The Superbike World Championship visits Imola in Italy this weekend, May 11-13 as all classes take to the track for the fifth round of the season.
The Enzo and Dino Ferrari International Racetrack, better known as the Autodromo of Imola, is named after Enzo Ferrari, founder of the iconic Italian car manufacturer, and his son Dino. The track, set up for motorcycle racing, is a 4936 metre long circuit with nine right hand turns and 13 left handers, which runs anti-clockwise. The width of the track goes from a maximum of 15 metres to a minimum of 10 metres with a maximum downhill slope of 9.10% between the Piratella and Acque Minerali turns and a maximum uphill slope of 9.38% between the Acque Minerali and Variante Alta turns.
Kenan Sofuoglu to retire at Imola
Kenan Sofuoglu has announced he will race the fifth round of the FIM Supersport World Championship this weekend, with his intention to retire after the Italian round this weekend, which will coincide with his 20th year racing anniversary.
On many occasions this year the Kawasaki Puccetti Racing’s rider has declared that there was a possibility for him to retire after the terrible crash he suffered in Australia that left him with additional issues apart from the those he sustained in the accident at Magny Cours last year.
Because of continuous injuries the Turkish rider decided together with his family to end his career sooner as was expected. After having won the Supersport world championship title five times in 2007, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016 (the two last ones with the Kawasaki Puccetti Racing team) and having become one of the most successful riders ever with 45 victories overall (43 of that in WorldSSP) Sofuoglu made the difficult decision with no regrets.
“I will celebrate my 20 years of racing anniversary this weekend! Last couple of months I had a few injures which made my family very afraid, also our President. We decide to retire from racing earlier then what I was thinking. I can’t say I am sad because I have already a few Turkish riders which I trained to race and carry our flag. Twenty years ago I started my racing career with a goal to race in the world championships. We won five times the world title. I am very thankful for that. Many people supported me while winning these titles I want to thank everyone for that. For Kawasaki Puccetti Racing Team and for my fans I will be last time on the track on 12-13 May in Italy.”
The man to beat in recent years, Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) is heading to Imola as the obvious favourite this weekend, standing on the top step on the last four occasions with his Panigale R machine. Holding the pole, race and circuit lap record, the British rider has been an unstoppable force over the past seasons as thousands of Ducati fans descend on Imola to show their support.
“Imola is a special place. We’ve been particularly competitive there in the past two years, even going above our expectations, and it’s just been one of those circuits where we’ve been able to get into a good rhythm quite fast. The track itself has some hard-braking areas that suit my style, and I’ve always been very motivated since we’ve been surrounded by all the Ducati people and fans, who have so much passion. But nothing stands still in racing, so we need to keep our head down and be prepared for a battle, as always.”
It can be easy to forget Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)’s history around Imola, but the British rider has certainly impressed around here in the past. Taking four victories from as many races in 2014 and 2015, the reigning world champion has tasted the special glory of victory in Italy with both Honda and Kawasaki.
“It’s been a good to be at home and recharge the batteries after our recent back to back races, and then a test in Brno. I’m feeling good ahead of the Imola weekend. It’s a track that has a fun and challenging layout. It’s also been a circuit where we have just lacked that last piece of the jigsaw in recent years so it would be great to try to improve on our most recent Imola form. It’s such a picturesque circuit, and steeped in history, that’s it’s impossible not to enjoy riding there – especially in front of the Italian fans for the first time in 2018. We will be targeting race wins, let’s see if we can do it!”
Another victor around Imola, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) will be heading to Italy with a new feeling of confidence, after his stunning return to the top last time out in The Netherlands. Sykes will be hunting down more success this weekend – and with the double win secured here in 2013 he will be poised to take on the tight and twisty circuit.
“It’s always a pleasure to go to Imola as it has a good track layout and great fans. I always enjoy myself on Wednesday, thanks to the Italian food and café culture. The easiest way to describe the feeling after my race win at Assen is that normally a win means a celebration, but this time it was a relief. It was also a gentle reminder that I was world champion for a reason. It has given me some self-confidence back. Since then I have been working well and we are starting to get back on the right track. We have had race-winning levels of pace this year but also some bad luck at times. On track at Imola we will work hard with the bike and try to win again.”
Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) will no doubt be heading south to Italy still beaming from a stunning double podium at his home round. It will be a challenging weekend with the aim of improving his best result of seventh.
As Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) prepares for a battle in front of his home fans, there will be plenty of eyes on the SMR squad as Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) hopes to make his return to the WorldSBK paddock following his horror crash in Thailand.
After a tough weekend in The Netherlands for the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team with both Leon Camier and Jake Gagne sitting out of the round due to injury, the duo will have their fitness assessed before the Pata Italian Round. But PJ Jacobsen (TripleM Honda World Superbike Team) is set to make his WorldSBK debut at the famous Imola track.
Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team) sits in the top nine of the world championship standings, and will be aiming to improve his overall pace in round five this weekend. The Frenchman will be looking forward to returning to the tight and twisty track which has welcomed two top four finishes in the past.
Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) is continuing his development with his new team, and felt some big steps were made throughout the Dutch Round.
Not forgetting home hero Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), who will be searching for his first victory in WorldSBK around Imola alongside team-mate Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team), as the adoring Italian fans will be out in force for the duo.
“I think we’re heading to Imola at the right time, I’m very excited but also focused and full of energy. I still haven’t won at Imola in WorldSBK, but each year is a different story and I’m confident we can be protagonists. The last test has given me a lot of confidence, we made a big step forward and we understood our limitations better. I’m as determined as ever to fight for the win again. Anything is still possible, but we must not waste any opportunities. It’ll be a memorable round!”
Valdimir Leonov (SPB Racing Team) will be making his second appearance of the season and Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) returning for the first time in 2018, and hot on the heels of a double victory in British Superbike last weekend, will not be one to miss.
Jonathan Rea 159
Chaz Davies 129
Marco Melandri 115
Michael Van Der Mark 103
Tom Sykes 101
Xavi Fores 100
Alex Lowes 76
Toprak Razgatlioglu 45
Loris Baz 44
Leon Camier 42
Jordi Torres 39
Román Ramos 28
Lorenzo Savadori 25
Leandro Mercado 24
Michael Ruben Rinaldi 21
Jake Gagne 17
Eugene Laverty 16
Pj Jacobsen 15
Davide Giugliano 11
Yonny Hernandez 7
Ondrej Jezek 2
With one point splitting the top two in the championship standings, the passionate Italian fans are in for a stunning on track battle around a circuit where the passion of racing runs through the tarmac.
Reigning world champion Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) heads to Imola with a podium finish in his sights after tough back to back rounds. Missing out on the podium finish on both occasions, the Frenchman hoped to spend his time between Assen and Imola working on his bike and set up. Taking a podium finish last season, Mahias could go one further as it’s clear the YZF-R6 is a strong bike in WorldSSP this season.
Swiss rival Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evans Bros. WorldSSP Team) stunned the paddock after he made up 27 positions in the Dutch race, and is showing no signs of slowing down. With a one point deficit in the world championship standings, Krummenacher has a big battle on his hands this weekend with a tough record around the 4.9km track.
Keeping the championship battle tight at the top are Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) and Jules Cluzel (NRT) who each took a victory in the back to back rounds at MotorLand Aragon and TT Circuit Assen respectively. German rookie Cortese sits seven points from the top, whilst Cluzel is 21 off the championship leader.
Britain’s Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing) has put up a strong start to his season at the helm of the Triumph machine. With three top six finishes – and a top ten in Thailand – he sits in an impressive sixth in the world championship standings.
Aiming to be swinging his leg over his Kawasaki this weekend, Anthony West (EAB West Racing) is recovering from a right wrist injury which required surgery, after a fast crash around TT Circuit Assen which forced him to sit out of the race. Heading straight to Barcelona for an operation, the Australian rider has been recuperating ready for the Italian Round this weekend. Securing 17 points so far this season, West will be hoping to break into the top five as the season continues into Europe. But, Imola has been a tough circuit to West in the past so it will be a big challenge.
Rob Hartog (Team Hartog – Against Cancer) has been impressing in the European Supersport Cup this season, getting a top seven overall in front of his home crowds whilst topping the ESS standings in both rounds so far. With two top tens under his belt this season, Hartog is making the most of his ESS opportunity in the competitive WorldSSP field.
WorldSSP Standings following Assen
Lucas Mahias 71
Randy Krummenacher 70
Sandro Cortese 64
Jules Cluzel 50
Federico Caricasulo 49
Luke Stapleford 38
Raffaele De Rosa 35
Niki Tuuli 29
Kyle Smith 19
Thomas Gradinger 18
Anthony West 17
World Supersport 300
Two races into the 2018 season, we’ve had two winners, five riders on the podium, and all the top positions settled by tenths of a second. Everyone on the WorldSSP300 grid will travel to Italy eager to prove a point.
Heading into Imola as the championship leader for the second year running*, Scott Deroue (Motoport Kawasaki) might not have won the two opening races as he did in 2017, but he’s shown a consistency that could prove to be vital by autumn. Last year at Imola, Deroue could only qualify in 21st place after the Superpole 1, finishing the race 11th. Will he find the pace this year to battle for a first win of the season?
The rider to make his mark at Assen was Luca Grunwald (Freudenberg KTM WorldSSP Team), taking advantage of the last-lap chaos to grab his first WorldSSP300 victory. The German crept up quietly throughout the weekend and kept his cool when push came to shove. It remains to be seen if he can he repeat the feat at Imola.
While neither rider has made it onto the podium yet, DS Junior Team are the only squad so far to have had both their riders in the top 10 in 2018. Both Ana Carrasco (DS Junior Team) and Dorren Loureiro (DS Junior Team) are proving to be dependable in both qualifying and race conditions, which bodes well for the season ahead. Loureiro also recorded the fastest lap here last year.
Koen Meuffels (KTM Fortron Junior Team) relinquished his leadership at Assen in dramatic fashion, falling to the floor on the final turn of the final lap after leading long stretches of the race. He’s now fourth in the standings, but just 11 points off the lead, and given the wild nature of the competition will be looking to jump straight back to the top.
Another rider who came agonisingly close to the finish line at Assen only to suffer a last lap crash was Mika Pérez (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team). The Spaniard has started both 2018 races from pole position, and took his maiden WorldSSP300 Superpole at Imola last year. He could only finish the race in 10th then – a lesson to be learnt for the weekend.
With the successes of his fellow Dutchmen, Glenn van Straalen’s (KTM Fortron Racing Team) performances so far might have flown slightly under the radar. This could play in his favour: van Straalen has proven to be reliable, and sitting just 7 points off leader Deroue, he could look to strike before the other title contenders notice.
For Tom Edwards (Nutec-Benjan-Kawasaki), his WorldSSP300 baptism of fire has been as rough and heartbreaking as they come. The Australian has spent every lap of 2018 in the top 10 and in contention for the win, yet in both races he went to the floor in the final turns. Nonetheless, the 16-year-old has shown awesome pace for his age. Will it be third time lucky at Imola?
WorldSSP300 Standings following Assen
Scott Deroue 36
Luca Grunwald 32
Glenn Van Straalen 29
Koen Meuffels 25
Ana Carrasco 23
Mykyta Kalinin 23
Dorren Loureiro 17
Mika Perez 16
Walid Khan 16
Robert Schotman 11
Can anyone on the STK1000 field defeat Markus Reiterberger (alpha Racing-Van Zon-BMW)? It will be harder than ever for the German at Imola, with half of the field returning to their home country and a track they know to perfection – not to mention the motivation of pulling the championship leader down to earth.
It’s hard to imagine how Markus Reiterberger’s return to the STK1000 championship could have gone any better. Two wins, two Superpoles, two fastest laps, fastest time in qualifying, and a feeling of dominance seldom seen in this category. His last appearance at the Italian track was back in 2016 on a Superbike, coming in 12th and 13th.
For many in the STK1000 field the Imola Round will be a return home, but few will be more willing and able to impress than Roberto Tamburini (Berclaz Racing Team SA). The Italian is the biggest threat to Reiterberger’s lead right now, having come in second at both MotorLand Aragon and TT Circuit Assen. Appropriately, Tamburini also came in second at last year’s Imola race – a result he will be desperate to improve on.
Another rider returning home is Federico Sandi (MOTOCORSA Racing). A third and fourth place finish under his belt in the season so far, Sandi will be willing to put last season’s Imola Round behind him: the Italian saw himself disqualified after originally crossing the line fourth. A first STK1000 win still awaits Sandi, and Imola would be the perfect venue.
Maximilian Scheib (Aprilia Racing Team) was perhaps the biggest threat to Reiterberger’s triumph at the Aragon Round, when he lead the race and was only kept off the podium by an electronic problem. At Assen he crept back on, ending the race in third. The Chilean couldn’t score at last year’s Imola race either, but is well prepared to make it through the weekend at the front of the field.
Florian Marino (URBIS Yamaha Motoxracing STK Team) will be disappointed at this season so far, not just at his two fifth positions, but at finishing both races so far behind the leading four riders. The Frenchman is not used to be so far behind, having been in contention for the title last year right up to the final race. Will he find the pace he needs at Imola?
STK1000 Standings following Assen
Markus Reiterberger 50
Roberto Tamburini 40
Maximilian Scheib 29
Federico Sandi 29
Florian Marino 22
Luca Vitali 19
Riccardo Russo 14
Gabriele Ruiu 13
Luca Salvadori 13
Alessandro Andreozzi 10
Pirelli solutions – WorldSBK and WorldSSP
Pirelli brings a total of 4682 tyres to Imola to meet the needs of all four classes of the production derived race series. For all classes, rain tyres are always available in case of bad weather, while the WorldSBK and WorldSSP categories also have intermediate tyres.
Pirelli will also debut for the WorldSBK class a new slick rear tyre in soft compound in an innovative 200/65 size, designed to better distribute the stress on the tread band and to guarantee even higher grip, especially at high temperatures. In the WorldSSP class, riders will be able to count on a new development SC0, which, compared to the standard solution, should offer better resistance and constant performance.
As for the dry solutions, in the WorldSBK class the riders can count on seven solutions, four front and three rear. The solutions provided for the front are all already known by riders who have been able to use them in previous rounds.
In addition to the standard SC1 and SC2 the development SC1 V0952 will be present, a tyre already used by riders in many rounds last year and throughout 2018. This option is highly appreciated by riders, it uses the same compound of the standard SC1 featuring different structural solutions. Another alternative to the standard SC1 is that represented by the W0494, introduced at Aragón, and also carried to Assen, which uses a different construction process than the standard SC1.
As for the rear, the riders will have at their disposal three solutions, among these two which have been already seen on the scene: the W1050, which compared to the standard SC0 is generally more suitable for harsh temperatures, and the standard SC1. The new development is the soft development W1002 solution that uses the same compound of the W1050 but presents itself in the innovative 200/65 size which offers a wider contact area with consequent better distribution of stresses which should guarantee even higher grip, especially at high temperatures.
In the WorldSSP class the riders will find the same solutions already brought from Pirelli to Aragón and Assen with the addition of a new rear tyre for a total of six solutions for dry, three front and three rear.
At the front the standard SC1 and SC2 are supported once again by the development soft solution X0012 which improves handling and performance. This option is positioned halfway between the SC1 and the SC2, trying to maintain the grip of the SC1 and the handling of the SC2.
For the rear, in addition to the standard SC0 and SC1, the new development SC0 X0497 will be available as an alternative, it should offer better resistance and consistent performance compared to the standard solution.
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