2019 World Superbike
WSBK heads to Imola for Round Five
World Superbikes now heads to the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola with Alvaro Bautista’s domination continuing, and defending World Champion Jonathan Rea 53-points in arrears.
Even at Assen, a circuit which many had pencilled in as a potential bogey circuit for the Ducati V4 R, Álvaro Bautista was able to impose his authority on the rest of the field – albeit with his leading margin severely abbreviated.
The Spaniard’s star is burning brighter and brighter, yet every round the spotlight is at a bigger risk of veering towards someone else. Bautista knew each one of the four opening tracks inside-out before even stepping onboard the V4 R; that’s not the case with Imola.
“Two weeks ago I had the chance to test at Imola, a circuit where I’ve never raced before. It was very useful because now I have a few more markers for the weekend race. The track is a bit ‘old style’: it’s very narrow, with a lot of hard braking points, but it’s got a nice combination of fast corners. All things considered, it’s a fun circuit, even though I still have to interpret the lines better. It’ll surely be a great weekend and we hope to arrive at the same competitive level we’ve had so far. For the Aruba team’s and the Ducati factory’s home race, we absolutely want to be and must be on the top of our form!”
Even with a semi-rained out, one-day test behind him, the 34-year-old will for once be at a disadvantage in terms of experience – although, to be fair, he’ll be the only one inside the Borgo Panigale squad with that issue. The Pirelli Italian Round is a home tie for Ducati and the crowd will be hot for the red machines. Despite having to concede two wins to Kawasaki last year, Ducati is still the most successful manufacturer around their home track. Ducati have won here 17 times, more than all their rivals combined, 14 (Honda 7; Kawasaki 6; Aprilia 1).
Chaz Davies, a four-time winner at the Autodromo, knows the stage better than most and will aim to gain the upper hand on his teammate for the first time this year.
“I’m looking forward to Imola, it’s the home race for the Aruba team and for Ducati. We’ve had two quite good weekends in succession now, so hopefully we can put together the best of what we learned there and in testing to put on a good race. I’m quite optimistic, because I’m starting to have a good feeling now on the bike. Historically Imola’s been a good track for me, it suits me and my style but we can’t rely on that because we need to keep working on our weaknesses with the Panigale V4 R. The people here are always so enthusiastic and winning at Imola is like nowhere else so that’s the objective this weekend.”
A win for either man would serve as vindication for Ducati after their private test ten days ago, but the word on Kawasaki’s mind might well be vendetta. The last time the Japanese manufacturer failed to win a race inside the opening four rounds was 2011, in the pre-Provec Racing era; similarly, Jonathan Rea had not left four consecutive rounds empty-handed since his Honda days.
These are uncharted waters for the men in green, and the visit to their rival’s playfield could not come at a more frustrating time – yet hopes are still high for the first of two Italian meetings. This is after all, the first event which the Northern Irishman outright dominated last year, not to mention his consecutive demolition jobs in 2014 and 2015. Imola was where it all clicked for Rea in 2018 – could it be a turning point in 2019?
“I had a great few weeks’ rest at home, and I am re-charged and ready to attack this mid-part of the season. After four rounds we have understood and evaluated where we are and where we need to improve. So we approach Imola trying to make another step in terms of my riding and also the performance of the bike. The circuit is incredible and I love racing at Imola, because it is steeped in history and from a rider’s point of view it is a fun track to ride. It is very unique with a lot of undulations and you really need to feel at one with your bike to push on the limit there. I am very excited for FP1 just to understand our performance, if we can be competitive, which I am sure we can be. I will work with my team throughout Friday to give us a bike to compete. I see Imola as a track where we can be really competitive and last year we had a great season, so I feel like it is the time in my season where we can try to change the momentum of the championship. Imola gives us a good opportunity to do that.”
Keeping up with the questions: which Yamaha rider will be the one to step up on this occasion? Marco Melandri got the blue brand’s first podium in Australia, followed by a triplet of thirds for Alex Lowes in Thailand.
“I’m really looking forward to returning to Imola, as it’s one of the most beautiful tracks we race at during the season. It’s a very technical track, very difficult actually, but with the long break after Assen we’ve had a chance to think about how we can improve, so I’m sure in Imola this weekend we will start from a different level compared to the previous few races.”
Then, MotorLand Aragon witnessed an astonishing qualifying performance by Sandro Cortese, before Michael van der Mark starred in a heroic homecoming at Assen just seven days later.
Michael van der Mark
“We’ve had quite a long break since the last round in Assen, so I can’t wait to race again this weekend. Imola is a circuit with different characteristics again and, although the results in the past weren’t all that great, we made a big step forward last year in Race 2. With that in mind, and with the improvements we’ve made to the bike this season already, I think we can be competitive at this circuit. The weekend can’t come quick enough for me!”
There’s no shortage of YZF-R1 riders with their eyes on the brass ring – the only doubt is whether (or rather, when) one of the four can move past the support cast and claim that leading role. The Pata Yamaha pair have had the early edge in 2019; conversely, Melandri is the only one with podium experience at Imola.
Piano piano, si arriva lontano. While this Italian idiom – roughly translated as “slow and steady wins the race” – may not be a natural fit for the sport, it does do a good job at explaining the mentality behind the early development of the BMW S1000 RR. Upgrades have slowly streamed in from one round to another, and correspondingly results for both Tom Sykes and Markus Reiterberger have been on a steady rise. The German manufacturer is playing the long game for its full factory return to WorldSBK and each race is a new test of the S1000 RR’s potential. It will be interesting to see what they can bring to the table for Round Five.
The Moriwaki Althea Honda Team found itself in a similar situation at this season’s start, albeit without new machinery; however, results have not been quite as encouraging yet. With the Japanese manufacturer putting its full support behind the project, it shouldn’t be long before we see the duo of Leon Camier – third at Imola back in 2011 – and Ryuichi Kiyonari higher up the grid. It will be something of a home race for the squad with the Althea headquarters located just north of Rome, around three-hundreds kilometers from the historic track.
Leon Camier is looking forward to racing at a track he loves and, together with teammate Ryuichi Kiyonari, is counting on the southern European location for stable and hopefully warm weather after the havoc caused by the freezing and extremely variable conditions in Assen four weeks ago.
“I love Imola, it’s a really good track and I enjoy riding there. Having said that, I expect it to be tough to be honest. The layout is very physical and there are a lot of details we need to get right in terms of the bike’s setup. I think it will be a challenging weekend for us, but I’m definitely looking forward to it. Hopefully the weather will be warmer than Assen and allow us to take advantage of every session to prepare for the races. We’ll try our best and will see what happens.”
AEST Time Schedule
|2315||WSSP300||Last Chance Race|
2019 WorldSBK Rider standings following Assen
|4||Michael Van Der Mark||115|
|12||Michael Ruben Rinaldi||36|
The World Supersport Championship is providing exciting, close-quarter racing in 2019, with the last two races (MotorLand Aragon and TT Circuit Assen) going down to the last lap in dramatic fashion. Now, the championships head to the first of two rounds in Italy, at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit – or simply Imola. A historic circuit which has hosted many battles across all classes of racing promises to be no exception to the WorldSSP riders this weekend.
Heading into the fifth round of the WorldSSP Championship at the front of the field, Randy Krummenacher will be eager to continue his fantastic podium streak. Yet to finish below second position, the Swiss star has a 17-point advantage ahead of his rivals but heads to a circuit at which he only has one fifth-place finish at. However, the metronomically consistent Krummenacher will hope to become the first ever Swiss WorldSSP winner in Italy.
Krummenacher’s teammate and TT Circuit Assen victor Federico Caricasulo is second in the championship. The 23-year-old Italian has been on the podium in every race this season, with three third-places and a win last time out.
“It was good to get the first win of the season under my belt in Assen, although I had to work hard for it. I have been working hard since then to prepare for my home race in Imola and I can’t wait to get out in track in front of the Italian fans. It’s very close at the front this season in the Supersport World Championship, but I hope I can fight for the win once again and give the fans something to cheer for.”
Caricasulo now heads to Imola, a circuit at which he was a strong second at last year. Aiming to go one better, Caricasulo hopes to become the first same back-to-back Italian winner in WorldSSP races since Luca Scassa in 2011, at Phillip Island and Donington Park.
Jules Cluzel is third in the championship standings, 31 points adrift of Randy Krummenacher. The French rider is yet to mount the podium in Europe this season, although he was in the thick of the action during the Motul Dutch Round, placing fourth and fractionally behind the podium places. Cluzel was also the winner of the WorldSSP race at Imola in 2018, making him one of the favourites ahead of the weekend this year.
Making history at the TT Circuit Assen, Thomas Gradinger became the first Austrian rider in the history of WorldSSP to get on the podium. Following on from his first pole at MotorLand Aragon and his first podium at Assen, does a first win lie ahead for the Austrian ace? Gradinger now heads to Imola – a circuit at which he had his second-worst result at in 2018. However, with Gradinger’s noticeable improvements in 2019, he may well be a force to be reckoned with come Sunday.
Another stand-out performer in 2019 has been Japanese rider, Hikari Okubo. Having made a considerable step forward with the Kawasaki ZX-6R, which has yielded four consecutive top eight finishes with a best of sixth, Okubo has been in close contention with the leading group in the opening portion of the year. In the last two seasons, Okubo has been firmly placed in the top ten at Imola, so a return to the top six will be his aim this weekend.
Completing the top six in the championship is Corentin Perolari, who has been making small improvements in the European stint of the season. With two sixth-places in the last two races making for his best results of the season, Perolari heads to a circuit which is completely new to him, and with the challenges Imola propose, it may be a learning weekend for him. Can Perolari continue his fine form and remain in the top six in the championship?
Other riders to keep a look out for are Lucas Mahias, who was back in the leading group at Assen. Raffaele De Rosa heads home and will look to redeem himself after a crash out of the leading group in The Netherlands. Hannes Soomer made a good step forwards at Assen and will hope to build on that at Imola.
World Supersport Standings after Assen
- Randy Krummenacher 90
- Federico Caricasulo 73
- Jules Cluzel 69
- Thomas Gradinger 40
- Hikari Okubo 37
- Corentin Perolari 34
- Lucas Mahias 32
- Raffaele De Rosa 31
- Isaac Vinales 27
- Hector Barbera 22
…19. Tom Toparis 5
World Supersport 300
The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola hosts the third race of the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship, a tricky test for the riders of the action-packed feeder series. A massive 56 challengers – many of whom have never stepped foot on the Italian track – will attempt to find fame at the iconic venue, one renowned for separating championship contenders from the pretenders.
Back in 2017, Marc García scored a vital maiden win at Imola, one which immediately propelled him into the fight for the gold. Twelve months later, Ana Carrasco opened her account for the season with an utterly dominant performance on the Italian tarmac. Both riders, champions of the class, know better than most the huge value of a win at the Italian Round – and conversely, both need a boost after a slow start to the season.
The fact that both previous winners of the Italian Round have later gone on to clinch the world title will not be lost on many competitors, particularly those who have begun the 2019 season intent on setting the world alight. The rider who best fits that description is of course championship leader Manuel González.
Few would have predicted such a remarkable start from the 16-year-old – yet the signs were there at the tail-end of last season. ‘Manugas’ finished third in each one of the last three races of 2018 and his pace has only improved since then, adding two last-gasp wins to the books.
Can lightning strike thrice? No one has taken three on the trot in WorldSSP300, but on current form the Spaniard, whose sharp and tactical riding belies his young age, is the rider to beat.
Gonzalez’s feverish start shares some parallels with Scott Deroue’s early 2017 run, when the Dutchman also claimed victory in the first two races of the year. A ‘veteran’ of the class, Deroue remains second in the standings after making it onto the Aragon and Assen rostrums for a third year in a row, but in previous seasons the 23-year-old hit a major stumbling block at Imola. Will it be third time the charm for Deroue?
Several more names also fit the bill: Hugo De Cancellis and Jan-Ole Jahnig have both taken maiden podiums this season and have shown huge promise on the Yamaha and KTM, respectively. But they will be far from the only contenders, with other starlets including Nick Kalinin – third at Imola in 2017 – Andy Verdoia or home riders Omar Bonoli and Bruno Ieraci – 28th to 1st in four laps at Assen – keen on adding their names into the mix.
World Supersport 300 Standings following Assen
- Manuel Gonzalez 50
- Scott Deroue 36
- Hugo De Cancellis 31
- Jan-Ole Jahnig 29
- Omar Bonoli 19
- Andy Verdoïa 18
- Bruno Ieraci 17
- Victor Steeman 16
- Nick Kalinin 15
- Robert Schotman 9