News 12 Jan 2012

World Superbike's 25th anniversary season to begin at Phillip Island

World Superbike will kick-off at Phillip Island next month.

World Superbike will kick-off at Phillip Island next month.

The Superbike World Championship turns 25 in 2012, and the celebrations will kick off at Victoria’s Phillip Island circuit from 24-26 February with a quality helping of fresh talent out to muscle up against seasoned veterans such as reigning world champion Carlos Checa.

The two biggest names joining the production-based championship next year are 2009 250 GP world champion and former MotoGP punter Hiroshi Aoyama, who slots into the factory Honda team alongside Jonathan Rea, and resurgent American John Hopkins, who came agonisingly close to claiming the 2011 British Superbike title.

Hopkins will pair with Leon Camier at the new British-based Crescent Racing Suzuki team, while another rookie squad is Aprilia ParkinGO, which is bringing hard-charging 2011 world Supersport champion Chaz Davies into the premier class.

Of the remaining factory teams, Eugene Laverty and 2010 WSBK champion Max Biaggi at Aprilia Alitalia shapes as a golden partnership; Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam also form an extremely powerful line-up at BMW Motorrad; and Kawasaki has retained two of its three practitioners from 2011 – Joan Lascorz and Tom Sykes.

Melandri is the reigning world No. 2, and was the only rider to keep the all-conquering Checa in his sights during the 2011 season.

Checa returns with Althea Ducati to defend his title, with the team expanding its roster by adding promising Italian Davide Giugliano – the 2011 FIM Superstock 1000 champion.

Checa blazed a trail through the 2011 WSBK title, setting the agenda early at Phillip Island with two resounding victories.

Other strong privateer line-ups include Ayrton Badovini and Michel Fabrizio at BMW Italia; Jakub Smrz, Sylvain Guintoli and Maxime Berger at Effenbert-Liberty Ducati; and veteran Noriyuki Haga at DFX Corse Ducati.

Of the 22 riders in the 2012 championship, nine are already WSBK race winners. And with an intriguing mix of battle-hardened WSBK campaigners, ex-MotoGP stars and riders like Laverty and Davies who have made the progression from world Supersport, the fight for the 14-round 2012 championship could take any number of twists and turns.

And in world Supersport, Australia’s challenge appears likely to be spearheaded by the experienced Novocastrian Broc Parkes (Ten Kate Honda), with 2011 European Superstock 600 champion Melbourne’s Jed Metcher making the switch on a Russian-backed RivaMoto Yamaha.

Prior to the opening round of the championship at Phillip Island, the final official pre-season test will also be held at the Bass Straight circuit from February 20-21, which normally provides a strong form guide for the following weekend’s action.

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