Will it be Davies or Sykes that claims WorldSBK’s #2
Can Sofuoglu defend his WSS title from a 20-point deficit?
All will be settled under lights at Qatar
The World Superbike title may have been put to bed, but there’s still plenty of attention on the final two spots on the podium, with Davies and Sykes currently tied on points heading into the season final, with those final two placings up for grabs.
Set under the stunning floodlights, the 5.3km circuit won’t let anything hide in the shadows, and stunning on track battles are guaranteed around the circuit. With second position in the championship still to play for, and another opportunity to make history for Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team), it won’t be a round to forget.
2017 world champion Jonathan Rea heads to Qatar off the back of a stunning performance in Southern Spain, taking his first every victory around the Jerez circuit, which then became a double victory. Losail International Circuit is now the only track on the 2017 calendar the Northern Irishman is yet to win around, but if his pace in Jerez is anything to go by, this won’t the case for long.
“Reflecting on Jerez last time out it was an amazing weekend. It has always been a good circuit for us during the winter tests but this year we managed to be really strong all weekend in the races. This has given us good momentum to take into Qatar. This is the last round and I want to finish well. I enjoy the atmosphere there as it is a chilled out paddock and the night time race adds a bit of excitement between the riders and teams. The layout suits me and there are a lot of high speed corners there. It is important to maximise the grip as the track is in the middle of the desert and early in the weekend there is not so much rubber down. So we need to pay attention to that. I want to keep an eye on the long game and finish the season strong. Whatever happens, I think we can be satisfied with the job this year.”
Holding the race, pole and circuit record around Qatar, the Kawasaki rider has a good feeling with his ZX-10RR and will be out with a point to prove this weekend. He will also be chasing down the record of the most points scored in one season – currently held by Colin Edwards who amassed a 552-point tally in 2002.
Sitting in joint second position in the world championship standings is Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), who is the man to beat around Losail. Dominating the last two races in the desert, the Welsh rider will be hoping to increase his win tally in 2017 following a difficult few rounds.
“I’m looking forward to the last round. I do like racing in the lights at night, as it brings a different element to it. In the last couple of years, the Panigale R has been really competitive in Qatar. We improved quite a lot over there and last year we finally had a really strong pace, which led us to a double win. We didn’t seize second place in the championship back then because we headed into the last round trailing by a few points, but this time we’re even, so it’ll be exciting. We’re looking forward to the battle and we’re ready to put up a fight. We’re keen to finish the year on a high note.”
Hunting down second position in the championship, Davies’ mind will be focused on taking the runner up position as he will be locked in a battle with Sykes. Only finishing outside the top five in one occasion out of six around Losail, he will be a tough man to beat on the Panigale.
On the other side of the battle, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) heads to a track which has welcomed some consistent results for the Brit, with five podiums and seven top five finishes to his name. Fighting back from a tough weekend in Portugal which saw Sykes forced to sit out of two races with a broken wrist, he has been able to nurse his hand back and secure two podium finishes, keeping his runner up spot in the championship battle within arm’s reach. Ready for the battle this weekend, he won’t go down without a fight.
“This is the final round of the year and the season has passed by almost without realising it in some ways. My hand is feeling better than it did in Jerez where all those many changes of direction meant things were not ideal. I was still not fully myself at Jerez but I am looking forward to the last races. Losail is a lovely venue and I really enjoy riding at night under the lights. I also enjoy the general layout and the weekend timetable. In the final round we will try to get the bike settings to suit my riding style in the best way possible. I have gone quite a way to try and change my riding style to suit the changes that came in this year. In Qatar we will see if we can get the bike set-up to do the rest. Right now we’re working toward making sure we take the runner up slot in the final championship standings.”
Marco Melandri, who showed great competitiveness in the last round at Jerez despite some technical issues, is determined to collect his first WorldSBK podiums in Qatar and finish the season on a high note.
“To me, Locali is one of the most beautiful tracks on the calendar. It also quite suits my riding style, as it’s a fast, flowing circuit. To ride at night, also, adds a special feeling to it, even though in terms of riding it’s basically the same. I expect us to be strong, also since the track has some things in common with Jerez, where we were really fast. At each race the Panigale R and I jell further, and I feel particularly motivated after missing what could have been a win in the last round. I want to finish the season with a strong performance, also to remind all our rivals that we’ll be a consistent threat next year.”
Continuing to improve his pace on the YZF-R1, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) heads to Qatar searching for a final podium spot of the season, but has a tough record around the 5.3km circuit. With four top ten finishes out of six appearances, Lowes has been steadily improving his pace with the Yamaha, and will be looking for find some extra tenths under the floodlights.
“This season seems to have gone by really fast! I’m ready for the final race of the year and I will be giving it everything I can to finish as strongly as possible. The race in Qatar is unique as it’s our only night race, which I really enjoy. Overall the season has gone pretty well and I feel like I am improving all the time, so I want to make sure I take another step forward this weekend. The R1 finished on the podium here last year, and I learned a lot about getting the best from the bike at this type of track, so I think both me and my Yamaha are ready to give a strong performance! ”
On the other side of the garage, Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK) heads to Qatar off the back of his MotoGP debut in Malaysia.
Michael van der Mark
“I am looking forward to the last race of the season, even if it’s difficult to believe it’s arrived already. The Qatar round is one of my favourite races of the year under the floodlights and I really like the track. Hopefully, we can finish the season on a high note as we have been really competitive in the last couple of races. There are some small points we can improve to make sure I am able to be fast right to the end, and I look forward to ending the year in the best way possible.”
In a similar situation to Lowes, Van der Mark has been improving the pace of his Yamaha and will hope to end the season on a high at Losail, a circuit which he has taken a top five finish in WorldSBK and the victory in WorldSSP in 2014.
Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) will prepare for his final race with the Italian factory, and Sunday’s race will mark his 80th with the manufacturer. Securing some stunning results with the team this season despite some early season set-backs, the British rider will be looking to go out on a high. But at a circuit he has struggled around over his four appearances – with two retirements, an 18th and a 13th – the 31 year old has a big challenge ahead of him to brighten up the Qatari skies.
Irish rider Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) heads to Losail International Circuit with a wealth of knowledge behind him, following two appearances with MotoGP and two with WorldSBK. Facing a tough round back in 2014 in the class, Laverty is nearing the end of his comeback to the series and has had some hard battles to face so far. Hoping to put these behind him, the 31 year old has one round remaining to get back onto the podium in 2017.
Heading back to the scene of his debut and only WorldSBK victory, Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) has a lot of confidence around the Losail International Circuit and will be looking to end the season on a high after some testing rounds in 2017. Sitting in the top nine in the world championship standings, the Spanish rider will look to build on his two top eight finishes from 2016 with the German bike.
Taking on the final round after a tough season for the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team, Davide Guigliano and Jake Gagne will both make their return to the Dutch-based Ten Kate squad for the final time in 2017. American Gagne will be debuting around Qatar, whilst Guigliano’s previous results in the desert show two top eight finishes. Still working on improving the Honda Fireblade CRB1000RR SP2, the pair will be giving it their all to make some progress under the floodlights.
WorldSBK Championship Standings
- Jonathan Rea – 506 – Kawasaki
- Chaz Davies – 363 – Ducati
- Tom Sykes – 363 – Kawasaki
- Marco Melandri – 301 – Ducati
- Alex Lowes – 226 – Yamaha
- Michael Van Der Mark – 210 – Yamaha
- Xavi Forés – 185 – Ducati
- Leon Camier – 154 – MV Agusta
- Jordi Torres – 149 – BMW
- Eugene Laverty – 135 – Aprilia
- Leandro Mercado – 115 – Aprilia
- Lorenzo Savadori – 113 – Aprilia
- Román Ramos – 106 – Kawasaki
- Stefan Bradl 67 – Honda
- Randy Krummenacher – 50 – Kawasaki
- Raffaele De Rosa – 48 – BMW
- Nicky Hayden – 40 – Honda
- Alex De Angelis – 32 – Kawasaki
- Markus Reiterberger – 29 – BMW
- Ayrton Badovini – 26 – Kawasaki
Pirelli solutions for WorldSBK and WorldSSP classes
For the last round of the season Pirelli brings a total of 2808 tyres to meet the needs of WorldSBK and WorldSSP600 class riders.
As always, not all of Pirelli’s tyres will be used, each rider has more options available and can choose what he wants to use for racing, concentrating set-up work with those options. In addition, there are intermediate and wet solutions that are only used when needed. By regulation, however, WorldSBK riders cannot use more than 24 tyres throughout the race weekend, an amount which is reduced to 18 in the WorldSSP600 class.
In WorldSBK, each rider will have at his disposal, including the two wet solutions and the rear qualifier tyre, 5 front solutions and as many for the rear. The dry solutions are therefore three for the front and two for the rear, in addition to the qualifier rear tyre, in this case the W0220 solution already seen in action also at Imola, Donington, Misano, Laguna Seca and Lausitzring.
For the front, the standard SC1 (soft) and SC2 (medium) will be flanked by the development SC1 V0952, which uses the same compound of the standard SC1 but has different structural solutions which this year has already been used in the rounds of Aragon, Assen, Imola, Donington, Misano, Laguna Seca, Lausitzring, Portimão, Magny-Cours and Jerez.
At the rear, for the races the riders will be able to choose the soft W0575 development solution, introduced at Laguna Seca and race tyre also at Lausitzring, Portimão and Magny-Cours, and the standard SC1, which offers a medium hardness of the compound positioning halfway between the soft and hard solution.
WorldSSP: Title fight comes down to the wire in Qatar
Continuing with the stunningly dramatic action the 2017 FIM Supersport World Championship has treated us with, the title fight goes down to the final round in the heat of the desert as Lucas Mahais (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) looks to de-throne Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and take the title in Qatar.
With Sofuoglu hoping to return from injury this weekend, there is all to play for and 25 points up for grabs, with a chance to defend the title still on the table… if a slim on.
Following a heroic ride in front of his home fans around Circuit de Nevers Mangy-Cours, Lucas Mahias heads to Qatar with a 20 point advantage over Sofuoglu with just one round remaining. Struggling with his rear tyre in the final European Round at Jerez, Mahias has left himself with even more work to do around the Losail International Circuit.
Taking two fourth position finishes around the track – both with Yamaha – the Frenchman has a solid history around the circuit, however he will have much more on his mind than taking his first victory here. If Sofuoglu does ride, all Mahias has to do is finish five points ahead and he will be crowned champion, which sounds easy. But nothing is easy in motorbike racing.
Looking to be the man to stop Mahais, is reigning champion Sofuoglu. Putting up a strong battle to return from injury sustained five weeks ago in France, the 33 year old won’t go down without a fight on board his ZX-6R.
With eight appearances around Losail under his belt – two of those in WorldSBK – the Turkish rider has only won around the track once, back in 2007. He has however taken four podium finishes and is a rider you can never rule out of the fight. If he takes the title it will be nothing short of heroic, but if anyone can try its Sofuoglu.
No longer in with a chance of taking the title, Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) and PJ Jacobsen (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) will be searching for their first win of the season after the pair have come so close on so many occasions so far in 2017.
Cluzel has secured two podiums in the series around Qatar, whilst Jacobsen has had a varied history so far. But with the two riding with even more confidence, they will certainly be up at the sharp end and the title battle won’t be the only think to keep an eye on.
One rider to not forget is Brit Kyle Smith (Gemar Team Lorini), who has taken the victory in the WorldSSP race on the last two occasions around the Losail International Circuit. Following a strong start to the season, Smith’s run of form took a dip throughout 2017 but heading to a circuit where he will no doubt have a lot of confidence around, he will be one to watch this weekend.
WorldSSP Championship Standings
- Lucas Mahias 165 Yamaha
- Kenan Sofuoglu 145 Kawasaki
- Jules Cluzel 135 Honda
- Sheridan Morais 132 Yamaha
- Pj Jacobsen 108 Mv Agusta
- Federico Caricasulo 105 Yamaha
- Niki Tuuli 72 Yamaha
- Anthony West 62 Kawasaki
- Kyle Smith 51 Honda
- Luke Stapleford 47 Triumph
- Christian Gamarino 46 Honda
- Roberto Rolfo 43 Honda
- Kyle Ryde 43 Kawasaki
- Michael Canducci 42 Kawasaki
- Hikari Okubo 42 Honda
- Lorenzo Zanetti 28 Mv Agusta
- Hannes Soomer 28 Honda
- Rob Hartog 27 Kawasaki
- Gino Rea 24 Kawasaki
- Kazuki Watanabe 21 Kawasaki
- Decha Kraisart 20 Yamaha
- Aiden Wagner (AUS) 17 Honda
…29. Lachlan Epis (AUS) 10 Kawasaki