WorldSBK Finale this weekend under lights in Qatar
This Sunday is not only the Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island, but also marks the final two races in the eni FIM Superbike World Championship of 2015 which will be staged under lights in Qatar.
All is decided in terms of Riders’ and Manufacturers’ titles, in favour of Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki, but the runner-up spot is yet to be sealed. Chaz Davies (Ducati) leads Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) by 16 points, with the gap having come down from the 22 it was before Magny-Cours.
This time, Welshman Davies is joined by Xavi Fores who is the last substitute of the season for the injured Davide Giugliano; Spaniard Fores raced earlier this season at MotorLand Aragon and Assen. Davies will be looking to cement second overall as quickly as possible, while Sykes has finished only first or second in the standings for the last three years.
With the title signed, sealed and delivered for Northern Ireland’s Johnathan Rea in Jerez last month, he and his team-mate were in Barcelona last week in order to help launch the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R for 2016. For now, however, Rea is looking to amass more points than any rider has even scored in a single season of World Superbike. One more race victory would be enough to beat Colin Edwards’ record of 2002.
The Losail International Circuit debuted on the calendar in 2005, running through to 2009 under daylight prior to a four-year break. It returned at the end of last year, with a scintillating finale in which Sylvain Guintoli picked up his first and so far only career double, seeing off the challenge of Sykes whose own weekend was marred by a team orders incident with Loris Baz. Guintoli duly became France’s second World Champion after Raymond Roche in 1990.
In 2007, Max Biaggi stormed onto the WorldSBK scene by winning his first race in the series. He makes headlines again eight years on, returning for a third outing of the season with Aprilia after Misano and Sepang. He tested for four days at Losail last week; now fully fit – having raced to a podium last time out with an injured shoulder – he wants even more this time.
Guintoli’s single-year spell with Honda will end after this event. He is on the lookout for another positive two races at what is one of his favourite race tracks, having finally jumped up onto the podium at home in France two weekends ago. Alex Lowes in is a similar situation, looking to enjoy his last outing on a Suzuki before he joins the 2014 title winner as Crescent switches to Yamaha R1 machinery for the start of 2016.
Ahead of Qatar, WorldSBK Champion Rea has welcomed Nicky Hayden to the paddock. The 2006 MotoGP title winner will race alongside Michael van der Mark at Honda next year, making his World Superbike debut with an eventual plan of becoming the first rider in history to win titles in the premier classes of both WorldSBK and MotoGP. His future team, Ten Kate, finished on the podium in Qatar last year as Rea was second in Race 2.
As with every year that goes by, the final race meeting of the season marks a great opportunity for those riders still seeking a placement for the following campaign. With the market wide open, numerous big names are yet to be allocated to seats…
2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship (12 of 13 rounds completed)
1 – Jonathan Rea Kawasaki Racing Team 528*
2 – Chaz Davies Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team 383 (-145)
3 – Tom Sykes Kawasaki Racing Team 367 (-161)
4 – Leon Haslam Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils 297 (-231)
5- Jordi Torres Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils 222 (-306)
World Supersport: Triangular Manufacturers’ shootout still to be sorted
The 2015 FIM Supersport World Championship has been a season full of raw emotion, on the track as well as off it. After two seasons off the top spot, Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) is back in business with a record-extending fourth world title, thanks to the second place finish he collected at Magny-Cours in France two weekends ago. The stunning 31-year-old from Turkey is the most successful World Supersport rider by some way, not just in terms of world titles but also for race wins, podium finishes, front row starts, fastest race laps and total points scored. There is just one small detail to take care of: the pole position record of 23, which can be clinched should Sofuoglu top the qualifying session this coming Saturday.
Arguably, the championship for riders was realistically over in Jerez. Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) was a season-long challenger after winning the opening at Phillip Island plus several more successes and some very hard-fought battles with Sofuoglu; however, in Spain the Frenchman picked up injuries that ended his season prematurely. Sofuoglu also suffered an ordeal this year, with the death of baby son Hamza. Emotionally, the title has been dedicated to Hamza, whose life was helplessly cut short so soon.
The third huge element in this year’s title battle was American PJ Jacobsen. Since switching to the CORE’’ Motorsport Honda Thailand outfit, the New Yorker has been on scintillating form which continued with his second victory from three races last time out in France. He now aims for a third success of the season prior to an even fiercer title challenge in 2016, with this year having been disrupted by an unscheduled team move mid-season.
Neither Jacobsen nor Sofuoglu saw the Qatar podium in 2014. That was occupied by Dutchman Michael van der Mark, ending his title-winning campaign on the top of the Doha rostrum, as Thailand’s Ratthapark Wilairot and France’s Cluzel completed the top three.
The top three fight on which all focus is centred this weekend will be that of the Manufactures’ Championship – the last title to be decided in WorldSBK this year. Japan’s Kawasaki holds a sizeable lead of 15 points over Italy’s MV Agusta, with Honda another Japanese marque still in contention and 20 points in arrears of the leader.
2015 FIM Supersport World Championship (11 of 12 rounds completed)
1 – Kenan Sofuoglu Kawasaki Puccetti Racing 213
2 – PJ Jacobsen CORE” Motorsport Thailand Honda 185 (-28)
3 – Jules Cluzel MV Agusta Reparto Corse 155 (-58)