WorldSBK heads to Magny-Cours
Situated close to the towns of Magny-Cours and Nevers, the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours (to give it its full title) is found in the centre of France and some 250 kilometres from capital city Paris. On no less than 15 occasions has it hosted the historic Bol d’Or motorcycle race and was also a home of Formula 1 car racing until 2008.
The track made its WorldSBK debut back in 1991 for a one-off event, then returned on the calendar twelve years later with a slightly revised layout of 4.411km (140m longer than the original one). Since then, Magny-Cours has been a permanent fixture on the Superbike World Championship calendar. Laid on flat terrain and consisting of a highly technical mix of long turns and tight corners, the circuit often witnesses changeable weather and rain, which makes for an extra challenge for teams and riders.
With nine left-handers and 11 right, with a finishing straight which measures 250 metres. The maximum slope uphill is 2.38%, while falling by 2.68% with a minimum bend radius of 5 metres, and maximum of 474.45 metres.
Magny-Cours is a fascinating track that covers a hilly area and that, precisely because of its layout, makes it very difficult to overtake. It’s characterized by sudden deceleration and starts, interspersed with medium length straights. It also features a hairpin (Adelaide) with one of the heaviest braking points present among the international circuits, which riders arrive at from quite a fast straight.
With regard to the quality of the asphalt, it is very smooth and almost free of irregularities, for this reason it does not create particular problems to the tyres except in the presence of heavy braking zones on steep gradients: in that case the front tyres, especially in soft compound, can be stressed, while those in hard compound featuring improved support in corner entry are therefore usually preferred.
One aspect not closely related to the layout of the circuit but which can still affect the race is related to the weather; in this area of France and time of the year can be quite unpredictable. This can make more difficult the choice of the rear tyres. That’s why, in addition to rear solutions in soft compound Pirelli also brings solutions in SC1 compound. If, in fact, when weather conditions are stable and there are sufficiently high temperatures, a rear SC0 tyre would be the choice advisable to allow a level of optimum grip, With lower temperatures or with a wet surface it is good to resort to solutions more protected as the SC1 so as to obtain a good compromise between grip and resistance to tearing. And if it rains, Pirelli always has available intermediate and wet tyres and a new rear tyre for full rain conditions.
Last time out in Spain, Jonathan Rea became Great Britain’s fifth World Superbike Champion and the first from Northern Ireland, wrapping up the title in Race 1 at Jerez with five races still remaining in the 2015 season. Naturally, the attention now turns to the season-long struggle for runner-up spot between Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes.
Jonathan Rea – “We had a really amazing moment in winning the championship in Spain but we struggled a little bit in the races. First, we have to really understand the reason why we struggled so much at Jerez on Sunday, when on Saturday everything was fine. When we sit down to make a plan for this coming weekend, and figure things out, we will be pretty clear in the direction we need to go. After that I just want to enjoy the races. I think in France we can start again with a clean slate and I see no reason why we cannot battle up at the front once again. I have had some good results at Magny-Cours in the past. To win the World Championship is a massive goal I have been waiting to achieve all my life and I have not really let my guard down too much since I did it. I was quite busy at the beginning of last week but since I got home I have been trying to treat each day as normal; to keep it in the back of my mind that we have to work hard for the next two races. I really want to bounce back after being off the podium in Jerez and fight at the front at Magny-Cours.”
There are just 22 points behind Davies (Aruba.it Racing-Ducati SBK Team) and Rea’s team-mate Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team). With 25 points available for race victory and a maximum of 100 still in play between now and the end of the season in Qatar, the pendulum could swing in either direction. Davies is the man with the momentum, having scored a highly impressive 140 of the last 150 points on offer from Laguna Seca, Sepang and Jerez, while Sykes has finished no lower than second in the championship for the past three years.
Tom Sykes- “Magny-Cours has been a mixed bag for me in the past. It is a circuit that has been quite kind to me in terms of race results but it has also been quite pivotal in my career. We lost the championship there by half a point in 2012, so of course that was bit of landmark. Last year things were going so well for most of the weekend but then it rained and we had a painful race day in wet conditions. It is a bittersweet place but, overall, with the race success I have had there, I like it. The good thing is that the Kawasaki fans always bring great support and it is great to hear the grandstands. The turnout is incredible so it looks like they are mad bike fans in France. The Kawasaki brand is very strong there, which is great, because that also means in recent years those fans have cheered on Tom Sykes. I am certainly looking forward to getting going again.”
Things have settled down in the Manufactures’ race, too. Kawasaki needed to finish in the top eight in Jerez’s second race and it did, sealing the title for the all-green marque for the first time. What of the fight for second? One looks to Ducati, as its advantage of 78 points over last year’s Champions Aprilia is vast with only two rounds to go. Perhaps all will be looking over their shoulders for Yamaha, which will rejoin the paddock in 2016.
Michele Pirro substituted for Davide Giugliano in Jerez, but Davies’ team-mate for Magny-Cours will be Luca Scassa. In June, the Tuscan rider was set to participate in the Misano race event, taking part as a wildcard entry, but unfortunately a crash in the second timed practice session left him with a fractured collarbone, putting a premature end to his weekend. Now, back in shape and having regained the necessary confidence at the recent post-race test at Jerez, Scassa is ready to return to the track at Magny-Cours.
Luca Scassa – “First of all I want to thank the team for this opportunity. Since my wildcard at Misano I hadn’t been able to do a lot due to my fractured collarbone, until the Jerez test that is, where I had a lot of fun. We started with the set-up that Pirro used for the races, before making modifications to adapt it gradually to my riding style. The bike has seen some updates since June and I hope to be able to improve in each session. We’ll see what we can do!”
Factory rider Davide Giugliano, recently reconfirmed together with his team-mate Chaz Davies for the 2016 racing season, continues his recovery after having fractured his D3 vertebra during the US round of Laguna Seca. Everything seems to be proceeding according to plan and doctors predict that Giugliano will be able to resume a light training programme in approximately two weeks, once his orthopedic brace is removed.
Davide Giugliano – “My recovery is going well but it is a long process. I intend to do everything exactly as the doctors tell me, so that I can return to 100% fitness and be able to be competitive next season. I hope, once the brace comes off, that I can start training, step by step of course, a little at a time… I would like to be ready for the final winter tests of 2015 but we don’t know yet. We’ll see in late November and if it’s not possible then I’ll focus on preparing to return in January 2016…”
Elsewhere, Crescent and Suzuki head into their penultimate round of partnership as Markus Reiterberger returns as a One Event rider on the VanZon Remeha BMW.
Also on the grid will be Polish representative Pawel Szkopek, riding a Yamaha YZF-R1 for the Szkopek POLand POSITION squad. Incidentally, this will not be 40-year-old Szkopek’s debut in World Superbike, as he rode four races in 2004 plus a further two in 2006; curiously, his best result to date came at Magny-Cours, where 11 years ago he rode a Suzuki to 13th position in Race 2.
2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship (11 of 13 rounds completed)
1 – Jonathan Rea Kawasaki Racing Team 478
2 – Chaz Davies Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team 353 (-125)
3 – Tom Sykes Kawasaki Racing Team 331 (-147)
4 – Leon Haslam Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils 286 (-192)
5- Jordi Torres Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils 210 (-268)
Sofuoglu on the verge of fourth World Supersport title
The Spanish Round of the 2015 Supersport World Championship will forever be remembered for the heavy crash that ruled Jules Cluzel out of contention this year. The Frenchman (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) sustained a broken left leg and dislocated right shoulder when he crashed at Turn 5 in the final seconds of Free Practice 2. His new quest is to recover and restart training ahead of winter testing prior to the 2016 season.
That leaves two riders in contention for the crown this year. Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) is the favourite; fresh from his pole position and victory in Spain, the three-time title winner of 2007, 2010 and 2012 leads New Yorker PJ Jacobsen (CORE’’ Motorsport Thailand) by 33 points with a maximum of 50 left on offer this season. This means a top two finish would automatically seal the title for Sofuoglu and, even if the Turk fails to finish the race, Jacobsen must still finish at least seventh to keep his hopes alive.
Kenan Sofuoglu – “This year has been like a Kawasaki year. I am very happy that Toprak Razgatlioglu took the Superstock 600 championship, Jonathan Rea has won the Superbike title and now it is up to me. If I can make a good result in Magny-Cours I will win the Supersport World Championship. I think it is a dream year for Kawasaki and I think it is going to be a good season if we can do a good race in Magny-Cours. It looks like we are very strong at the moment. The only sore point is that Jules Cluzel is not there because he was our main competition and now he cannot fight for the title. So now it is me and Jacobsen head to head.”
What cannot be decided at Magny-Cours is the Manufactures’ title. This will rage onto into the floodlit finale of Qatar. Kawasaki currently leads MV Agusta by eight points and Honda by 17, which means a triangular shootout is still on the cards.
Magny-Cours has been on the World Supersport calendar since 2003. Back then, Karl Muggeridge led home fellow Australian and that year’s World Champion Chris Vermeulen, while last year Jules Cluzel beat title winner Michael van der Mark by a massive 20 seconds.
Five riders will race in France as either One Event or Wildcard entries. Frenchman Cedric Tangre rides a Suzuki for Yohann Moto Sport, while Kallio Racing will field a Yamaha for Estonian Hannes Soomer. The other three riders in question also raced at Jerez: Frenchman Lucas Mahias (MG Competition, Yamaha) and Hungarians David Juhasz and Janos Chrobak (Schmidt Racing, Honda). Incidentally, Tangre and Mahias are the only two French representatives in the field following the 2015 departure of the aforementioned Cluzel.
FIM Supersport World Championship (10 of 12 rounds completed)
1 – Kenan Sofuoglu Kawasaki Puccetti Racing 193
2 – PJ Jacobsen CORE” Motorsport Thailand Honda 160 (-33)
3 – Jules Cluzel MV Agusta Reparto Corse 155 (-38)
Superstock 1000 braced for nail-biting French climax
Lorenzo Savadori has garnered a reputation as a rider who attracts pure excitement and drama. Last year, he was leading at Magny-Cours and just half a lap away from the Superstock 1000 title when he crashed at the Nurburgring chicane. The ultimate honour went to Argentina’s Leandro Mercado, who has since stepped up to the World Superbike class.
Heading into France 2015, Savadori (Nuova M2 Racing – Aprilia) leads fellow Italian and season-long rival Roberto Tamburini (Team MotoxRacing – BMW) by 25 points. The maths are therefore simple. One single point for 15th position would guarantee the title for Savadori, while Tamburini needs to win the race and hope that his opponent fails to score. Sensationally, should the latter possibility come to fruition, Tamburini would beat Savadori by the slimmest of margins: they would be drawn level for points, race wins, second and third places, meaning Tamburini would win the Cup by virtue of being the latest race winner.
Coupling the overall situation with Magny-Cours’ tendency to deliver inclement weather conditions, one would not want to predict how events could unfold this weekend. Thickening the plot even further, the situation in the Manufactures’ standings is exactly the same, with Italy’s Aprilia enjoying a 25-point advantage over Germany’s BMW.
A trio of One Events entries make up the 37-rider grid. Alessandro Andreozzi again joins Italian compatriots Savadori and Kev Calia on a Nuova M2 Racing Aprilia, while Switzerland’s Bryan Leu will be piloting a Yamaha R1 for the Badan Yamaha IXS Racing Team. Last but not least, South African Andre Calvet rides for BWG Racing Kawasaki.
2015 FIM Superstock 1000 Cup (7 of 8 rounds completed)
1 – Lorenzo Savadori Nuova M2 Racing Aprilia 156
2 – Roberto Tamburini Team MotoxRacing BMW 131 (-25)
3 – Raffaele De Rosa Althea Racing Ducati 105 (-51)
Superstock 600: A thrilling year of racing draws to a close
Superstock 600 has been nothing short of brilliant this year. Even last season’s Champion Marco Faccani has acknowledged that the class has been more hard-fought, with some titanic scraps on offer. There is no hiding from the fact that Toprak Razgatlioglu has come out on top every time apart from Misano and Jerez (although he didn’t compete in the latter due to a broken collarbone), but the Turkish Champion has certainly had to fight hard at times.
The last two races have seen new winners in the category. At Misano the victor was Federico Caricasulo, while at Jerez fellow Italian Michael Ruben Rinaldi took the chequered flag. The former missed the Spanish round after dislocating as collarbone in practice and is now keen to get back into the action, as he challenges his compatriot for second position overall; with just one race to go, Rinaldi holds the runner-up spot by only 12 points.
In some ways, things have gone full circle. It was at Magny-Cours last year when the razzmatazz really began: Toprak stormed to his first win in his first race, while the top six riders were covered by less than one and a half seconds (Anthony Dumont was second from Niki Tuuli, Ilya Mikhalchik, Hugo Clere and Andrea Tucci). In stark contrast, Champion Faccani failed to finish the last race of the campaign as he retired two laps from home.
Two French riders are entering this weekend’s race as Wildcards and both are to be equipped with Yamaha R6 bikes; Alexandre Santo Domingues competes with Moto Team 95 Events, while Yvan Laetzig will race for Team Motorsport. The aforementioned Mikhalchik of the Ukraine runs as a One Event rider for the DS Junior Team, having carried World Superbike rider David Salom’s new outfit to its first points with the Kawasaki ZX-6R last time out in Jerez. Fellow One Event runners are Italy’s Rodolfo Oliva (Team MotoxRacing – Yamaha) and Portugal’s Pedro Barbosa (Team TARGET / FMP / UNIXIRA – Yamaha).
FIM Europe European Superstock 600 Championship (7 of 8 rounds completed)
1 – Toprak Razgatlioglu Kawasaki Puccetti Racing 141
2 – Michael Ruben Rinaldi San Carlo Team Italia 98 (-43)
3 – Federico Caricasulo PATA Honda Junior Team 86 (-55)