Jonathan Rea on cusp of World SBK Title this weekend in Spain

Jonathan Rea is just six points away from the ultimate goal in WorldSBK: the eni FIM Superbike World Championship title of 2015
Jonathan Rea has streaked away to an 87-point lead after a double win at Imola WorldSBK
Jonathan Rea streaked away to an 87-point lead after a double win at Imola WorldSBK as far back as May this year

Thanks to a truly dominant campaign on the Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R, number 65 requires only a single top ten finish to cement the achievement in the opening World Superbike race of the Pirelli Spanish Round this weekend.

The list of superlatives describing Rea’s 2015 campaign is becoming exhausted. The facts speak for themselves: 20 races, 20 podium finishes and 12 race wins. He has already become the first rider in history to have clinched 20 top three finishes in as many races from the start of a season and, should the rostrum run continue, he will beat Colin Edwards’ record of consecutive podium finishes in the first Qatar race.

Jonathan Rea
Jonathan Rea

Should Rea finish tenth or higher in Race 1 at Jerez (a highly likely possibility, considering the season so far) he will become the 17th different World Superbike Champion and the fifth different title winner in as many years. Fogarty, Hodgson, Toseland and Sykes may have gone before him as British World Champions, but all of them hailed from England; thus, Rea would be the first Northern Irish title winner.

Jonathan Rea stated: “It has been nice to have the summer break but after two weeks I just wanted to get going again. Especially after the momentum we have had throughout the season and falling just so short of actually winning the championship in Sepang. It has been a shame to have to wait seven weeks to get back on the bike but it has been nice to hang out at home, be with my family and ride my KX450F motocross bike quite a lot. Now I am ready to get back on my race bike.

Jonathan Rea
Jonathan Rea

“We had a good winter test at Jerez. I felt really good straight away with the Ninja ZX-10R in the January sessions and we have further improved the bike. We have been able to take the package pretty much everywhere this year and be competitive. Together with all the guys in the team we have worked so hard for this moment, so we will do our very best throughout Friday and Saturday to give us a package that we can fight for a race win with.”

Jonathan Rea
Jonathan Rea

Four-time 2015 race winner Chaz Davies is the only man who can prevent Rea from winning the title. Despite the Aruba.it Racing-Ducati SBK Team rider having finished on the podium in eight of the last ten races, collecting fourth place finishes in the other two, he continues to feel the affects of his costly low placings in Thailand and his double retirement of Imola. A colossal deficit of 144 points to Rea (with 150 on offer from the final three rounds in Spain, France and Qatar) means the only way Davies can prevent Rea from winning the title is by winning five of the remaining six races and finishing at least second in the other – and, all the while, hoping Rea fails to score each time. In fact, in the Sunday Paddock Show at Laguna Seca in July, Davies was already hailing Rea as the 2015 World Champion. This weekend Englishman Davies is partnered by Michele Pirro, who covers for the injured Davide Giugliano.

The fight for runner-up spot is far less clear-cut. Tom Sykes has finished in the top two of the World Championship for the last three years (including his title, which he won at Jerez in 2013) and he wants to make it four. Rea’s team-mate currently sits 13 points behind second-placed Davies, while Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils’ Leon Haslam may have suffered of late but remains in the fight for second, 36 points behind Sykes and 49 in arrears of target man Davies. Further back, Aprilia’s Jordi Torres will feel more confident of retaining a top five spot now that Giugliano is out of action, but must be wary of a potential late-season charge from soon-to-be outgoing World Champion Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Honda World Superbike Team).

World SBK 2015 - Laguna Seca - Jonathan Rea leads Tom Sykes
World SBK 2015 – Laguna Seca – Jonathan Rea leads Tom Sykes

Tom Sykes stated: “I am very much looking forward to getting back to riding. It has been an incredibly long lay off, a bit too long, but it has been great for my family life. Now I am very excited to go back to the track. I am also excited to carry on working on getting a better package. I have spoken to my crew chief Marcel a number of times and requested a few little personal touches, little things the would help me out. I am going to Jerez and looking forward to it. Then we have a test session on Monday after the race as well to continue our refinement of the Ninja package.”

What of this weekend’s venue? This is the third consecutive year that Jerez de la Frontera is a permanent fixture on the modern-day calendar. However, this is the fourth time that WorldSBK visits the sunbaked southern Spanish destination, which debuted on the calendar in 1990; Frenchman Raymond Roche celebrated both of the race wins prior to clinching the title that season.

Away from motor racing, Andalucia is known for its vineyards (indeed, it was dubbed Wine Capital of the World in 2013), sherry production and popular ‘Feria de Jerez’ horse fair, while Moorish fortress the Alcazar de Jerez and the Cathedral of San Salvador are just two must-see items on the list for sight-seeing visitors. There is also flamenco dancing, although this may be less evident in the WorldSBK paddock…

Spain itself is the fourth largest country in Europe, with Andalucia being its most southerly region on the mainland. Three Spanish riders line up on the grid this weekend: Jordi Torres from Rubí, Catalunya (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils), David Salom from Palma de Mallorca (Team Pedercini) and Roman Ramos from Santa María de Cayón in northern Cantabria (Team Go Eleven). This quantity of representatives matches the number of Spanish riders to have won World Superbike races: Carlos Checa (24 race wins), Ruben Xaus (11) and Fonsi Nieto (1). How sweet would it be to make it four at home this weekend?

Watch out also for Manufacturer joy. Kawasaki could clinch the title in Race 1, with the easiest method being to win the race with the top Ducati finishing fifth or lower. This would mark an historic first for the Japanese company; although Kawasaki has won Riders’ titles in the past (Scott Russell in 1993 and the aforementioned Sykes two decades later), it is yet to claim the Manufacturers’ crown. Should it do so, it would become the sixth different marque to wrap up a World Superbike Manufacturers’ title after Ducati, Honda, Aprilia, Suzuki and Yamaha.

Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes - Kawasaki on the cusp of clinching their first World Superbike Manufacturer's Title
Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes – Kawasaki on the cusp of clinching their first World Superbike Manufacturer’s Title
2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship (10 of 13 rounds completed)

1 – Jonathan Rea Kawasaki Racing Team 452

2 – Chaz Davies Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team 308 (-144)

3 – Tom Sykes Kawasaki Racing Team 295 (-157)

4 – Leon Haslam Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils 259 (-193)

5 – Jordi Torres Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils 186 (-266)

World Supersport: Three is the magic number

Three is the magic number in the FIM Supersport World Championship as the Pirelli Spanish Round approaches. With three rounds remaining, a triangular shootout is on the cards between three very different riders of three different nationalities, each representing their own team and manufacturer. The title cannot be won in Spain this weekend, but there is certainly potential to lose it. The situation is on a knife-edge.

It’s crunch time in World Supersport for 2015. Last year in Spain, Dutchman Michael van der Mark did the honours by clinching the title as he won the race. 12 months on and the younger brother of World Superbike looks likely to be the only category in the WorldSBK roster to see this year’s championship fight go all the way to the final round in Qatar, which itself follows the French fixture at Magny-Cours. But will the battle still be alive by Losail? Jerez will play a massive part in deciding its legacy.

The contenders involved could not be much more diverse, representing three fine marques in Kawasaki, MV Agusta and Honda: Kenan Sofuoglu of Turkey (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), Jules Cluzel of France (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and PJ Jacobsen of the USA (CORE’’ Motorsport Thailand).

Kenan Sofuoglu World Superbike 2015 - Donington
Kenan Sofuoglu World Superbike 2015 – Donington

Sofuoglu is the three-time World Supersport Champion of 2007, 2010 and 2012. From the first nine races of the season he has achieved four wins and six podium finishes, but has been outside the top three at the last two events.

Cluzel’s poor luck came early on. He may have won at Phillip Island, but was denied by engine failures in both Thailand and Aragon; as things stand, he has won a total of three races and claimed seven podium finishes, including the last six races in a row. Like Sofuoglu, Cluzel has started on the front row at every single race, but the Frenchman has been the best qualifier with a superb six pole positions from nine.

Jules Cluzel
Jules Cluzel

Jacobsen’s year has taken very different shape, switching team after Donington Park; he has five front rows to his credit, both his maiden pole position and victory last time out at Sepang and a total of five podium places (three of them in the last three races).

Sofuoglu’s lead is 13 points over Cluzel and 28 over Jacobsen, with a maximum of 75 points on offer from the last trio of encounters. It should also be noted that Lorenzo Zanetti (Cluzel’s MV team-mate) could still claim the title as the fourth and final rider still in with a shot, although the Italian sits 27 points in arrears of Jacobsen and a significant 55 behind the championship leader. Best of the rest is Gino Rea (CIA Landlords Insurance Honda), but 80 points behind Sofuoglu is a bridge too far.

Although the MV Agusta Reparto Corse team has scored 57 more points than Kawasaki Puccetti Racing thus far this season, it is not that comfortable in the Manufacturers’ Championship. In a truly nail-biting contest, Italian brand MV Agusta lies just a single point in front of Japanese rival Kawasaki. The latter’s compatriot, Honda, is also still in the mix, just a further 20 points behind. Kawasaki and Honda have been the Champions of the last two years (with Honda having also won a further nine titles in the past), but a crown for MV Agusta would be a celebrated first.

Thickening the plot even further, nine riders will compete at Jerez as either Wild Card or One Event entries. These include Italy’s Nicola Morrentino Jr. (who takes time out from the Superstock 600 class) and Jacobsen’s ex team-mate Lucas Mahias, as the Frenchman makes a welcome return after his previous team pulled out of the championship. Moto3 World Championship outcast Niklas Ajo of Finland ventures into the WorldSBK paddock for the first time, as Sarunas Pladas makes history by becoming the first ever Estonian to take part in a World Championship road racing competition. Also in action will be Spain’s own Christian Palomares Vilar, Russia’s Alexey Ivanov and the Czech Republic’s Miroslav Popov, plus Hungarian duo David Juhasz and Janos Chrobak.

The presence of the aforementioned Palomares (Autos Arroyos Pastrana Racing Team – Yamaha) takes the Spanish contingent on the grid up to three, as he joins 2015 regulars Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing Team – Honda) and Marcos Ramirez (Team Lorini – Honda). Incidentally, Ramirez travels to Jerez fresh from his latest victory at Albacete (aboard a Yamaha) in the Superstock 600 tier of the FIM CEV Repsol.

FIM Supersport World Championship (9 of 12 rounds completed)

1 – Kenan Sofuoglu Kawasaki Puccetti Racing 168

2 – Jules Cluzel MV Agusta Reparto Corse 155 (-13)

3 – PJ Jacobsen CORE” Motorsport Thailand Honda 140 (-28)

Superstock 1000: Savadori on the brink of glory
Lorenzo Savadori Aprilia
Lorenzo Savadori – Aprilia

At Magny-Cours last season, Lorenzo Savadori was just seconds away from clinching the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup title when disaster struck. In a completely unforced error, the Italian crashed at the Nurburgring chicane and threw away his chances, gift-wrapping the crown for Argentinean Leandro Mercado.

However, it is arguably safe to say that the now 22-year-old from Cesena is all but crowned for 2015. In fact, so confident were he and his Nuova M2 Racing – Aprilia team that they prepared title celebration t-shirts for the last round at Misano; this proved to be a little premature as, in actual fact, it was not mathematically possible.

With only two races left to run (Jerez in Spain this weekend followed by Magny-Cours in France two weeks later), Savadori carries a 34-point advantage over compatriot Roberto Tamburini (Team MotoxRacing – BMW) who is the only rider capable of denying his fellow countryman of the title.

What has put Savadori in this strong position across the six races so far? A 100% podium finish rate, consisting four race wins and two second places. Furthermore, alongside himself and Kevin Calia will be a third Nuova M2 Racing Aprilia on the grid this weekend, ridden by Alessandro Andreozzi: the Italian CIV Moto2 Champion of 2011 and 23 times a race starter in the World Superbike Championship.

Tamburini’s run has been almost as strong, with five podiums (two wins, two second places and one third); the costly loss of points for him came at Assen, when he crashed after clipping the back of Kevin Valk’s bike on the start/finish straight.

The sequence of events since the Aragon opener on 12 April means that, to secure the title in Jerez, all Savadori needs to do is win the race or finish second. Even a top five finish would be enough providing Tamburini fails to win, while Savadori will be Champion regardless if Tamburini ends proceedings seventh or lower. The odds are certainly in the Aprilia rider’s favour.

Aprilia itself could also come up trumps in Spain, as the Italian marque can guarantee the title for Manufacturers by – like Savadori – either winning the race or finishing in second position. Both BMW and Ducati can still claim the crown mathematically, but Aprilia looks to be in a strong position as it carries respective leads of 34 and 39 points over its two rivals, which continue their own fierce fight for runner-up spot.

Savadori (ITA) leads the way ahead of De Rosa, Coghlan, Calia and Savadori
Savadori (ITA) leads the way ahead of De Rosa, Coghlan, Calia and Savadori at Misano

Elsewhere, there are more changes to the regular rider line-up, most notably at MRS Yamaha where Austrian Lukas Trautmann has been drafted in to cover for the injured Kev Coghlan, who sustained injuries in an IDM Superbike race (incidentally, the Scot’s first ever Superbike race) during the WorldSBK summer break. Trautmann’s team-mate will be South African Mathew Scholtz, who is riding the bike of Florian Marino – the injured Frenchman has declared himself out of action for the rest of the season.

Following an incident at the last round at Misano way back in June, Luca Salvadori will be in need of a medical check-up prior to competing at Jerez, while Riccardo Russo (dropped by his team in the World Supersport Championship) has sought refuge at G.M Racing; he is reserve rider for Michele Magnoni, thus becoming Sylvain Barrier’s team-mate.

The only Wildcard rider will be Spain’s Erik Morillas (RTM by Brillante de Atocha), while One Event competitors are South Africa’s Andre Calvet (BWG Racing Kawasaki) and the aforementioned Andreozzi. At Team18 Sapeurs Pompiers, Antonio Alarcos Torrente bolsters the Spanish representation on the grid to two as he serves as substitute rider for the absent Stephane Egea.

2015 FIM Superstock 1000 Cup (6 of 8 rounds completed)

1 – Lorenzo Savadori Nuova M2 Racing Aprilia 140

2 – Roberto Tamburini Team MotoxRacing BMW 106 (-34)

3 – Ondrej Jezek Triple-M by Barni Ducati 85 (-55)

Superstock 600: All over bar the shouting

Toprak Razgatlioglu has fast become one of the hottest names on the market in motorcycle road racing. The stunning Turk collected the FIM Europe Superstock 600 Championship title last time out at Misano and was expected to join the Superstock 1000 class for the last two races of the season, ahead of a full-time debut there next year. However, that has been delayed until 2016, which means the remarkable 18-year-old can enjoy his last two races in the smaller category.

Toprak Razgatlioglu
Toprak Razgatlioglu

Razgatlioglu – protégé of three-time World Supersport Champion Kenan Sofuoglu and competing with the same Kawasaki Puccetti Racing team – has been nothing short of phenomenal this year. The exceptional talent has won every race except the last one, in which he claimed the title with a third place finish; in fact, having debuted in the class at the final race of 2014, this was the first time he had not crossed the finish line in first position. However, his 100% podium finish rate remains, while his ability and confidence to race in large packs of riders is clear for all to see. However, his exact condition at Jerez remains to be seen as, just under three weeks ago, Razgatlıoglu suffered a training incident in which he fractured his left collarbone.

Clearly, with the title decided, all attention has turned to the fight for runner-up spot. It is currently held by Italian hotshot Federico Caricasulo (PATA-Honda Junior Team); he clinched his first victory last time out at Misano and, since then, has competed in and successfully finished the Moto2 World Championship British Grand Prix at Silverstone in tricky conditions. 13 points behind Caricasulo in the ongoing Superstock 600 contest is compatriot Michael Ruben Rinaldi (San Carlo Team Italia), who has finished on the podium three times this year as opposed to Caricasulo’s four. A further six points in arrears is Finland’s Niki Tuuli (Kallio Racing and twice a podium finisher), while a further seven points behind and completing the top five is another Italian, Rinaldi’s team-mate Andrea Tucci (a podium finisher at Imola).

A Spanish rider will make his FIM Europe Superstock 600 debut at Jerez, as Abian Santana takes part as a wildcard with a Yamaha for the Autos Arroyo Pastrana Racing Team. Two riders will join the action as One Event riders; the Ukraine’s Ilya Mikhalchik will race a Kawasaki for the DS Junior Team, having already competed in five races earlier this season, while Italy’s Rodolfo Oliva is on a Yamaha with Team MotoxRacing – this will be his fourth outing of the season.

FIM Europe European Superstock 600 Championship (6 of 8 rounds completed)

1 – Toprak Razgatlioglu Kawasaki Puccetti Racing 141* –    *Already crowned the 2015 Champion

2 – Federico Caricasulo Pata Honda Junior Team 86 (-55)

3 – Michael Ruben Rinaldi San Carlo Team Italia Kawasaki 73 (-68)