News 29 Sep 2011

World Superbike continues this weekend at Magny-Cours in France

World Superbike continues this weekend, with Carlos Checa in the box seat.

World Superbike continues this weekend, with Carlos Checa in the box seat.

Spain’s Carlos Checa should make light work of becoming the 2011 World Superbike champion at Magny-Cours in France this weekend, but he doesn’t want to make it a celebratory walk in the park.

Checa’s inevitable crowning could happen as early as race one, where he only has to finish 13th or higher – even if closest rival Marco Melandri (Yamaha) takes the chequered flag, which will be a big ask on the Italian’s first visit to Magny-Cours.

If Checa succeeds at Magny-Cours – and if he doesn’t there’s always the final round in Portugal to fall back on – he will be the first Spanish rider, and only the fifth of European descent, to win the WSBK title.

It will also be Ducati’s first championship success since Aussie Troy Bayliss in 2008.

Checa has been ruthless all season, finishing on the podium in 18 of the 22 races for 12 wins. And the warning signs were there early in the season, when he dominated the opening round at Australia’s Phillip Island, leaving the rest of the championship contenders rattled.

And he hasn’t let up since, with Monza’s round four, the only time that he hasn’t set foot on the dais.

Checa is currently on 417pts, ahead of Melandri (320), Max Biaggi (Aprilia, 281), Eugene Laverty (Yamaha, 256) and Leon Haslam (187).

For the Australians, Magny-Cours could be yet produce more proof of Mark Aitchison’s readiness to take on the mantle as Australia’s number one World Superbike rider.

He’s recently been the fastest Australian on his rapidly improving Kawasaki, while Troy Corser (BMW) has struggled.

And Chris Vermeulen (Kawasaki) has only competed in a few rounds as he battles knee and elbow injuries.

Corser has fond memories of Magny-Cours, as it was one of the first places where he rode the S 1000 RR.

“Magny-Cours is quite a special circuit. It has lots of hairpins and some pretty fast chicanes,” said Corser. “I had a few good results there, including some pole positions. It will be nice to go back there.

“Important factors at Magny-Cours are top speed and braking. You brake from very high speeds down to the slowest corners that we have on the calendar. This is especially the case on the end of the back straight, where you brake from over 280km/h down to under 50km/h.

“So you need good stability on the brakes and a smooth connection, as the corners are quite tight. I think our RR will work well there.”

With Checa set to mop up the final few points he requires to become champion-designate, the other focal point at Magny-Cours will be whether Eugene Laverty (Yamaha) can intensify the battle for third place in the championship against Max Biaggi (Aprilia).

With Biaggi out again due to his foot injury, Laverty’s bid has received a massive shot in the arm. But there are plenty of other fast men in the WSBK entourage around the French track, including lap record holder Noriyuki Haga (Aprilia), Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki), Leon Haslam (BMW), Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) and Jonathan Rea (Honda).

Rea returned to form with a bullet at Imola last Sunday, and was on track for a clean sweep before an innocuous battery connector came loose in race two when he was 3.5 seconds ahead of Checa.

In World Supersport, Briton Chaz Davies (Yamaha) has another chance to wrap up the championship after his machine also expired at Imola while he was destroying the field.

Davies is on 171pts with two rounds remaining, ahead of Fabien Foret (Honda, 136) and Kawasaki pilots David Salom (123) and Australian Broc Parkes (120).

A couple of daring races to see out the year could still be enough for Parkes to finish second in the championship, and he was certainly on the pace at Magny-Cours last year before being sidelined with a mechanical problem.