Following a dramatic encounter in the new destination of Thailand, the eni FIM Superbike World Championship returns to familiar soil this weekend with the Aragon Round. The MotorLand Aragon facility, a stone’s throw from the town of Alcaniz, made its debut on the calendar in 2011. However, for this year a different track configuration is to be used for the first time, as the riders will take the long double left-hander leading into the start/finish straight. On previous occasions, the tighter hairpin was used at the end of the back straight.
Of the quartet of events to be staged in Aragon thus far, race wins have been shared equally amongst as many riders, all winning two races apiece. Italians Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri each took a victory in 2011 and 2012, while in the more recent two seasons impressive doubles have gone the ways of British riders Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes.
Championship leader Jonathan Rea – having picked up three of the four 2015 race victories to date – heads with new machinery to Aragon, the same track where he had his first outing aboard the Ninja ZX-10 last November, in a two-day private test. Having collected a remarkable 95% of the maximum points available up to this point, the British rider surely has good reason to be confident as he heads out into the Spanish hills.
This could be a crucial weekend for 2013 WorldSBK title winner Tom Sykes. The Englishman may have picked up his first rostrum of the season in the opening Buriram race, although he lies some 45 points in arrears of his team-mate and has ground to make up. If history is anything to go by, he should head to Spain with confidence as last year Huddersfield rider Sykes successfully won both races from the Tissot-Superpole, in each of the Sunday encounters leading home French Kawasaki team partner Loris Baz.
If Rea’s start to the season has been spectacular, then Leon Haslam’s cannot be described as anything other than immensely strong. He may have beaten his compatriot only once, but Haslam remains very much in contention thanks to a trio of second places finishes which ensure he heads to Aragon only ten points behind Rea. Furthermore, he now hopes the Moto2 experience of team-mate Jordi Torres at the MotorLand Aragon circuit will only add to the challenge from the Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils riders this weekend. However, Haslam does admit that the next three rounds at Aragon, Assen and Imola will be key damage limitation exercises before heading to venues on which he expects to be at his strongest.
Spanish fans certainly have a lot to be excited about. Not only is Torres on the charge, but Althea Racing Ducati’s Nico Terol is a former Grand Prix winner in Aragon, while David Salom (Team Pedercini), Santiago Barragan (Grillini SBK Team) and Roman Ramos (Team Go Eleven Kawasaki) have all demonstrated their capabilities of strong showings.
In a further reinforcement to the Spanish Armada, Xavi Fores returns to the grid for the double-head of Aragon and Assen – race meetings separated by the space of just one week. Fores will take up the helm of the second Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team bike, becoming the latest substitute for the recovering Davide Giugliano after three-time World Champion Troy Bayliss elected to call time on his WorldSBK career after Thailand. Hailing from Valencia, Fores teams up with 2013 Aragon double winner Chaz Davies who himself is looking to bounce back from a weekend full of troubles last time out.
A rider with momentum is Alex Lowes. The Voltcom Crescent Suzuki man clinched his third World Superbike podium finish and the first of 2015 in Thailand’s second race and is now looking to move up from seventh place in the Riders’ Championship. Elsewhere, Pata Honda World Superbike Team are striving for top three results themselves, with World Champion Sylvain Guintoli continuing to carry the famed number one alongside Michael van der Mark ahead of the latter’s home race event at Assen next weekend.
2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship (2 of 13 rounds completed)
1 – Jonathan Rea Kawasaki Racing Team – 95
2 – Leon Haslam Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils – 85
3 – Tom Sykes Kawasaki Racing Team – 50
4 – Sylvain Guintoli Pata Honda World Superbike – 41
5 – Jordi Torres Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils – 39
Wilairot carries World Supersport lead to Aragon
Thailand 2015 will never be forgotten by WorldSBK riders or fans alike, not least supporters of Ratthapark Wilairot who brought the house down when the CORE’’ Motorsport Thailand rider stunningly won for the first time in front of a rapturous home crowd at Buriram. He now has a new task to deal with: defending a World Championship lead for the first time.
Behind Wilairot, others have a point to prove. Jules Cluzel looked a certain winner of the Thai Round until his MV Agusta expired, cruelly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory just over two laps away from a second consecutive triumph. Indeed, team-mate Lorenzo Zanetti will also be looking to bounce back from his Thailand crash, with Round 2 having brought a non-score for the Italian marque after its impressive one-two finish of Australia.
Currently second to Wilairot in the standings is three-time World Supersport Champion Kenan Sofuoglu, who in Thailand fought back to a late second place from his 20th career pole position. The Kawasaki Puccetti Racing rider won in Aragon last year (surprisingly this would prove to be his only win in a tough season) and he is now looking to become the third different winner in as many races at the start of the 2015 campaign.
PJ Jacobson was frustrated to have lost a position to Sofuoglu at the last corner in Thailand, despite the Kawasaki Intermoto Pontexpres rider having picked up his first rostrum of the year in third. He heads to Aragon fourth in the standings behind Wilairot, Sofuoglu and Cluzel, while Gino Rea completes the overall top five. The CIA Landlords Insurance Honda rider was on the podium at the Phillip Island season-opener, but lost ground at Round 2.
The Constructors’ Championship is also finely-poised, with Honda edging out MV Agusta by the slim margin of nine points. Last time out, thanks to the efforts of Wilairot, the Japanese manufacturer became the first in World Supersport history to hit a century of race wins.
2015 FIM Supersport World Championship (2 of 12 rounds completed)
1 – Ratthapark Wilairot CORE” Motorsport Thailand Honda – 36
2 – Kenan Sofuoglu Kawasaki Puccetti Racing – 30
3 – Jules Cluzel MV Agusta Reparto Corse – 25
4 – PJ Jacobsen Intermoto Ponyexpres Kawasaki – 22
5 – Lorenzo Zanetti MV Agusta Reparto Corse – 22
Talent-packed STK1000 field to battle for the 2015 title
The 2015 FIM Superstock 1000 Cup goes from strength to strength as 34 riders, 6 manufacturers, a number established STK stars and a brace of new fast riders looking to make a name for themselves join the grid for this year’s 8 round series that will also see a welcome return for the class at the UK round of WorldSBK at Donington Park.
After narrowly missing out on the 2014 crown, Italy’s Lorenzo Savadori will be hoping that a switch to the Nouva M2 Racing team alongside compatriot Kevin Calia will bring title glory in 2015, but the Italian faces stiff opposition from a 34 strong grid.
Team Pedercini are back in force, once again running the largest team on the grid (4 bikes) that includes former race winner and ex-MotoGP rider Bryan Staring. The Australian is joined by Romain Lanusse, Riccardo Cecchini and youngster Peter Sebestyen who enters the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup after a half season in WorldSBK last year.
Yamaha make a welcome return to the paddock with the all new R1. 2014 World Supersport front runners Florian Marino and Kev Coghlan could well trouble the established superstock riders after showing a strong pace in testing. Team Trasimeno will also receive factory support in 2015, with Jeremy Guarnoni returning the class alongside Remo Castellarin.
Team Suzuki Europe will field Wayne Tessels and Nigel Walraven, the Dutch pairing keen to excel in their debut season. Tessels was the 2014 STK600 runner-up.
Fabio Massei remains with the EAB Racing Team, the Italian who was in regular podium contention last year is joined by Tony Covena who moves to STK1000 from World Supersport. Althea Racing have chosen two Italian riders, Luca Salvadori and Raffaele de Rosa to represent them on their return to the class, while Czech rider Ondrej Jezek is likely to feature at the sharp end once again. Jezek joins Marc Moser in the Triple-M by Barni Ducati squad.
Other riders of note are Kevin Valk (MTM/HS Kawasaki) who won at Assen last year, Federico D’Annunzio (FDA Racing Team) and Christoffer Bergman from Sweden who switches from Kawasaki to the MG Competition Yamaha team for the 8 round series that starts in earnest at Aragon.
Record field for the 2015 edition of the STK600 Championship
The FIM Europe Superstock 600cc Championship has once again proved popular, with many of the sports emerging talents ready to tackle the eight rounds on the calendar. 38 permanent riders from 17 countries have been accepted for the series that begins with a double header in Aragon and ends in Magny-Cours in October.
With last year’s champion and championship runner-up moving on to World Supersport and STK1000 respectively, there are numerous potential candidates in the running for the 2015 crown.
Finland’s Niki Tuuli (Kallio Racing), Gauthier Duwelz (MVR Racing), Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Stefano Casalotti (Team Rosso e Nero) together with the San Carlo Team Italia pairing of Andrea Tucci and Michael Ruben Rinaldi have all shown previously their ability to run at the front, and should feature strongly this year.
Over a quarter of this year’s entrants come from the Pata European Junior Cup, so expect the likes of Jake Lewis (MVR Racing), Ilya Mikhalchik (Team Go Eleven), Augusto Fernandez (PATA Honda Junior Team), Richard Bodis (R2 MotorSport Team) and Kevin Manfredi (FLORAMO Monaco Racing Team) to be somewhere near the front.
For the first time ever in the history of the STK600 championship Uruguay is represented, Maximiliano Gerardo lines up for Racedays Honda while Team Go Eleven Kawasaki field fast female competitor Ricarda Neubauer from Germany.
Pata European Junior Cup contenders ready to race
The Pata European Junior Cup, powered by Honda will once again feature at all European events of this year’s WorldSBK series, providing the sports future champions with an opportunity to shine in front of potential team managers and enthusiastic, knowledgeable fans alike.
With the all new Honda CBR650F the machine of choice for 2015, and the introduction of the ‘women’s’ cup, the EJC continues to go from strength to strength with 30 full time riders from 16 countries represented.
Javier Orellana who came so close to winning last year’s crown is back again, the Spaniard keen to win the title that eluded him in 2014. Orellana is one of several former front-runners to keep an eye on in 2015 with Josh Harland (GBR), Hannes Soomer (EST), Illan Fernandez (ESP) and Mika Perez (ESP) all ready to step up and fight for title glory.
For the first time ever some of the fastest young ladies from across the globe will be recognised with the all new ‘Women’s European Cup’ highlighting the ever increasing number of female competitors that are keen to show their male rivals that girls can be fast too. Viktoria Kis is one such competitor, the Hungarian already coming out on top in the Qatar Road Racing series where she recently won the Supersport 600cc title.