INFRONT MOTOR SPORT:
The Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship heads to the Automotodrom Brno in the Czech Republic this coming weekend for the tenth round of this year’s series. The Czech Round is the last event before the summer break, which will be a well-deserved opportunity for teams and riders to get some rest in view of the final four-round rush to the finish starting in September.
The 5.403 km Brno track is a particularly challenging circuit, with constant uphill and downhill sections that provide a severe test-bed for both man and machine. World Superbike has raced at Brno six times in the past: first sporadically in 1993 and 1996, and then a constant fixture since 2005. Three of the four recent editions have been dominated by four-cylinder machines, especially Suzuki who have won four races since 2005 thanks to Yukio Kagayama (2), Troy Corser and Max Biaggi, with the score completed by wins for James Toseland (Honda) and Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha). Last season the trend was inverted and Ducati, who had suffered in previous years, this time dominated the two races, placing five riders in the top 6 and giving a double win to Troy Bayliss.
HAGA GRITS HIS TEETH – In 2008 Noriyuki Haga failed to shine at Brno, and even this time things don’t look too promising for the championship leader. Haga comes to the Czech circuit in not the best of physical condition following his crash at Donington, and most probably will be playing a defensive game. But the Japanese rider, who is rapidly recovering from a broken wrist and scapula, has often accustomed the WSB world to miraculous recoveries and he will certainly be doing everything within his powers to defend his points lead. His closest rivals for the title, Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike) and Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) will be looking to take advantage of the situation; the Texan is getting closer and closer to the top of the championship and his minimum aim is to reduce the 14-point gap at the top, and continue the run of 10 wins in 18 races this season. Fabrizio will have a dual role at Brno. On the one hand he will have to take points away from Spies to help his team-mate Haga, while on the other he will have to go on the attack because the world title is still a possibility seeing as he is just 51 points behind Haga, with 250 still up for grabs. Brno is a track that has always brought the best out of the young Italian, and now he is constantly up amongst the front-runners he is one of the favourites together with Spies.
OUTSIDERS – The formidable trio at the top are coming under attack from a series of rivals, including the increasingly competitive Hondas of Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate) and Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing). In the recent test at Imola, the Northern Ireland youngster – and Misano winner – showed himself to be back on the ball again after the disappointment of Donington, and the ups and downs of Brno, where he won last year on a Supersport Honda, have the right characteristics to bring out the best in him. As for Haslam, the British rider is having an outstanding season and will surely be one of the protagonists in the Czech Round. As will Jakub Smrz (Ducati Guandalini), who will be aiming for a podium at his home circuit. The list of outsiders also includes Shane Byrne (Sterilgarda Ducati), Tom Sykes (Yamaha World Superbike) and Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda).
BMW UP, APRILIA STABLE – The official Imola tests highlighted the progress made by BMW, despite a few problems for Troy Corser. The new spec engine gave a positive response and Ruben Xaus was able to set the seventh best time overall. It will be used at Brno and the two riders are confident they can get closer to the podium zone. At Imola on the other hand the Aprilias were in some difficulty, and neither Max Biaggi nor Shinya Nakano were on the pace. The Italian squad comes to Brno after a positive pre-Donington test and can in any case count on Biaggi, who is always quick at this track where he won in 2007.
NEUKIRCHNER OUT AGAIN – It has been a decidedly unfortunate season for Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Alstare BRUX). The German, who was back on the bike for the first time at Imola following his crash at Monza, was the victim of a bad crash again, in which he suffered a fractured vertebra. Neukirchner will have to wear a torso cast for at least 40 days, after which a check will be made on his condition. At Brno for the moment the Suzuki Alstare team line up only includes Yukio Kagayama.
SUPERSPORT – Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha World Supersport) starts the Brno weekend as the man to beat. In the recent tests the points leader confirmed himself to be the rider most in form and he will be aiming for his third win in a row, which would take him ever closer to the world title. The other two men still in with a chance are Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda), 28 points behind, and Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), who has to win if he wants to continue to go for the title. Team-mate and reigning champion Andrew Pitt is still looking for his first decent result this year, while Fabien Foret (Yamaha World Supersport) and young Spaniard Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Provec) will also be up at the front. One team that is on the up is ParkinGo Triumph Be1 Racing, who scored the marque’s first podium in Supersport at Donington and who will be hoping for a repeat performance from Garry McCoy and Gianluca Nannelli at Brno. Italian Massimo Roccoli races for a Czech team, so will also be looking for a good result in front of Intermoto Honda’s home crowd.
SUPERSTOCK – The Superstock 1000 FIM Cup is gearing up for the sixth round of an exciting series, with three riders – Xavier Simeon (Ducati Xerox), Claudio Corti (Suzuki Alstare) and Maxime Berger (Ten Kate Honda) – all fighting hard for the title. All three are separated by 23 points and the race should be a hard-fought one, with the Belgian and the Frenchman having already won here. Corti on the other hand comes to Brno after setting the quickest time at Imola. Possible outsiders include Javi Fores (Kawasaki Pedercini), Sylvain Barrier (Garnier Junior Yamaha) and above all Davide Giugliano, who makes his debut for the Celani Suzuki team. In the European Superstock 600 Championship, Danilo Petrucci (Yamaha Trasimeno) will be the rider to beat, with Gino Rea (Ten Kate Honda) and Marco Bussolotti (Yamaha Trasimeno) his main rivals, and as always Jeremy Guarnoni (MRS Yamaha) and Eddi La Marra (Honda Lorini) the outsiders.