After incredible rides at the Nürburgring in Germany both Noriyuki Haga and Troy Corser (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB Team) will be relishing another chance to compete for top honours at Round 8 of the World Superbike Championship at the Misano circuit on the Adriatic coast of Italy this weekend.
Despite suffering from a broken right collarbone, plated and pinned before the Nürburgring race, Haga won both races in the German round, only just beating his team-mate Corser in race two. Arguably Corser looked favourite for the win until the track surface started to become wet, but it was still a miracle for Haga to be anywhere near a double win so soon after his big crash in America.
Both Haga and Corser have recent podium experience at Misano, each taking a second place finish on their Yamaha YZF-R1 machinery last year. Corser is a previous Misano race winner, but despite breaking the barrier of 30 individual WSB race victories last time out, Haga has still to add Misano to his list of winning venues.
After some tough early rounds Corser has been reborn as a potential winning force in the championship following strong podium results in both America and Germany. At Misano he was a double winner in the 2000 season on what used to be a predominantly left-handed circuit.
Last year the Misano venue underwent massive overhauls in almost all regards, with the most obvious one being a new track layout in places, allied to a complete change in the direction of racing. Previously Misano was an anti-clockwise circuit, featuring several long left-hand corners. In the new era it is a layout dominated by a succession of right-handers at the end of the back straight, which runs parallel to the nearby Autostrada.
Haga is aware that every performance counts as he tries to make up ground on championship leader Troy Bayliss. “So far so good. The double win in Germany, after my injury and operation in America, has made me a bit more relaxed. My first aim in Germany was to not crash and get some points, so to get a double win was a surprise. I was riding a little bit carefully because everyone around me over the weekend was saying ‘don’t crash!’ So I was not riding too hard, but we still had a very successful outcome.”
“Misano was a turning point last year so it will be an important race again this year and I have to be careful not to make a mistake. All the other riders have been fighting each other, making slip ups and we have already been unlucky and then lucky again. It’s very competitive for everybody and we are out to get as many points as possible to the end. We have half the season left and to be 55 points from the lead is not so bad. But we know we cannot make any mistakes any more. All the team have been working hard towards Misano, so I am looking forward to it.”
Corser’s winning pedigree has been proven many times in his long WSB career, and he came close to his first Yamaha win at Misano last year. “Misano should be good and the bike is coming along fine. It will be better than last year and we got a good result at Misano then, so it should be good. I do like the track and it’s good to be going in the opposite direction to the old version. It’s like a completely different circuit. There have been a few races there since the tarmac went down and the track surface is pretty much bedded in now. Last year it was very new and pretty ‘green’. There is always a good crowd at Misano and it’s a fun race for the spectators. We’re also expecting it to be as hot as ever in the sunshine.”
Technically speaking – Misano according to Massimo Meregalli (Yamaha Motor Italia Team Manager)
“We treat every race in the calendar the same but because our team is based in Italy it does mean Misano is more work and there are always simply more things to do. But to race in Misano is always a good thing. After our good results in Germany we have a really high level of team morale. We are, like always, trying to improve our machine and we would like to do all the things we can to be more competitive again in Misano. It is a very different place from the Nürburgring. We will consider the set-up we used last year for the Misano race, but when you find a good base like we have now, usually we don’t change it so much from race-to-race. I think we are ready and both riders are determined. We can do a god job.”
Shinichi Nakatomi (Yamaha Team YZF) is currently in the same 20th position he has monopolised for some time, while Sebastien Gimbert (Yamaha GMT94) and David Checa (Yamaha GMT94) maintained 23rd and 24th places overall after the Nürburgring races.
The following is from Suzuki…
Team Suzuki Alstare rider Yukio Kagayama will be back in action at this weekend’s eight-round World Superbike Championship race at Misano in Italy after breaking a bone in his left hand at the Nurburgring.
The Japanese rider lines up with Fonsi Nieto and Max Neukirchner aboard their GSX-R1000s at the 4.180 kilometre track which is situated only a short distance from the Adriatic coastline and has been a regular on the calendar since 1991.
“I had the plaster taken off my hand last Friday and then had it X-rayed again to check that everything was OK. Then I started my physiotherapy and began to strengthen my hand. It was not as bad as I expected and I feel confident that it will be OK for Misano. I am looking forward to racing there because I like the track. I was on the podium last year and I want to do the same this year.”
“The last round was not so good for me, so I have to do better in Misano. I prefer the old layout of Misano and think the circuit is not so good with this new direction. But it is the same for everybody and I will be doing my best to get a good set-up in practice and qualifying and make a good Superpole. When you start so far down the grid – like the last round – it is difficult to fight for the podium, so I hope to manage a good Superpole – at last!”
“I couldn’t get the win I wanted in front of my home fans last week so I will have to try and win in MIsano. For sure the factory Ducatis will be very strong there, so it would be very good to put one over them at their home track. Last year, I finished ninth and 10th in Misano but I know that I can do much better this year.”
The following is from Honda…
Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) approaches the Misano round of the 2008 World Superbike Championship in a strong second place after half the season has been completed.
In his rookie WSB season, as are a few of his fellow official Honda riders, Checa has shown that years of MotoGP experience have translated quickly and effectively to World Superbike, scoring a podium finish in only his second ever WSB event, and then scoring not one win but two at the American round in early June.
The popular Spanish rider, now 35 years of age, is 39 points behind Troy Bayliss in the championship standings, with seven rounds and therefore 14 points scoring races to go. Checa approaches the second half of the year safe in the knowledge that he is on an ever-improving machine, which has already proven to be the pick of the four-cylinder 1000cc options.
Checa’s team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) has had a first WSB season marked by greater extremes of high and low finishes, but he is still the second Honda rider in the rankings, with 89 points and one podium finish to his name. In Misano the reigning double BSB champion approaches another circuit new to him this year, but is determined to learn fast and take his place in the top sector of each race.
The Misano circuit underwent an array of changes last year and since the last WSB weekend it has been resurfaced, and according to anecdotal reports, improved from the often-bumpy asphalt negotiated by the riders last season. At 4.180km, the flat Misano layout is generally tight and physical, and features an unusual set of right-handers. From the fast Curvone to the slow hairpin of Curva del Carro, the riders have to judge how much speed to lose on each corner entry, as each successive corner is taken more slowly than the last.
The Misano races last year threw up a double winner in the shape of Bayliss, but this year, with so many fast riders on fully competitive machinery, there appears to be any one of ten potential race winners ready to do battle this weekend.
Roberto Rolfo (Hannspree Althea Honda CBR1000RR) was fourth in one race on an official Honda Fireblade last year, and after recovering well from a recent collarbone and shoulder injury, he hopes to make his and his team’s home round a memorable one.
Gregorio Lavilla (Ventaxia VK Honda CBR1000RR) is not only the top Honda privateer so far, he is the top four-cylinder privateer of all, but in recent races Karl Muggeridge (DFX Corse Honda CBR1000RR) has made inroads to his points totals and is now only six points behind, in what is a busy and highly competitive WSB midfield.
Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR Jr) has shown flashes of the form that has taken him to the status of World Supersport Champion 2007, but the combination of making a transition to a Superbike and a recent family bereavement have conspired against his best efforts. With the full support of his Honda team, and the entire WSB paddock, the popular Turkish rider is looking to get back to his very best form, starting in Italy this weekend.
Shuhei Aoyama (Alto Evolution Honda CBR1000RR) is another rookie World Superbike rider finding the transition to a 162kg and 200bhp+ machine anything but straightforward. Like his team-mate Jason Pridmore, however, he has learned much as he goes for his season-best result in Misano.
Checa said: “Misano is a great track and I like racing in hot conditions. I just hope we can find the grip that we lacked at the Nürburgring and that brought us the wins in America. The bike is feeling good and I’m feeling in pretty good shape as well, so we should be in a strong position to push for a podium place. But anything could happen. If we can find the right setup early in the qualifying sessions I can secure a good spot on the starting grid. I’m still working on improving my starts, but I’m confident I can fight for a good result this weekend.”
Kiyonari said: “I’ll try to take a good result this weekend and learn from the mistakes I made in my last race. I wasn’t able to concentrate well in Germany. My thinking wasn’t good and I made some mistakes in the direction of the machine’s setting. If I can overcome my mistakes in Misano I will be able to set a better result in qualifying and start the race in a better position. I need a good result.”
Sofuoglu said: “I hope the results will be better than the last race in Germany. I was expecting to take some good things away from there but it was a personal drama for me. It will be a tough race in Misano, very hot, but it will be a change for everybody. My aim is to set a good result in qualifying. If I manage to qualify well, then the race should not be so hard as I won’t have to start all the way from the back of the field and then chase forward. I would like to end both races within the top ten.”
Rolfo said: “I’m eager to race in Misano as I think we’re finally on the right track and I’m anxious to take some good results. I’m really sorry for what happened to Tommy Hill and I wish him a speedy recovery and fast return to racing.”
Lavilla said: “It’s a shame that we face another new track especially as we are trying to develop the bike. We didn’t get the results we wanted but we did make progress in Germany. Hopefully we can work well from Friday morning, ride comfortably and find a set-up quickly. The way we approach qualifying has to be different from what we used to do in BSB.”
Muggeridge said: “We’ve had some good results this year and some not so good, and it all depends on how well we get the bike ready for the races. It’s also down to how far up the grid we qualify, so you don’t have to pass so many riders. It’s important to find a good set-up early in the weekend to improve on both those things.”
Aoyama said: “I need to work on my approach in my head and try to ride like I did in America. I know Misano, anyway, after riding there in 250GP last year, and I like it. I will try harder next race and try to get some points.”
Pridmore said: “We’ve got to look to the future now. There are some things with the motorcycle that we need to change but the team is fantastic. We had a good meeting last night and for sure we know the direction we need to take. Misano won’t take me too long to learn, we just need to get the bikes right. We’ve got all the pieces we need, we’ve just got to make them fit and go on from there.”
The ninth round of the World Superbike Championship will take place at another favourite venue for most riders, Brno, on 20th July 2008.