Infront Motor Sports press release:
After two exciting overseas races in Australia and Qatar, the 2009 Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship returns to European soil this weekend for the third round at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit. The Spanish track has been the venue for World Superbike since 2000, and has a tricky technical configuration where precise set-up plays a fundamental role. Troy Corser has the most wins at the Ricardo Tormo track, five, followed by Troy Bayliss on four and Noriyuki Haga, one of last year’s winners, on three.
The first two rounds of the season have been marked by the impressive form of two riders, Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) and rookie Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike). The 34 year-old from Japan is currently leading the championship standings with one win and three second places to his name, and even though he will be racing at one of his best tracks, he will have to watch out for the Texan, ten years his younger, who has set WSB alight with three wins in four races. The gap between the two is 10 points and sparks are sure to fly at Valencia.
But Haga and Spies won’t be resting on their laurels as their closest rivals are aiming to cut the gap and challenge for wins. Starting with Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Alstare), who has had an up-and-down start to the season. Last year the German was heading for his first WSB win when he was brought down at the final turn by Carlos Checa and he will be looking to kick his championship campaign into gear this time around. All eyes will also be on Max Biaggi, who has demonstrated that the Aprilia RSV4 is capable of fighting for wins, and Troy Corser, who aims to make further progress on BMW’s promising new contender. Michel Fabrizio, so disappointing in the opening rounds after setting the pace in pre-season tests, will be looking to approach that sort of form again on the second factory Ducati 1098 machine.
Spanish fans will be rooting for Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), who came close to the win last year and who has now fully recovered from the recent shoulder injury that conditioned his form in the first two rounds; as well as Ruben Xaus (BMW), who won race 1 here in 2007. The two Spanish riders are not on the top of their game at the moment, but their home track should bring out the best in both of them.
This year’s championship already has an impressive line-up, and it gains even more prestige with the arrival of John Hopkins. Stiggy Racing Honda and Roberto Rolfo have ended their collaboration by mutual consent and the team led by former rider Johan Stigefelt immediately snapped up the American. Hopkins, 26 years old in May, was born in Ramona (California), and made his debut in MotoGP in 2002, where he stayed until last year. With 115 races and four podiums to his name, all in 2007, Hopkins’ best season was that year, when he finished in fourth place. The Stiggy rider has the bike and the potential to play a major role in the championship, and has declared his intention to win races in his rookie WSB season.
A first step in establishing a series of cost-cutting measures in Superbike will be a new racing timetable that enters into force from Valencia onwards. The big change regards Friday’s schedule, with Superbike free practice now beginning at 12.45 and qualifying at 16.15. Supersport, Superstock 1000 and Superstock 600 have just one qualifying session scheduled on the Saturday with Friday devoted solely to free practice.
In Australia and Qatar surprises were the order of the day and the championship is shaping up to be a hard-fought affair. Honda for the moment are monopolizing the scene, with Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate) and Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar) taking the wins, and reigning champion Andrew Pitt leading the points table. Yamaha are becoming a real threat however, with Cal Crutchlow scoring his first Supersport podium in Qatar, while talented Spanish youngster Joan Lascorz, who won at Valencia last year, should go well on the Kawasaki. The three-cylinder Triumph 675 machine is also showing considerable potential in the hands of Garry McCoy and Gianluca Nannelli (Be1 Racing).
Superstock Championships Underway
Valencia will also see the start of the 2009 Superstock 1000 FIM Cup and the European Superstock 600 Championship. In the upper category the favourites for the title must be Belgian Xavier Simeon (Ducati Xerox Junior Team) and Claudio Corti (Suzuki Alstare) but this championship has always had a few surprises in store over the last few seasons. All eyes will be on Tommy Bridewell (Yamaha Lorenzini) and Maxime Berger (Ten Kate Honda), who finished runner-up behind winner Brendan Roberts (Ducati Xerox Junior Team) in 2008. The 600 category looks to be a more open tussle, but judging by their form in 2008 Marco Bussolotti (Yamaha Italia) and Gino Rea (Ten Kate Honda) are likely favourites for the title.
Race – Neil Hodgson (Ducati) 1’35.007 (2003); Best lap – Max Neukirchner (Suzuki) 1’33.805 (2008).
The Spanish Round of the Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship takes place from Friday 3 thru Sunday 5 April. World Superbike free practice and qualifying are held on the first two days, with Superpole scheduled for Saturday at 15.00. The two 23-lap Superbike races are scheduled to run on Saturday at 12.00 and 15.30, with the 23-lap Supersport race at 13.25 local time.
About the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo
Since its inauguration, the Ricardo Tormo Circuit has become an emblem for international motorsport in Spain. This ‘Circuit within a Stadium’ as it is known, offers the possibility for spectators to see the entire race-track and is one of the few circuits to host both World Superbike and MotoGP rounds. Measuring 4.005 km, the track is unusually in an anti-clockwise direction and it has 9 left and 5 right-hander turns, leading onto the 846 m long main straight.
IRPR press release:
A month ago, it would have been impossible to get any odds on American Yamaha rider Ben Spies winning three of the opening four world superbike races in 2009.
But that’s just what’s happened in a fairytale WSBK debut, with the rookie already turning the championship on its head with his raw speed and astute race craft.
While Spies has jumped out of the box and is the warm favourite to continue his winning ways at Valencia this weekend, there is also huge interest in whether Australian Troy Corser can rise to the occasion and put his all-new BMW near the front of the pack.
The two-time world champion has been fast on the S 1000 RR in the opening two rounds, but he’s been forced to push through the field after struggling in the revamped Superpole format – an incongruity for someone with the most pole positions in WSBK history.
“The current Superpole does not reflect who the fastest riders are – in my opinion – and I think it is a bit of a lottery,” laments Corser. “At the moment, you have to make a gamble on when to use the two qualifying tyres, and personally I would be happy if all qualifying tyres were scrapped. That way, we’d all be more or less on the same rubber and I think the results would reflect the order of the quickest riders better.
“Starting from so far down the grid is never easy, especially this year when the championship is probably more competitive than it has ever been, so it is important to get a good grid position and be with the leaders right from the start. Otherwise you have too much work to do to stay in contention and that uses the tyres up more quickly.
“It’s good to get back to Europe because the team can work in its own workshop and get stuff sorted out.. Because the bike is so new, there’s always stuff to do to it – it’s in a constant state of development – but we all knew that before the season began, so basically we’re just doing the work that has to be done. And I think it’s going very well.”
Corser has been a dominant force at Valencia over the years, winning the first ever WSBK race at the circuit in 2000, which he followed up with clean sweeps in 2001 and 2005.
“Valencia has been good to me in the past, but this is a new game for us and the bike for me and Ruben is not yet at its full stage of development,” continued Corser. “We’d have to have a very good Superpole before we could get an idea of where we’d finish in the races. There are seven manufacturers with official or semi-official teams in Valencia, not to mention very strong privateers, so it’s going to be a long, hard weekend for sure.
“The S 1000 RR should be okay at Valencia because it worked well when we tested here before. So at least this time we will have some idea of the base set-up before we begin practice and qualifying
“I think that the first two rounds showed that the Yamaha and Ducati are good packages from the start, and we will all have to match them as the season progresses. I don’t think Spies, Haga and Biaggi are going to have it all their own way all season and expect different race winners in the races to come.”
Just like Phillip Island and Qatar, Spies will compete at Valencia without any prior racing experience. But to date that’s just been minor nuisance value for the 24-year-old Texan, who has just come off three years of intense competition in the American superbike title against Australian Mat Mladin.
Although Spies has won three races, he is still only second in the points behind Ducati enforcer Noriyuki Haga, and the American can also expect a number of other riders to lift their game as the championship settles into Europe for the next three rounds.
And there is also a new face at Valencia in the form of ex-MotoGP rider John Hopkins.
The Californian has agreed to terms with leading Honda outfit Stiggy, with WSBK now fielding two leading American riders for the first time since Colin Edwards and Ben Bostrom in 2002.
With such a limited preparation – he’s only tested for a few days at Almeria in Spain — it’s probably asking too much of Hopkins to score big points at Valencia, although his new teammate Leon Haslam showed what the Stiggy Honda was capable of at Phillip Island when he was third in race two.
Instead, wise heads like Haga, Max Biaggi (Aprilia), Carlos Checa (Honda), Max Neukirchner (Suzuki) and Corser are more likely to trade blows at the front, as well as new faces like Haslam, Tom Sykes (Yamaha) Jonathan Rea (Honda), and Japan’s Shinya Nakano (Aprilia).
Haga swapped race wins with Italian surprise packet Lorenzo Lanzi in 2008, with Corser, Troy Bayliss and Checa filing the minor placings. Neukirchner was also lightning fast in race one before being taken out by a careless Checa.
Australia’s second factory rider, Kawasaki’s Broc Parkes, has recently completed two days testing at Valencia, and is now feeling a lot more confident after a torrid start to the year.
“Our race pace is definitely improving each time I get on the bike,” said Parkes. “At the recent test, we tried a lot of different things on the bike and I’m feeling positive that we’ll see the improvements over the race distance in Valencia. My aim is to get some points again and if we have a top 10 then this will be a bonus.”
Haga leads on 85pts from Spies (75), and then it’s a big gap back to Neukirchner (40), Biaggi (38) and Haslam on 36. Corser is 12th on 22pts.
WORLD SUPERSPORT : AUSTRALIA’S ANDREW PITT TO CAMPAIGN 2009 VERSION OF CBR600RR WITH EYE ON FIRST SEASON WIN
In world supersport, Australia’s Andrew Pitt has begun his title defence with two close second places, and he leads by 2pts over Honda teammate Kenan Sofuoglu.
Pitt, who has spent the last few weeks in Italy training with Spies, will race the 2009 version of the CBR600RR for the first time at Valencia.
“Ben has got a nice place up by Lake Como, and it’s been good to do some training with him,” said Pitt. “Valencia is not my favourite circuit and, although I don’t have a problem doing a good lap time, the results have been hard to come by. The track surface can change from hour to hour so it can be an interesting place.
“But the team and I are pretty motivated with the arrival of the new bike. The Ten Kate boys know how to get the most out of Honda’s CBR so we should hit the ground running and we’ll aim for another good result.”
It’s inevitable that Valencia will produce another multi-rider thriller, which could conceivably include four Aussies – Pitt and fellow Honda riders Mark Aitchison and Anthony West, as well as Triumph’s Garry McCoy.
Sofuoglu will also be in the action, as will Qatar winner Eugene Laverty (Honda), Yamaha factory duo Cal Crutchlow and Fabien Foret, and the pre-season pacesetter, Kawasaki’s Joan Lascorz.
CURRENT WORLD SUPERBIKE STANDINGS (AFTER ROUND TWO OF 14)
Noriyuki Haga, Japan, Ducati
Ben Spies, America, Yamaha
Max Neukirchner, Germany, Suzuki
Max Biaggi, Italy, Aprilia
Leon Haslam, Honda, Great Britain
Tom Sykes, Great Britain, Yamaha
Regis Laconi, France, Ducati
Jonathan Rea, Great Britain, Honda
Shinya Nakano, Japan, Aprilia
Yukio Kagayama, Japan, Suzuki
Troy Corser, Australia, BMW
Broc Parkes, Australia, Kawasaki