Max Biaggi makes WorldSBK return
It has been no surprise that Max Biaggi’s return to competition has made worldwide headlines ahead of this weekend’s PATA Riviera di Rimini Round. After Troy Bayliss, Tom Sykes and Sylvain Guintoli, ‘The Roman Emperor’ becomes the fourth World Superbike Champion to grace the eni FIM Superbike World Championship grid this year. His first of two outings will be at Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” this weekend in Italy.
Can the title winner of 2010 and 2012 improve on the ninth place finish of Troy Bayliss in Thailand? As mentioned by 43-year-old Biaggi himself, this will be the reference.
Max Biaggi – “I’m getting back on the track! It is truly very exciting for me to return to racing, to taste the adrenaline of competition again, especially on a circuit as special to me as Misano. In my work as a tester I’m helping Aprilia develop the new RSV4 RF, working very well with the guys that I know well and who by now understand me at first glance. The wild card is a ‘cherry on the top’ so to speak, a chance where I definitely plan on giving my all. I am also well aware of the difficulties. Our rivals are in grand form and for me it won’t be easy at all. The goal is first and foremost to have fun, not to predict any results, but to give 100% to bring a smile to the face of Aprilia, the fans and all enthusiasts. Sunday after Race 2 we’ll draw our conclusions.”
His return, in the dual role of tester and rider – triple if you consider Max’s successful commitment as sports commentator for Mediaset – is exciting not only for the fans, but also for Romano Albesiano, Aprilia Racing Manager.
“At this point we can’t wait to have him on the track” said Albesiano. “Of the many riders who have won with us, Max is the most victorious in Aprilia history with his four titles in 250 and the fantastic World SBK double win. Seeing him race on ‘his’ RSV4 will be very exciting, both for us and for all motorcycling fans. We are also curious to see how practice and then the two races will go. Max now has a bike which has been adapted to the new rules but one which has also reconfirmed its competitiveness this year and that Max knows well because of his invaluable work as a tester. We are going to Misano motivated to do well with all our riders and to make this round a festive moment for the return of a great champion.”
Team Aprilia Racing – Red Devils rider Leon Haslam, affected in recent races by an injury that the tough English rider has handled professionally and with grit, containing the damage and bringing home the best possible result in spite of it. Closing the gap behind the leader is a complex but not impossible job and Leon believes he can do it, counting on help from ex rival Biaggi to shake up the championship.
Leon Haslam: “Misano is always a special race, the track and area is fantastic. Also to have Max has a team mate for this is very special. There is a new tarmac which is reported to be very different, so I can’t wait to gets things going and to try the solutions we found in Portimao. We need to keep pushing to fight for the top spots, and I would love to repay all my Aprilia team with a victory on home soil”.
Jordi Torres knows the Misano circuit so his apprenticeship here will be more streamlined. The Spanish rider aims first and foremost to improve his Superpole performance because starting from the front means taking advantage of the pace and staying with the lead group. In any case, Jordi does not underestimate the work on tyre wear which is fundamental in light of the new asphalt at Misano, so he wants to exploit the solutions that came out of the recent Portimão post-race tests.
Jordi Torres: “I am coming to Misano with a great desire to do well. I know the track so I’ll be able to adapt quicker here. Our biggest effort will be performing well in Superpole in order to start as far forward as possible and lock onto the lead group. In the Portimão tests we tried various configurations precisely to streamline the bike adjustment process during the weekend. We’ll also need to work on tyre duration in order to be competitive even at the end of the race. The Misano track has a lot of closed turns where we need to get the RSV4 RF to perform at the top of its game.”
Championship-wise, Rea’s lead cannot be considered as anything other than colossal. Indeed, a margin of 124 points over second-placed team-mate Tom Sykes is the largest gap ever witnessed between first and second position in the Riders’ Championship after the opening 14 races of a season. In order to clinch what would be the first title for a rider from Northern Ireland, Rea no longer needs to win any more races – second and third places would be enough between now and the Qatar finale. On the other hand, should he seal doubles the like of which he has done four times from the first seven rounds, he will win the crown by as early as Malaysia on 2nd August – three rounds and over two months before season’s end.
Jonathan Rea: “I had my first ever WSB race win at Misano and I always enjoy going to Italy. The Ninja ZX-10R has been really competitive at Misano and I am looking forward to it. We will see on Friday how the bike is because it is another new track for me on the Kawasaki but we will see how things are in the first session and take it from there. I hope that there will be a lot of people there on the weekend; there always seems to be. Imola was pretty full and the Italian crowds always have a warm place in my heart. Temperatures should be hot again, like in Portimao, so I expect to be strong. It is the last European race for a while, before we go on two fly-aways, so it would be good to make it count.”
Second place in the championship right now is recent Donington Park double race winner and 2013 World Champion, Tom Sykes. He scored second place in race one in Portugal and moved to second place in the title chase. Tom is only one victory behind Rea in terms of career WSB race wins, with 24.
Tom Sykes: “This year we have had a bit of bad luck, which is very unlike us, but we have got the bike working well for us and in a way that was giving us good results. I am looking forward to going to Misano because it is a great part of the world. There is a great atmosphere just being there in general and we will be back to competing in front of the Italian fans. It is nice to be racing on the coast of Italy and this time of year the temperature is up, the sun is generally shining and all-in-all it is a great venue.”
Spicing up the plot only further, World Superbike has the privilege of being the first World Championship to race on Misano’s new track surface, which has been installed by Dromo and will encourage more grip in wet conditions in particular; the previous asphalt was particularly slippery in the wet, as the rainwater mixed with sea salt from the nearby Adriatic Sea. One would expect a fully dry June weekend anyhow, but there is no doubt that the new surface will encourage riders to push only more, even if the net result is that lap times will inevitably fall this year.
Amid the 2015 regulars, there are changes. Althea Racing has parted company with Nico Terol as Niccolò Canepa moves back to Genesio Bevilacqua’s team, with which he was second overall for EVO honours last year. Canepa’s seat at Grillini SBK Team has been taken for the round by 35 year old former World Supersport regular Gianluca Vizziello.
Niccolò Canepa: “I can’t wait to be back in the Team Althea garage at Misano. I’ve been training hard in order to arrive at the Italian round in the best possible physical shape. I hope that the weather is good, so that we can work well right from the first session on Friday morning, so that I can build confidence with my Ducati. It’s an important race for me and for the Team and I’ll try hard to be fast right from the outset.”
Not only will there be three factory Aprilias on-track, but a trio of Aruba.it Racing-Ducati Superbike Team machines as well; Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano will be joined by test rider Luca Scassa, as the Italian rides for a factory outfit for the first time.
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team #7) – “I’m looking forward to the weekend as I love racing in Italy, though hopefully the weekend will bring more success than we had in Imola. Last year’s first race at Misano went pretty well and I finished fourth, having battled for a podium, but unfortunately in race 2 I made a mistake and crashed. The track has recently been resurfaced, so this should help with the grip situation which is always critical in Misano, especially with what are generally very high temperatures. Let’s say I’m optimistic going into the weekend and plan to fight for podium finishes or better.”
Davide Giugliano (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team #34) – “Now we return to race in Italy where there are always so many of our fans who come to watch the racing, something that really makes a difference to me and my team. I really like the Misano track and last year we were able to be very fast but then in the races we were rather unlucky… Let’s hope that the bad luck is a thing of the past and that we are able to complete two great races in front of the home crowd.”
Luca Scassa (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team #99) – “The weekend is finally approaching. The Misano track is one of those that has given me great emotions in the past and can hopefully do the same in the future. I’ve trained hard in recent days, so as to arrive at the track as prepared as possible. It will be a weekend of hard work, but I feel more at ease with each lap I make on the Panigale and hope that the feeling continues to improve so that I am able to record some good lap times. This weekend is a first step towards returning to the levels of several years ago…”
Sylvain Guintoli and Michael van der Mark are preparing for the Pata-sponsored eighth round after both riders enjoyed improved results in the last round at Portimao in Portugal, but the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP-mounted duo knows that further steps are required to challenge for more podium finishes.
Reigning WSBK world champion Guintoli has never visited the podium at the 4.226km Misano circuit, which has recently been resurfaced to improve wet weather grip, but the 32-year-old French rider has declared himself ready for the challenge.
Sylvain Guintoli – “I’m still buzzing from the parade lap I did last week at the Isle of Man TT, except it wasn’t a parade lap as we were doing almost 200kph down Bray Hill and I saw 270kph on the CBR’s clocks over the mountain! What a perfect bike for the job though, as John McGuinness showed in the Senior TT on Friday. But now it’s time to focus back on our own CBR for Misano and continue the hard work that the team has been doing recently. We had a test after the Portimao round and tried a couple of new things that we think could improve our race pace some more. I really like Misano and it’ll be good to try the new surface there and chase more top five finishes and our first podium of the season.”
World Superbike rookie van der Mark, 22, finished second at Misano last season on his way to the 2014 World Supersport championship and the Dutch ace is determined to add to his debut WSBK podiums scored earlier this season at his home round in Assen.
Michael van der Mark – “I’m really looking forward to riding at Misano this weekend because it’s a track that I really enjoy and to ride it on the Fireblade should be great fun! After a bad run of results, it was really good to finish both races in the top ten at Portimao and that’s definitely going to be my biggest target for Misano. Hopefully, we can have a weekend without any problems and get back to challenging some of the front guys again like earlier in the season.”
A successful test at Portimao left Suzuki’s Alex Lowes and Randy de Puniet positive and raring to tackle the Rimini track after making significant improvements to their respective Yoshimura-powered GSX-R’s. Having achieved an eighth place finish after a challenging Misano debut last season, Lowes is eager to exceed his previous WSBK performance on his 2015 Suzuki, while his team-mate de Puniet – no stranger to San Marino with seven races and numerous tests throughout his GP career – is looking forward to his debut visit on the Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Alex Lowes – “I like the Misano track, but it was one of the most difficult weekends last year, for me, Eugene and the whole team; it’s never nice knowing we’ve struggled there in the past but I’m hoping we can lay those ghosts to rest this year. I really like the layout and the whole place – the atmosphere at Italian races is always fantastic and it’s by the sea which adds an extra element – so I’m looking forward to getting there. I’m hoping for a normal weekend, to build on the developments made in Portimao and getting back in the mix for race day.”
Randy de Puniet – “Misano is a tight track but it’s nice to race. You have fast corners, slow corners and I’ve always had a good feeling there. With the developments made with the GSX-R at the Portimao test I’m really pleased and happy to go to Misano. I’m hoping to start with the same base we found in Portugal and continue to make more improvements throughout the weekend so we can start to return to a normal race pattern and have a good result on Sunday.”
A fourth BMW is added as current dominator of the German IDM Superbike Championship, 21-year-old German wildcard Markus Reiterberger, is competing with the VanZon Remeha BMW squad. He previously rode as a wildcard at the Nurburgring in 2013, scoring points in both races.
2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship (7 of 13 rounds completed)
Cluzel heads to Misano hoping to close the gap to Sofuoglu
Until Portimao, Jules Cluzel had not won a World Supersport race since the Phillip Island season-opener. Now he’s back on the top step and refusing to back off the throttle, with Kenan Sofuoglu’s championship lead having been reduced to 40 points.
Cluzel won the first race from pole before being denied in Thailand due to an engine failure. A similar problem ruled him out of Aragon, while Sofuoglu picked up his first of four straight wins. But with five races still to go and the Frenchman having beaten the Turk in a head-to-head fight last time out, the battle is back on as Misano awaits.
Facts are facts. Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) leads Cluzel (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) by 40 points. He has won four races to Cluzel’s two and looks good for a fourth World Supersport crown following his previous successes of 2007, 2010 and 2012. For Cluzel, this is his third season in the category after 2012 and 2014; he finished runner-up on both of those occasions and is more than desperate to shake off the ‘bridesmaid’ tag he appears to have unintentionally attracted.
Misano will mark Sofuoglu’s 100th race start in the World Supersport class. It all started in Valencia in 2003 on a Yamaha, while the maiden win came with Honda machinery at Assen three years later. 12 years after his debut, the Turkish rider now leads the way for race wins, podium finishes, front row starts, fastest race laps and points scored. Furthermore, one more pole position would put him equal for the top spot with Sebastien Charpentier. But can he hit the race start century as a winner? His pre-race preparation has not gone according to plan, as Sofuoglu was briefly hospitalised following a highside in testing at Misano last Tuesday.
25 riders are set to start Sunday’s race. These include Italian wildcard Flavio Ferroni with Renzi Corse Srl SSD, whereas others are officially listed as ‘One Event’ riders. Alexey Ivanov again competes with DMC Racing, whereas Schmidt Racing joins the action with a pair of Honda CBR600RR bikes for Hungarian compatriots David Juhasz and Janos Chrobak. A total of eight Italian riders are included in the field.
2015 FIM Supersport World Championship (7 of 12 rounds completed)
2015 FIM Superstock 1000 Cup – Savadori heads home with a lead to defend
Whatever happens at Misano this weekend, with three races still to go in the 2015 FIM Superstock 1000 Cup, the title cannot be won. However, there is plenty of racing still to come as the title fight intensifies between Lorenzo Savadori and Roberto Tamburini. Two very different characters, but two Italians all-set to race at home.
Perhaps the season-opening race at MotorLand Aragon in April was a sign of things to come, as Savadori and Tamburini fought for victory until the last corner. The former had had last year’s title won until a critical unforced error on the final lap at Magny-Cours, whereas the latter continues to shine in his debut season after making the switch from World Supersport. Three races remain, which translates to a maximum of 75 points, with 25 currently between the leaders. Last year, Savadori won the Misano Superstock 1000 race from Leandro Mercado and Fabio Massei, while Tamburini put in a brilliant World Supersport performance for fifth place.
A staggering 38 riders will be navigating their ways towards the Park Chicane this Sunday afternoon, as the Superstock 1000 riders climax the day of racing by following in the footsteps of their World Superbike and World Supersport counterparts. Racing BMWs for the respective DMR Racing Team and Vueffe Corse squads, Italian wildcard riders Luca Oppedisano and Marco Sbaiz will be looking to make an impression, while South African Ronald Slamet is back on the grid with BWG Racing Kawasaki following his debut outing in Aragon. Completing the mammoth field will be Romania’s Robert Muresan for H-Moto Team..
After impressing in a one-off ride with Suzuki Europe at Portimao Aiden Wagner now joins Bryan Staring in the Pedercini Kawasaki squad for Misano.
2015 FIM Superstock 1000 Cup (5 of 8 rounds completed)
Becoming Champion at Misano a genuine possibility for Razgatlioglu
At Portimao, Toprak Razgatlioglu had an outside chance of clinching the FIM Europe Superstock 600 Championship. He may have delivered a stunning performance to win the race yet again, but the ultimate goal remained up for grabs. Now heading to the PATA Riviera di Rimini Round, becoming Champion is a real likelihood.
Put simply, Toprak is looking very good for the title win at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. Mathematically, the Kawasaki Puccetti Racing rider can be beaten only by either PATA-Honda Junior Team’s Federico Caricasulo or San Carlo Team Italia’s Michael Ruben Rinaldi – both of whom are contesting a home race this weekend. However, to say the Italians are ‘up against it’ would be an understatement.
Toprak heads to Misano unbeatable to date, having won each of the four races thus far this season plus his season-ending French outing of 2014, making it five out five for a 100% winning record. Should he finish in the top five this weekend, he becomes 2015 Superstock 600 Champion regardless of what his rivals can muster. If not, he still picks up the title if he finishes inside the top ten (providing Caricasulo does not win) or even inside the top 11 (should Rinaldi not clinch victory). Furthermore, with a lead of 64 points, Razgatlioglu could even fail to score at Misano and still win the title should neither of the two aforementioned Italians finish on the podium…
Bolstering the grid to an impressive 40 in Italy are two wildcard entries, as Italians Elia Mengoni (GP Project) and Gennaro Sabatino (Renzi Corse Srl SSD) join the fray.
2015 FIM Europe European Superstock 600 (5 of 8 rounds completed)
1 – Toprak Razgatlioglu Kawasaki Puccetti Racing – 125
2 – Federico Caricasulo Pata Honda Junior Team – 61
3 – Michael Ruben Rinaldi San Carlo Team Italia – 60