Just one month after the last round, held at Silverstone, the 2011 Superbike World Championship gets down to the usual hectic action once again with the first of four rounds in a month and a half that will lead to the crowning of this year’s champion. The first of these rounds will be held on Sunday at the 5.137 km Nurburgring, a famous name for all two and four wheeled motorsports fans and a worthy modern heir to the legendary and historic Nordschleife track.
In the last three editions of the German Round since the circuit returned to the WSBK calendar the points leader Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) has never been able to take a win, although last year he did finish runner-up to race 1 winner Rea. The same can be said for Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team), another rider still to open his scorecard in Germany: in his victorious 2010 season, the Italian started from pole, but could only finish fourth and fifth. These two are the two main contenders for the 2011 title, with the Spaniard currently holding a 62 point lead.
Still in with a slim chance of final honours is Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team), but the Italian will maybe also now have to focus even harder following the announcement of the retirement of the Japanese manufacturer’s official team from the series.
Two hundred points are still up for grabs in this year’s championship, but it is clear that none of the top contenders can afford to miss out at the Nurburgring. Should Checa increase his lead in Germany, the title race can virtually be considered as cut and dried. But further elements to be added to the end-of-season mix will surely include contract renewal, the search for a competitive ride for the following season as well as a desire to finish this year on a high.
Riders amidst in the latter category undoubtedly include Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda), a two-times winner at the Nurburgring in the last couple of years, who returns to the pack after his Misano crash and injury and an appraisal of his physical condition in two days of testing at Assen last week. Alongside Rea will be an old hand of the Superbike World Championship, the expert Japanese rider Makoto Tamada, who has been called in as a replacement for the still convalescent Ruben Xaus following the Spanish rider’s own crash and injury at Brno.
Also aiming to cut a fine figure in Germany at their home race will be the BMW Motorrad Motorsport team, which is still searching for the big breakthrough. Leon Haslam and Troy Corser, who won race 2 back in 1999, will try and turn BMW’s season around this weekend. And still with BMW, this time in the Motorrad Italia team, expectations are high for the performance of Ayrton Badovini, and above all James Toseland, who celebrates his 200th World Superbike race in Germany.
A surprise could also come from Noriyuki Haga (PATA Racing Team Aprilia), who has won three of the six races held in the last few years at the Nurburgring and who last year was the protagonist of a superb race 2, which he won from Jonathan Rea.
All eyes will be on Eugene Laverty (Yamaha World Superbike Team), Supersport winner here in 2010 and also on the lookout for a new team next year. Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare) on the other hand will be aiming for a couple of good results following his disappointment last year.
Points (after 9 of 13 rounds): 1. Checa 343; 2. Biaggi 281; 3. Melandri 272; 4. Laverty 208; 5. Haslam 158; 6. Camier 146; 7: Fabrizio 141; 8. Badovini 118; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 355; 2. Yamaha 320; 3. Aprilia 320; 4. BMW 194; 5. Suzuki 158; 6. Kawasaki 137; 7. Honda. 113.
After his win at Silverstone – the fourth this year - Chaz Davies (Yamaha ParkinGO) will be going for a fifth triumph this weekend, strong in the knowledge that he has a 42 point lead over David Salom (Kawasaki Motocard.com) and 45 over Fabien Foret (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda).
Australian Broc Parkes (Kawasaki Motocard.com) is not that far behind either, 51 points down, but early season frontrunner Luca Scassa (Yamaha ParkinGO) now appears to be out of contention in the title battle.
The German Round might end up by being decisive for the title, given the Welshman’s lead, but both Kawasaki and Honda – the former with Parkes and Salom, and the latter with Foret, Sam Lowes (Parkalgar Honda) and Gino Rea (Step Racing Team) – will be trying to put a spanner into the works and the outcome, as so often happens in Supersport, is anything but certain. Two more contenders for the top placements are likely to be Roberto Tamburini (Bike Service R.T. Yamaha) and Massimo Roccoli (Lorenzini by Leoni Kawasaki).
Points (after 8 of 12 rounds): 1. Davies 146; 2. Salom 104; 3. Foret 101; 4. Parkes 95; 5. Scassa 83; 6. Lowes 73; 7. Rea 62; 8. Harms 59; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Yamaha 176; 2. Honda 149; 3. Kawasaki 134; 4. Triumph 23.
The 17-year-old German Markus Reiterberger (Garnier Alpha Racing Team BMW) could be the surprise of the weekend at his home round, given his rapidly improving form, but the favourites for the win will surely be the Italians, who occupy seven of the top 10 positions in the FIM Cup.
Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing Ducati) has put behind him his memories of Silverstone, when he crashed out, thus allowing Lorenzo Zanetti (BMW Motorrad Italia Superstock) and winner Danilo Petrucci (Barni Racing Team Ducati) to move closer in the points. Other candidates for the top slot include Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia Superstock) and Niccolò Canepa (Lazio MotorSport Ducati) with Andrea Antonelli (Lorini Honda), third here last year, another man to watch.
Points (after 6 of 10 rounds): 1. Giugliano 115; 2. Zanetti 104: 3. Petrucci 94; 4. Barrier 65; 5. Canepa 64; 6. Baroni 46; 7. Antonelli 44; 8. Reiterberger 42; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 140; 2. BMW 122; 3. Kawasaki 58; 4. Honda 52; 5. Yamaha 15.