Yamaha World Superbike Team rider Ben Spies heads to Imola this weekend looking to build on his championship lead over rival Noriyuki Haga. In a dramatic clash two weeks ago at the Nurburgring in Germany Spies put on a breathtaking race performance after mixed qualifying results to finally take the championship lead he’d been chasing all year with a win and a second placed finish. Although the WSB championship hasn’t raced at Imola since 2006 it has proved to be good for Texans, being the scene of a double win for Colin Edwards in 2002 where he won back to back races against Troy Bayliss to claim the World Championship title.
Team mate Tom Sykes is heading to the Italian circuit looking to convert his recent qualifying form into race success. Pre race sessions at the Nurburgring offered a glimpse of Sykes’s potential to run at the front with consistent fast race pace however the British rider was unable to convert it to a top race result after struggling with grip issues on race day.
Spies has an 18 point lead over Haga now with six races to go and a potential 150 further points up for grabs. Sykes currently sits in eighth position, trailing Carlos Checa in seventh by 12 points and 36 points behind rival Brit Leon Haslam in sixth.
Both riders benefit from having tested at Imola over the summer so will not have to use their first practice sessions to learn the circuit.
“I’m looking forward to riding on a track we’ve tested at again,” said Ben Spies. ” I feel we should have a good weekend coming up as we have a lot of data to go on, we got a lot accomplished at the test. We don’t have as big a lead as we would like but I’ve been in this situation before, it’s not so strange for me. As far as I’m concerned, we’re going to Imola to try and win two races. We know this is Ducati’s back yard and the past has been pretty good for them, so it will be tough. Having said that we have some good stuff worked out with the bike and the team has been continuing to develop so I’m confident we can pull in some good results.”
I’m really looking forward to Imola”, said Tom Sykes. “I had a two day test there and it was a decent one, we came away with a lot of positives. I’m hoping to go back there with what we’ve learnt and start with a good race setting. I’m really ready to get on the rostrum and taste the champagne, I certainly feel like I’m capable of doing it. That’s the plan so hopefully we can go there strong, not having to learn the circuit and get stuck straight in. I really enjoyed riding on the track, there are a few bumps that remind me of home and there’s certainly a lot of history there, it’s strange seeing houses as you come down the fast left on the track.”
Imola Technically speaking according to Tom Houseworth, Ben Spies Crew Chief
“We had a very productive test at Imola, a big factor being Ben knows the track now. This will allow us to work on setup straight away, on both bikes if necessary. Unlike Nurburgring we won’t lose any track learning time if it rains, last race weekend proved that puts us behind quickly. Both Ben’s bikes are a bit different so we’ll try each one and figure out which is more comfortable to go fast on. We’re hoping to be able to test some race rubber and dial in the ‘back in’ control in the second session. If all goes well and the weather holds Saturday should be fine tuning day. By this time we will have picked a bike and will concentrate on tuning the traction and wheelie control. Of course the goal is to make the bike as easy for Ben to ride fast as possible come Sunday. We’ll see how it goes!”
Imola technically speaking according to Sergio Verbena, Tom Sykes Crew Chief
“For Imola we can and will concentrate immediately on getting the best performance and finding the best balance between the tyres, chassis and suspension. We also have a lot of tyre data, even if the conditions turn out to be different compared to the summer tests. We had very hot temperatures in the summer, for the race we are hoping for lower temperatures! We’re going to start with the base setting from the test as Tom produced some really good lap times with it and build into that what we’ve learnt at Brno and the Nurburgring and go from there.”
Massimo Meregalli, Yamaha world superbike Team Manager
“we are ready for Imola, we know how the bike works there. I think as we’ve done in the last races, we will be going into this weekend with confidence, I’m positive we can continue to achieve great results. We’ve worked and studied the data from the test so we can prepare the bikes for optimum performance, we will we see Friday at noon if that works well. We are positive that both riders can perform here so we’re looking forward to a successful weekend for the team.”
Crutchlow set to continue championship dominance at Imola
After a flawless performance at the Nurburgring Yamaha World supersport rider Cal Crutchlow heads to Imola this weekend with the team intent on gaining another gap in the championship lead as the British rider closes in on the title. As with World Superbike, both Crutchlow and Foret have tested at Imola this year so go to the track armed with circuit knowledge and a working set-up from the start.
Crutchlow is leading the championship with three rounds to go with 210 points, 22 points ahead of closest rival Eugene Laverty in second position. Team mate Foret is in fifth on 99 points, 29 points behind fourth placed Sofuoglu.
“The test went well at Imola,” said Cal Crutchlow. “I intend to carry on where we left off after the last race and keep on putting in 100% to win. The plan is to keep the championship lead this weekend and increase on it as much as possible to get closer to the title win.”
“The weather looks great which is a good thing”, said Fabien Foret. “According to the test we had in the summer the bike works well at Imola and I have a set-up that performs well for me. I’d like to score some good points for the championship this weekend, I’m definitely looking for a podium finish on Sunday.”
Wilco Zeelenberg, Yamaha World Supersport Team Manager
“I think Cal is ready to race wherever we go, I think he will be as strong as he was at the Nurburgring. Hopefully we’ll have a situation where we will be able to get enough points to be able to decide the title at Magny Cours, that’s the dream scenario anyway. For now we’re going to focus on this race and there are still three rounds to go. We know Cal still has Eugene to deal with, so we need to make sure the R6 is up there at the front finishing those last three races. Fabien was also quick on the test in the summer and pleased with the set up we found when we were there so he’s looking for good race on Sunday and a good podium finish again. The weather should be good for him which will help.”