The wait is over! WorldSBK returns this weekend as the paddock heads back from summer to take on Lausitzring, in the east of Germany. The venue has hosted WorldSBK before, but not since 2007 – meaning 2016 will be the first look at the track for the majority of the grid. Only Milwaukee BMW rider Josh Brookes has lined up on the Lausitzring before at world level – and that was in World Supersport. The experience of those who have ridden in the IDM could make a difference – chiefly Althea BMW’s Markus Reiterberger and Barni Racing’s Xavi Forés, who have both won previously at the eastern German circuit – but the 4.2km track should prove a clean slate for the majority of the grid. It’s not quite a start from zero however, since most of the WorldSBK teams have tested at the track. With four Rounds to go, the final countdown begins here.
The man left frustrated after Laguna Seca was an impatient reigning Champion, as Kawasaki Racing Team rider Jonathan Rea failed to finish the second Race with a mechanical problem, and found himself staring down the summer break with Germany and the chance to get back on track seeming so far away. Out but not down was the title defender’s mood however, as the Northern Irishman was philosophical in the face of the retirement and kept some perspective on his title lead, which remains substantial. With only four Rounds to go, Rea is in not only a good position, but the best one by far.
Tom Sykes, his teammate, seems to be the man who is now most likely to be able to stop Rea. The 2013 WorldSBK Champion has been blindingly fast in many Races in 2016, but has lacked some consistency. A win last time out when Rea was unable to score opened the door to glory once again however, and the Yorkshireman will be out to take as many points from his teammate as possible in the last 8 Races of the year. Whether that will be enough remains to be seen…
Ducati’s Chaz Davies recovered some form in Race 2 in Laguna, and some points on reigning Champion Rea. The Welshman also now has a brand new Ducati contract in his pocket, and with his future decided some of the pressure should be eased on the Aruba.it title challenger. Although almost too far back to now be considered a threat to leader Rea, never in motorcycle racing can the word ‘never’ be used – until the maths says otherwise. Davies had an extremely good test at Lausitzring ahead of his summer break, too, and can never be counted out.
The big news in the paddock will definitely belong to Sylvain Guintoli, however, as the French veteran and 2014 WorldSBK Champion prepares his return to racing after a highside in Tissot-Superpole 2 in Imola. Expecting to be 100% healed and fit, Guintoli will be looking to make waves with Yamaha in the final four Races of their partnership, before Dutchman Michael van der Mark takes over the seat for next season to partner Alex Lowes. Lowes’ PATA Yamaha machine will be one to watch in Germany too as the Brit returns to WorldSBK fresh from victory in the Suzuka 8H on the YZF R1, and two outings on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine in MotoGP™ after subbing for injured Bradley Smith. Although the Suzuka 8H is under different regulations, the extra experience and working alongside Yamaha Japan can only prove a positive for the 2013 British Superbike Champion, as the PATA squad set about pulling themselves to the front.
Honda WorldSBK Team’s line up of Michael van der Mark and Nicky Hayden also come back to WorldSBK from Suzuka, but were sadly unable to finish the race due to a mechanical problem. The Ten Kate squad is another who have tested at the German track before Round 10, and will be hoping to hit the ground running and get more podiums and wins to add to their 2016 tally before welcoming new rider Stefan Bradl to the squad over winter. With all the riders rookies of the 4.2km ribbon of asphalt, WorldSBK newcomer Nicky Hayden will be at no disadvantage and will be hoping that work on the electronics over the course of the season’s tests will begin to give a big pay off.
At Althea BMW, rookie Markus Reiterberger is another rider who will be back from injury at Lausitzring. The German is hoping to be fully fit for his home Round after a big highside crash in Race 2 at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli saw him break vertebrae. The two-time IDM Champion does have experience of the track to help him get back on the great pace he has often shown in his rookie year, and he and his fellow BMW riders – teammate Jordi Torres, and Milwaukee’s Josh Brookes and Karel Abraham – will be keen to get some good results at the home Round of their manufacturer.
After a season of some incredible results, MV Agusta’s Leon Camier will be another rider who will be hoping that the test sessions in Germany will facilitate an easier start to the race weekend. Camier, who has finished in the top 4 more than once in 2016, will be looking to start off well in the final run of four Races in 2016. Looking to spoil the MV Agusta Reparto Corse party will be IodaRacing Aprilia’s Lorenzo Savadori too, who has often emerged as another contender for the top 5 in some moments of impressive rookie outright pace, and some of well-planned opportunism.
The unfortunate rider is Fabio Menghi, the Italian having had to undergo further surgery to tendons following his heavy pre-season testing crash at Phillip Island. This means he misses the rest of the season, with the family-run VFT Racing team now set to draft in Luca Scassa for the remaining German, French, Spanish and Qatari Rounds.
With the grid back to full strength, the summer break over and testing in Germany complete, all that remains for WorldSBK at Lausitzring is for the lights to go out and the final countdown of the 2016 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship to begin on the 16th September, as the season finale in Qatar awaits.
WorldSSP: A Return to Lausitzring – and Experience May Count
Title defender Sofuoglu looks to keep momentum
It has been a long summer break for World Supersport, with the grid last lining up to fight for 25 points at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. With Kenan Sofuolgu taking the win at the Italian track, the last four Rounds of the season give his title rivals a big challenge as the season first to Lausitzring for the next battle.
Kawasaki Puccetti Racing rider Sofuoglu is the only title contender to have raced at the eastern German circuit, and set the fastest lap in 2006 on his way to taking the victory. The milestone was the Turk’s first fastest lap in WorldSSP, and he followed it up in 2007 with another, coming home P2 that year. The wealth of experience the reigning Champion has in the category, added to the experience of the track, surely makes Sofuoglu the favourite as the paddock heads to Germany.
His biggest rival, on track and in the Puccetti garage, has proven to be teammate Randy Krummenacher. After a run of more difficult results for the former Moto2 rider, the Swiss rookie will be heading to the Pirelli German Round after shoulder surgery to fix a broken cuff sustained on Friday in Assen. With so many Rounds having been hindered by the injury, a full-strength Krummenacher should prove a strong rival on the WorldSSP grid once again – and will be ready to take the fight to his teammate once again.
Honda’s PJ Jacobsen is the third placed man in the title standings, and the American has shown a great run of form since a slightly more difficult start to the season. Leading the way for much of the Race in Misano, last year’s runner-up is still searching for his first win on the Ten Kate machine – but is always a frontrunner and a threat to victory. With the points gap to Sofuoglu making the title a long shot, it’s not yet impossible, however – and Jacobsen has nothing to lose in putting everything into defeating the Turk.
One man who will no doubt be answering questions in Germany is Jules Cluzel, as the Frenchman – 11 times a WorldSSP race winner and twice championship runner-up – has yet to announce his plans for the 2017 season. In the meantime, the MV Agusta Reparto Corse rider is placed fifth in the standings behind GRT Racing Team’s Gino Rea, who was pleased to declare himself the quickest rider when he recently tested at the Lausitzring.
Another hot battle in the ranks of World Supersport is the FIM Europe Supersport Cup, with Puccetti-backed San Carlo Team Italia riders Axel Bassani and Alessandro Zaccone going head to head for the honours at the top of the table. Zaccone, after being the leading ESS rider more consistently than his teammate, suffered last time out in Misano with a DNF – giving Bassani the points lead for the first time. Germany is the first of the last three dates for the ESS in 2016, and the battle should go down to the wire in Jerez de la Frontera at the last European race meeting of the season, with three memorable contests to count on.
A couple of familiar Finnish faces are set to be on the grid as One Event riders; Niki Tuuli and Eemeli Lahti both raced in the Superstock 600 category last year and now they are reunited. This will be Tuuli’s second start in World Supersport, as he raced at Donington last season and finished in ninth position. Lahti is yet to compete in the category, although this year he has been competing in the Superstock 600 class of the German IDM series, finishing on the podium in his most recent race at Assen. The third and final One Event rider this weekend will be Estonia’s Hannes Soomer, who first raced in WorldSSP at Magny-Cours last year. Tuuli and Soomer are Yamaha YZF R6 team-mates this weekend at Kallio Racing – the squad run by former World Supersport racer Vesa Kallio who is the older brother of Moto2 star Mika – while Lahti is competing with Team Suzuki Stoneline-Mayer on a Suzuki GSX-R600.
Over the summer break, the WorldSSP grid have certainly been busy – with Sofuoglu breaking records, Krummenacher training back to full strength, and a number of riders – including PJ Jacobsen and Gino Rea – taking part in the Suzuka 8H endurance race. Now, however, the focus moves back onto the World Supersport Championship and Lausitzring, as the final countdown towards the season finale in Qatar begins and Germany kicks off the final part of the season – with defending Champion Sofuoglu in the lead, and his rivals ready and refreshed to stop the charge.
WorldSSP returns to the Lausitzring for the first time since 2007, and the first 25 of the remaining 100 points up for grabs is on the table.
STK1000: The Fight for the Cup Continues at Lausitzring
Only five-points separate De Rosa and Mercado heading into the Pirelli German Round.
Before the interruption of the summer break, the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup left its main protagonists immersed in a climatic edge-of-the-seat battle leaving the championship open by five points.
The last race at the Pirelli Riviera de Rimini Round saw the leader Raffaele De Rosa defend a tight five-point lead against his main rival, Leandro “Tati” Mercado. Althea BMW Italian and the Argentine of Aruba.it Racing- Junior Team were engaged in an intense battle for victory that ended dramatically with the fall of both in the last lap when De Rosa tried a very forced overtake to regain the top spot.
Luckily the unfortunate absence of points did not affect their positions in the overall standings, where they occupy first and second position. However it did give chance to their immediate pursuers to chip away at the points gap where previously first and second points were divided equally between the leading pair in the previous four races.
The fierce battle between the Italian BMW rider and the Argentinian on the Panigale R will resume this weekend with two factors to consider: De Rosa is penalised three positions on the grid at Lausitzring because of his race-ending maneuver at the last round, and both will enter the race with equal knowledge of the track as a result of their summer tests at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz.
Italians Kevin Calia (Nuova M2 Racing) and Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing-Junior Team), have been given an opportunity to continue fighting for the Cup after the leaders wiped out in Misano. Calia, who came second in Misano is now third place overall, only 16 points behind De Rosa, while rookie Rinaldi is fourth overall, 23 points behind first place.
Behind the top four, the Superstock 1000 top ten are only separated by a mere seven points: Andrea Mantovani, Toprak Razgatlioglu, Jeremy Guarnoni, Roberto Tamburini, Marco and Luca Vitali Faccani respectively.
German riders Marc Moser and Toni Finsterbusch, after a tough race for the pair in Misano look ahead to the Pirelli German Round where they look to impress in front of a home crowd.
STK1000 will hit the track at 9:15am on Friday 16th of September. The race will start on Sunday at 2:20pm local time (GMT+2).
Credits : Photos and content courtesy of WSBK.COM