misano.
“Nurburgring was a confirmation that we’re getting better and better,” said Corser. “And development is always ongoing, so I’m confident there is still a lot of improvement to come.”
Corser was on track for his first win of the year in Nurburgring before the race was red-flagged early because of rain, with final positions determined by placings the lap before - when Haga was in front.
Meanwhile, speculation continues to mount about who will take the retiring Bayliss’ spot in the factory Ducati squad for 2009, with names such as Aussie MotoGP rider Chris Vermeulen and Max Biaggi being tossed about.
Vermeulen will be racing elsewhere this weekend, but Biaggi will be keen to impress on his privateer Ducati after what has been a barren year for the Italian star.
Biaggi was a podium finisher at Misano last year, with Corser, Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki) and Haga also leaving with top three results.
Biaggi’s teammate, Ruben Xaus, is also a handy performer around Misano, scoring maximum points way back in 2003.
There are only three Australians left in this year’s Superbike championship with news that Russell Holland is replacing an injured rider in a world Supersport team.
That leaves Karl Muggeridge (Honda) as the third Aussie Superbike campaigner, in what has been a resurgent year for the 34-year-old Swiss-based rider.
In world Supersport, Holland (Honda) is certainly going to add yet another layer of class to an already imposing group of Aussies: Honda riders Andrew Pitt and Josh Brookes, Triumph duo Mark Aitchison and Garry McCoy, and Yamaha’s Broc Parkes.
Pitt has been the standout with three wins in six rounds, but he’s also crashed out of two races, leaving him a slim title leader from Fabien Foret (Yamaha), Brookes, Spanish sensation Joan Lascorz (Honda) and Parkes.
Another Australian, Anthony West, blitzed the field at Misano last year, ahead of Parkes.
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World Superbike 2008 - Round Eight - Misano (Spain)
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