The 2018 World Superbike title may have been settled with Jonathan Rea crowned Champion, however there’s still plenty to race for at the Pirelli Qatar Round. Chaz Davies aims to clinch the runner up position but it is far from a certainty with Michael van der Mark also within a shot of claiming that #2 plate.
The Losail International Circuit was inaugurated in 2004 and is one of the few circuits in the world that caters for night racing. The track is 5380 metres long with a start-finish straight measuring over a full kilometre, with six left-hand corners and ten right-handers.
Gunning for the runner-up spot in the championship chase, Chaz Davies will be preparing for his final race weekend with the Panigale R twin, ahead of the introduction of the V4 machine next season. Thus it is somewhat of a landmark event for Ducati and their incredibly successful twin-cylinder engine, the British rider will want to pull out all the stops to end 2018 with a bang and send off the twin on top. Davies will be hoping to repeat his performance from 2016 in Doha, when he dominated under the floodlights.
The man out to stop Davies is Michael van der Mark. The Dutchman is already on course for securing his best ever finish in WorldSBK – his previous best being fourth overall in 2016. Currently sitting 24-points behind Davies, the runner-up spot is possible but it will be a big task for the Dutchman. Yet to stand on the podium at Losail in the WorldSBK class, he did take a fourth position finish here last season as he equalled his best result at the circuit.
Michael van der mark
“I can’t believe that we’re heading into the final race weekend of the season already. It seems to have gone so quickly, maybe because we’ve had so many good results this season. We will be doing everything we can this weekend to finish on a high and focus on ending the season top three in the championship standings. The last round in Argentina was tough, but we’re expecting much better results this weekend in Qatar, at a track that seems to suit the characteristics of our YZF-R1 very well.”
Lowes has also enjoyed significant success aboard the Yamaha YZF-R1 this season. The Pata Yamaha rider has four podium finishes to his name in 2018, including his first ever WorldSBK race win, which came during Race 2 in Brno back in June. The 28-year-old has endured a difficult second half to the season, but is determined to bounce back and end his 2018 campaign on a high this weekend under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit, a track that suits both his riding style and the Yamaha YZF-R1 and where Lowes finished on the podium in the final race of last season.
“I really enjoy racing in Qatar. It’s a unique race; the only one of the season where we race at night and under floodlights. It’s a fantastic event and one where I had some success last year, ending the season with a podium finish in the final race on a track that has always been a favourite of mine. We head there this time looking to fight for podium finishes once again and to repeat the success of 12 months ago, to finish our most successful season to date on a high.”
Eugene Laverty has a littered past here in Qatar, and will be hoping to end a mixed season on a positive note. A top four in 2017’s Race One is his strongest finish around the 5.3km circuit, and with some podium finishes this year he will be hoping to go one further with his Aprilia. A tough end to the weekend in Argentina saw him score no points in race two, but the pace of the Irishman is never far off the top. With experience in both WorldSBK and MotoGP under the floodlights of Losail International Circuit, Laverty won’t be giving up just yet, especially as it seems as though Laverty is yet to secure a competitive machine for season 2019.
The Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team have had a very trying year. For Leon Camier, his season has been hindered by injury and despite some strong summer testing, he has been unable to replicate the strong results he showed in Thailand. Argentina brought some more tough race day challenges for the Brit, and as he comes to a track he has a mixed record around, it will be a big weekend for himself and his team.
Jake Gagne will look forward to returning to Qatar, making the most of visiting a track he is familiar with. Scoring points in both races last season – on only his third WorldSBK appearance – he will hope to end the season by showing everyone just what he can do on a motorbike.
Loris Baz will be preparing for his first WorldSBK appearance around Losail since 2014. Last time he was here he took a second position in both Superpole and Race One for Kawasaki, this year though he is BMW mounted. Continuing to work to develop his S 1000 RR, the Frenchman will want to end his tough season on a high, he’s currently only six points off a top ten championship finish.
Chilean Maximilan Scheib is readying for his second ever WorldSBK appearance, and his debut appearance in Qatar. With a solid opening performance in Argentina in 13th, the youngster will be hoping to put on another impressive performance as the series comes to a close.
WorldSBK Championship Standings
Jonathan Rea 520 Kawasaki
Chaz Davies 348 Ducati
Michael Van Der Mark 324 Yamaha
Tom Sykes 294 Kawasaki
Marco Melandri 286 Ducati
Alex Lowes 232 Yamaha
Xavi Fores 227 Ducati
Toprak Razgatlioglu 145 Kawasaki
Eugene Laverty 145 Aprilia
Lorenzo Savadori 133 Aprilia
Loris Baz 127 Bmw
Leon Camier 108 Honda
Jordi Torres 98 MV Agusta
Michael Ruben Rinaldi 77 Ducati
Leandro Mercado 66 Kawasaki
One of the most highly anticipated battles of the year, the FIM Supersport World Championship is set to go down to the wire in Qatar, as the title fight comes down to just two riders: Sandro Cortese and Jules Cluzel.
Hosting the traditional season closer, Losail International Circuit is used to seeing some stunning battles on track, and is the perfect setting. With its fast corners and overtaking hotspots, the 5.6k circuit is set to set the world alight as six points stand between the duo and the crown.
Preparing to take on the Losail International Circuit for the first time on his YZF-R6 machine, Sandro Cortese has a vast amount of experience around the desert-ridden track and will be putting his all into getting the title. Racing around the track for the last 13 seasons with the 125cc World Championship, Moto3 and Moto2 series, the German will be searching for his fourth podium finish but most importantly his first win under the floodlights.
Never finishing outside of the top six so far in 2018, Cortese has shown his secret is consistency, but can he take his first victory since Donington Park in May? All he needs is a top three finish and the crown is his… whatever happens.
Fully charged and ready for the battle, Jules Cluzel won’t be going down without a fight in Qatar, and showed his desire to take the win last time out in Argentina. Winning the race in dominant style, his emotions were clear from the moment he crossed the line, and the four time WorldSSP runner up has been calling on his fellow competitors to help him this weekend.
Racing in the class for six seasons, he is the ‘nearly-man’ and will be putting everything into becoming the ‘winning man’. Taking pole here in 2014, the Frenchman is yet to win at Qatar, and will be pushing to do so this weekend. With seven podiums and five wins to his name this season, he will be ready to take the battle right to the final mm.
Elsewhere on the WorldSSP grid, GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP team-mates Lucas Mahias and Federico Caricasulo will be pushing to end their season on a high after a recent surge in results for the pair. Aiming for the team’s world title, the duo will be focusing on their own races and will be hoping to both cross the finish line after some bad luck in recent rounds.
But the season’s underdog Rafalle De Rosa has impressed all season with his consistent run of podium finishes. But this has dropped off in recent rounds, meaning the Italian will be looking to take home one more trophy to top off a strong season. With six podiums in a row, he has been unable to break the second position duck, but he has been the only man to challenge the Yamaha’s this season. Sitting in sixth in the championship standings, he will be pushing for that top five to end the season on a high.
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