News 20 Feb 2012

World Superbike to commence at Phillip Island this week

Race week for the opening round of the 2012 Superbike World Championship (WSBK) has arrived!

Spain's Carlos Checa is the defending WSBK champion from 2011.

Spain's Carlos Checa is the defending WSBK champion from 2011.

It’s down to high speed business at Australia’s Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit from today as race week for the opening round of the 2012 Superbike World Championship (WSBK) kicks off with the official and final pre-season two-day test, prior to this weekend’s season opener.

The 22nd hosting of WSBK action at Phillip Island carries a huge amount of intrigue, with seasoned world title-winning warriors such as Carlos Checa (Ducati) and Max Biaggi (Aprilia) facing a new wave of top guns in the 24-strong, nine-nationality grid in 2012.

And Australia hasn’t been left out of that equation either, with four locals to compete at Phillip Island, including the highly fancied Josh Brookes on a Suzuki – a late replacement for injured American John Hopkins. Brookes will be joined by BMW pair David Johnson and Mark Aitchison and Bryan Staring (Kawasaki).

Aitchison will be the only a permanent fixture in the 2012 championship, which will be held over 14 rounds, including a stopover in Russia for the first time.

Aussie riders once held the upperhand over the international top guns at the free-flowing Phillip Island circuit, thanks to superstars like Troy Bayliss and Troy Corser – who won 13 races between them between 1995 and 2008 – but the table has turned in recent years as riders like Checa have made their presence felt.

The reigning world champion swept aside his rivals with clinical precision at Phillip Island in 2011, and it appears the Spaniard’s still got a spell over his opposition, coming out fastest in a recent private test session ahead of Tom Sykes (Kawasaki), Leon Haslam (BMW), Biaggi, Jakub Smrz (Ducati) and Eugene Laverty (Aprilia).

But we’ll know if he can maintain that magical form when the official pre-season test gets underway at Phillip Island oday, where all the championship contenders will be in attendance for a final two-day shakedown. Checa and Haslam are the only riders in the field to have won WSBK races at Phillip Island.

Other riders on the season-opening WSBK grid will include Honda pair Jonathan Rea and Hiroshi Aoyama; Italian world No. 2 Marco Melandri (BMW), the only rider to push Checa all the way in 2012; Suzuki’s Leon Camier; and new recruits Chaz Davies (Aprilia) and David Salom (Kawasaki), who finished 1-2 in the 2011 world supersport title.

Aoyama is a bona fide gun, and has joined the WSBK family after two years in MotoGP, and before that was the 2009 250 GP world champion.

Hopkins is another star new entry, but he won’t be kicking off his campaign until round two at Imola on April 1, which will give Brookes a chance to shine on a competitive bike in front of his home crowd.

And he’s already proven that mix can be a profitable one after winning the 2004 world supersport round at Phillip Island.

Of the 41 WSBK races held at Phillip Island, 23 have been won by local riders and 18 by internationals.

In the Supersport World Championship, a hefty 32 riders are registered for the season ahead, including two Australians – Melbourne’s Jed Metcher, the 21-year-old who won the 2011 European 600 Superstock title, and Broc Parkes.

Metcher has been snapped up by a European-based, Russian funded team and will run a Yamaha under the tutelage of ex-MotoGP star Jeremy McWilliams.

Meanwhile, Newcastle’s experienced and talented Parkes returns to Ten Kate Honda, the team which took him to second place in the 2004 world title and has been a supersport superpower since the early 1990s.

Competition is intense in the class, with key names for the Australians to watch including Frenchman Fabien Foret (Kawasaki), Turkey’s Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki), South African Sheridan Morais (Kawasaki) and Briton Sam Lowes (Honda).

Backing up the two world championship events at Phillip Island will be a massive undercard of national support classes, including the opening round of the Australian Superbike, Supersport, Prostock and 250cc Production Championships, as well as the classic historic machines.

Race weekend action kicks off Friday with practice and first qualifying; Saturday features final qualifying for the world championship classes and a packed race agenda from the national categories, while Sunday is D-Day with the World Superbikes launching their season with two, 22 lap battles, while the world supersport boys race 21 laps around Australia’s scintillating 4.445km circuit.

For tickets and trackside camping go at, or ring the SBK toll free hotline on 1300 728 007.