As WorldSBK heads to Imola, will the Kawasaki domination continue or could a home hero be crowned
Aiden Wagner leaves Lorini Honda WSSP team citing ‘irreconcilable differences’
Giuseppe Scarcella joins Lorini Honda, replacing Aiden Wagner
Set in the historic surroundings of Bologna which basks in racing history, the Superbike World Championship heads to the iconic Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola for Round Five this weekend.
It was Ducati vs Kawasaki at Assen, with Jonathan Rea (Kawasai Racing Team) and Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), coming to blows in Superpole Two and on track in Race One. As the drama from Assen rolls into Northern Italy, will we see a home hero or will Ducati’s domination on home soil continue?
With the last Italian victor around the Imola circuit being Michele Fabrizo in 2009, it will be a big ask for the nation to hit 100 WorldSBK victories this May. However it could be the turn of any one of the five Italian riders taking to the track for the Motul Italian Round to have their names in the history books, or we could yet again see an Italian manufacturer on the top step.
On the brink of securing the 100th victory for an Italian rider, Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) heads for his home round but Imola is a circuit he has struggled at in the past.
“Imola is a track that I really like. Aside from the chicanes, it’s really magnificent with its flowing, unique corners and layout. Also, it’s surrounded by nature and, geographically speaking, it’s exactly half-way between my home and Ducati. So, it’s a special place. Unfortunately, for various reasons, I still haven’t been able to score strong results there in Superbike, but we’re heading into this round in good shape. It’s true that we struggled at Assen, but we knew it would have happened sooner or later and it still turned into a good chance to learn and improve. The expectations for our home race are surely high, which only represents another source of motivation. The pressure, if anything, is positive.”
Starting his season off on a consistent run, the Italian rider has secured five podiums – at least one at every round – but is always just a step away from in the fight for the victory.
Team-mate Chaz Davies has had a rollercoaster start to his 2017 season and heads to a circuit at which he dominated at last year.
“To me, Imola is the best race of the year. It’s got the atmosphere, the history, and when things go well, like it happened last year, it’s the best place to win and celebrate in front of all the ducatisti. I also really enjoy the track, it’s quite technical and I think it suits my style, but it’s also tricky with many elevation changes, so it’s never easy to find the perfect setup for the bike. The area between the Piratella and Acque Minerali corners is really tough, but if you get it right it’s so rewarding. Assen was a mixed bag for us, the results weren’t what we were looking for but we did all we could and we gave our 100 percent on track, so I’m confident we can turn things around with a little better fortune.”
Securing two podiums and two DNFs over the last two rounds, the British rider will be hoping to recreate the form he found around Imola last season as he hunts down Rea in the championship standings.
Jonathan Rea has had a near perfect record so far in 2017, and it is a run that shows little sign of slowing down. With five victories to his name around Imola, Rea will be the man with the target on his back at the 4.9km circuit.
“I enjoy the track and the atmosphere at Imola. It is normally the first round in Europe where we see the nice weather coming along and I have been out here in Italy for a few days just to spend some time here. After the last few races everything has been going in the right way. We faced a really difficult Imola last season, and had many challenges, but this year our bike has been even more competitive – so I am excited to see how the ZX-10RR works there. We will just go about our plan and try to make a good package for both races. Our bike is working in a much bigger window than last year and that gives me a lot of confidence.”
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) is continuing to battle against an illness which is has hampered the 2013 World Champion since MotorLand Aragon. The British rider has secured two victories at Imola in the past, and four pole positions.
Missing from the podium on only two races so far this season, Sykes will no doubt be a tough one to shake off around the Italian circuit.
“I have had some improvement in my physical condition in the run up to Imola so fingers crossed we can do a bit better job. I do feel like things have improved and I have had some medication recently, which helps with the feeling of sickness I get sometimes. So hopefully now we are headed in the right way. Overall I am really looking forward to Imola and we have had some good success there in the past. With recent events I am quietly confident we can try and make a strong race weekend this time. We have a good package so we will definitely be there for the fight.”
In only his second race with his new WorldSBK team, Rafaelle De Rosa (Althea BMW Racing Team), will be hoping to build on his pace from Assen last time out as the Italian finished in the points on just one occasion in The Netherlands.
Taking time to adjust to his BMW S 1000 RR, the reigning European Superstock 1000 Champion heads to Imola with a strong knowledge of the circuit behind him. Standing on the podium in the STK1000 2016 race here, De Rosa may take a few by surprise with his pace around the circuit.
Another Italian who will be looking to perform well in front of his home crowd is Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia), the Aprilia man was able to secure a top four finish in his WorldSBK debut in Italy last season.
Returning to Assen from injury, Savadori put in a strong performance along the weekend, but has had a mixed start to the season with two top ten finishes so far. Making strong steps in The Netherlands indicate he could be up and fighting for the win.
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) are both on the brink of securing a podium finish, with the pair continuing to make adjustments on their Yamaha YZF-R1 machines, bringing them closer to the podium fight.
Home heartbreak for van der Mark will no doubt motivate the Dutchman, while Lowes will also be hoping to bounce back from a tough weekend where the British rider crashed out of Race One.
Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) left Assen with his best WorldSBK finish so far. Adding to his sixth in race one was a top ten finish in the second race, and it seems Bradl is making progress onboard the new Fireblade. However this will be his first visit to the Imola circuit, renowned for its technical nature may be a tough ask for Bradl who is still undergoing technical issues with his new machine.
Championship Standings after Assen, Round 4
Jonathan Rea 195
Tom Sykes 131
Chaz Davies 111
Marco Melandri 97
Alex Lowes 76
Michael Van Der Mark 62
Xavi Fores 60
Jordi Torres 57
Leon Camier 54
Eugene Laverty 46
Nicky Hayden 36
Stefan Bradl 35
Aiden Wagner leaves Lorini Honda squad
Australian Aiden Wagner separated from the WSSP Lorini Honda squad, citing differences with the team, with the following statement first being released on April 30, and did not compete in the Assen round.
“Due to irreconcilable differences between the team and myself, I will not be competing at Assen this weekend. Nor will I ride with the team for the rest of the season. It is very disappointing to end like this but I have found it very hard with the lack of communication and because of language differences, to get my point across. The team’s lack of beliefs in me and my crew became a constant battle. Not being able to work on the bike or to understand how to make it a better package was the end for me. It’s time to think about what my future may hold and as the situation was, I could not see a beneficial outcome. I am very sorry to my sponsors in this time and thank them very much for their hard work and dedication already this season.”
Giuseppe Scarcella joins the World Supersport grid, replacing Aiden Wagner at Lorini Honda
Giuseppe Scarcella is on his way to Europe now to move into the position vacated with Lorini Honda by Wagner.
Scarcella campaigned a Honda CBR600RR in the FX and ASBK Championships in Australia in recent seasons but switched to Kawasaki machinery for his 2017 domestic campaign.
Scarcella will remain with the Lorini Honda World Supersport squad for the remainder of season 2017.
World Supersport Imola Preview
Normal service was resumed in the FIM Supersport World Championship last time out in Round Four at the TT Circuit Assen, as Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) took a dominating victory under sunny Dutch skies, giving him his first points of 2017.
Now the series looks to Italy as the paddock heads to Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola, which is bound to add in new levels of drama for the field.
Back in 2016 we saw Sofuoglu take the victory in a restarted race around the tight and twisty circuit, where any small mistake can cost you big problems. This season Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) continues to lead the way in the championship standings following a second position finish last time out, despite a strong battle with Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda).
With four victories to his name around the historic circuit, Sofuoglu is the only rider on the grid to have won around in Imola in the WorldSSP class, meaning he will be the one to watch at the circuit.
Following his victory last time out he is now 40 points behind Mahias in the championship standings, and once the Turkish rider builds up some momentum he is a hard force to be reckoned with, especially with the Kawasaki a proven strong manufacturer around the circuit.
Keeping up a strong level of consistency around Imola, French rider Mahias has had an impressive start to the season and appears to be strong around all circuits the series has visited so far in 2017.
Racing around the iconic circuit back in 2015 in the WorldSSP series, Mahias was unable to finish the race meaning he has limited experience ahead of the weekend. Despite this, it won’t hinder the Yamaha rider and he’s bound to be up and fighting at the sharp end in Northern Italy.
Italian Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) secured a top six finish last time out, and heads to Italy with a strong fan base heading out to support him. Last season he finished in the top eight around Imola, and with his team-mate in strong form to help him the Italian could bring some of his fiery Italian spirit with him.
Another Italian who won’t want to be sitting on the sidelines is the Australian winner Roberto Rolfo (Team Factory Vamag), and onboard an Aprilia he will have even more home support. Finishing in the points in each race so far, Rolfo has kept a consistent run this season but will be aiming to be closer to the podium at his home round.
Following a tough start to 2017, Jules Cluzel secured his first podium of the season in The Netherlands and heading to Imola – where he secured a second position in the series in 2015 – could his gremlins be behind him?
The unpredictable nature of the championship has meant the Frenchman has struggled to get some consistent results on the board, however as he now sits in seventh position in the championship and only 36 points off the top of the table.
Imola is a notoriously difficult circuit for riders, but Cluzel and his team will no doubt be pushing for another podium appearance in front of the Italian crowds. Who can stop Deroue in Italy?
Anthony West will also no doubt be aiming for a repeat of his Australian performance, where he took a podium position, while Assen saw him finish 14th.
WSSP Championship Standings after Assen
Lucas Mahias – 65
Sheridan Morais – 45
Roberto Rolfo – 41
Pj Jacobsen – 39
Kyle Ryde – 36
Federico Caricasulo – 35
Jules Cluzel – 29
Niki Tuuli – 27
Kenan Sofuoglu – 25
Michael Canducci – 22
Decha Kraisart – 20
Anthony West – 18
Aiden Wagner – 17
WorldSSP300 heads to Imola with 14 Italians seeking glory on the grid
As the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship continues on its debut season, the 36 riders now head to the technical circuit of Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola to take on the Italian passion. With 14 Italian riders on the grid, the crowd will certainly have something to shout about.
Scott Deroue (MTM HS Kawasaki) leads the way, being the only rider to win a WorldSSP300 race so far following two stunning performances in the strong field. All eyes will be on the 21 year old following a win in front of his home fans last time out at TT Circuit Assen, despite riding with a sprained ankle.
With limited knowledge around European circuits, Deroue heads to the taxing Italian circuit with confidence behind him on board his Ninja 300.
In a stunning display of strong moves and some risky overtakes, Borja Sanchez (Halcourier Racing) sits in second position in the world championship standings, as he narrowly missed out on a podium finish last time out. Leading the way for many laps of the race, the Spaniard has proved he has the pace to be up and fighting for the victory, meaning it will be his chance to prove it around Imola.
Team-mate Daniel Valle (Halcourier Racing) had a tough weekend in The Netherlands, but he will be looking to bring his pace from MotorLand Aragon back to Imola on his Yamaha machine.
Heading into his home round as leading Italian, Alfonso Coppola (SK Racing) has a lot of expectation around him, but with the talent shown so far this shouldn’t faze the 19 year old. Putting on a strong performance around Assen, he will be fighting around the technical circuit with his Yamaha machine, which should be a good match to the tight and twisty circuit.
Giuseppe De Gruttola (SK Racing) will also be looking to be back up and fighting this time in front of his home crowd, as he showed competitive signs last time out around the iconic Assen circuit. Paolo Giacomini (Terra e Moto) is another Italian showing signs of being up and fighting, hoping Imola will produce some heroics for him.
Mika Perez (WILSport Racedays) will be hoping to bounce back from a tough weekend at TT Circuit Assen and with experience around the technical Imola circuit, he will no doubt be one to keep an eye on as his fast pace improves onboard his Honda CBR500R.
Follow all the unmissable WorldSSP300 action from Friday at 12.15 LT on the WorldSBK VideoPass, ahead of the racing drama on Sunday.
WSSP300 Championship Standings after Assen – Top 10
Scott Deroue – 50
Borja Sánchez – 26
Alfonso Coppola – 21
Glenn Van Straalen – 20
Daniel Valle – 20
Dorren Loureiro – 19
Mika Perez – 16
Ana Carrasco – 15
Giuseppe De Gruttola – 12
Angelo Licciardi – 11
STK1000: Rinaldi leads into Imola by seven points
Two rounds into the competitive championship, who can bring the racing closer at Imola? Renowned for its intense, close and dramatic racing, the European Superstock 1000 Championship heads to the momentous circuit of Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola, and we have seen two displays of stunning dominance so far.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team) leads the way heading into his home race following the opening performance at MotorLand Aragon, before Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) had his first taste of Prosecco in the second round.
With Imola a tough track to perfect, it will be an interesting round to see which riders can come out fighting for the victory and if anyone can take the fight to the chequered flag in the unpredictable series.
Remaining as the man with the target on his back, Rinaldi leads the way by seven points, but has had a tough time at his home circuit. Securing the best result of fifth back in the European Superstock 600 championship, Rinaldi will be looking to rectify this in front of his home fans. Unable to catch Razgatlioglu around TT Circuit Assen, his second position proved his pace at MotorLand was not a one off, and he is here to stay for the season.
Rinaldi’s Ducati teammate, Australian Mike Jones, will be out to make amends for a disappointing end to his weekend at Assen, where the Queenslander was caught up in a crash through no fault of his own.
“It’s a pity we were involved in the crash. It was a scary accident, but luckily I only have some pain in the wrist and the shoulder, and nothing is broken. I’m still satisfied with the progress we made with the whole crew throughout the weekend, and I’m confident we can bounce back at Imola, a really important round for the whole team.”
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) took his debut victory onboard the Kawasaki Puccetti Racing beast in The Netherlands, and following the mature ride should have the pace to continue fighting for the victory in the championship. One to watch around Imola, he took the victory back in 2015 in the European Superstock 600 class as well as a top five in STK1000 last season.
Keeping up his consistent run for 2017, Florian Marino (Pata Yamaha Official STK1000 Team) sits in third in the championship standings as the French rider looks to make that move onto the top step of the podium in the competitive class. The experienced rider secured a podium finish around the Italian circuit in the WorldSSP class back in 2014, and with the Yamaha a bike which traditionally struggles around the circuit, he will be one to keep an eye on.
Italian Roberto Tamburini (Pata Yamaha Official STK1000 Team) will have the added boost of his home crowd as the series heads to the Fifth Round of the season, and sitting in fourth in the championship he will be looking for that something extra to get him onto the podium.
Despite riding injured following the crash which forced the first race to be restarted, Tamburini will be hoping to be back to full fitness in order to impress his home crowd.
Luca Vitali (Nuova M2 Racing) secured a top ten finished last time out at Assen, and will hope to put in a strong performance in front of his home fans. Sitting in seventh in the championship, Vitali will have the Latin support from his team and his fans meaning we may see some passion from the young rider.
In a positive end to the Acerbis Dutch Round, it was announced that Marvin Fritz (Bayer-Bikerbox Yamaichi) has left hospital following the crash which caused the opening race to be red flagged, as he makes a full recovery at home in Germany.
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