ALL ROADS LEAD TO VALLELUNGA FOR KIYONARI AND CHECA It has been a sometime dramatic and often successful rookie season for both Ryuichi Kiyonari (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) and Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) and after 11 rounds each has tasted victory more than once while journeying on their upward learning curves.
Checa is the highest placed Honda rider in the standings, in fourth place with six points scoring races left. As one of the few riders to have won both 500cc GP races and world Superbike contests, he is already firmly established in the leading ranks of WSB competitors as he returns to the scene of a mid-season official test session, Vallelunga, near Rome.
The form man in the championship right now is, however, Kiyonari, as he has scored three wins from the last four attempts, including a composed race two win in monsoon conditions at the previous Donington round. The double BSB champion is very much on top of his game, and with the knowledge he accrued from his Vallelunga test sessions he can only be considered a threat once again, even at such a particular and individual circuit as Vallelunga. After his latest victory he is eighth in the championship, but only two points from sixth place, with six races left to run.
Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR Jr) is the third element of his team’s effort in 2008, and is currently 16th overall, on 47 points. The Turkish rider was the winner of the World Supersport race for Honda at Vallelunga in 2007.
Gregorio Lavilla (Vent-Axia VK Honda CBR1000RR) had a season best finish of fourth at Donington, just missing a podium by one place in the opener, and he has now punched his way to 12th in the rankings, already over the 100-point mark on his privateer machine.
Karl Muggeridge (DFX Corse Honda CBR1000RR) is on course for a top 15 finish in the championship if he continues to record points scores on his private CBR, while Roberto Rolfo (Hannspree Althea Honda CBR1000RR) has had an occasionally torrid 2008, and slipped to 20th after the Donington round, despite scoring well in race two.
Chris Walker (Vent-Axia VK Honda CBR1000RR) joined the team only recently but has already scored points twice, at the Brands Hatch round each time.
Shuhei Aoyama (Alto Evolution Honda CBR1000RR) is currently 29th proving the transition from 250cc machinery Superbikes is not a straightforward one in the days of engines that put out over 200bhp, fitted to race machines which weight in at 162kg.
Checa said: “Although we tested at the circuit in July, it was not such a positive feeling. It’s a bit of a Mickey Mouse circuit, but it’s the same for everyone, I guess. We had one or two tyre problems and found it a little difficult to manage the power in the slower part of the track, but it was very hot during the test. I think it will be cooler this weekend, which will hopefully help the tyres to work a little better as well. But I want to get back towards the top at Vallelunga and get some better results than I have had lately.”
Kiyonari said: “At least I know the circuit at Vallelunga, because we tested there in July. I think this will be very important because I do not have to spend time learning the track. The times at the test were not fast enough, but I got a good feeling for how the CBR1000RR works there and we know which areas we need to improve to get another good result. Of course, I am feeling confident at the moment, but I know I must keep focused.”
Sofuoglu said: “Vallelunga was good for me last year in World Supersport and I won the race there from the front row. We tested the Superbike earlier this year and, for sure, it’s a very different circuit on a CBR1000RR than on the CBR600RR. The test will be important to try and get a better result, because Donington was certainly not good for me. My shoulder is getting better, though, and I have a few more days before I have to ride the bike, so it should not be a big problem.”
Rolfo said: “I’m preparing well for the Vallelunga competition because I want to take the results that I missed out on in Donington. I like the Vallelunga circuit and I’m excited to be racing in front of my fans again. I’m really motivated and ready for another home race, where I hope to take good results for my team and for my sponsors.”
Aoyama said: “I think we have a good base setting for Vallelunga. I have more experience because we tested there in January and July. I want to get into Superpole this weekend and I want to get some points on raceday.”
The 13th round of the championship will be held at Magny-Cours, on October 5.
World Supersport Championship
Honda Riders Head For The Eternal City
For the first time this season championship leader Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) enters a race weekend with an outside chance of winning the title itself by the end of raceday. Such has been the intensity of competition in this class this season, however, that most expect the overall title fight to go to the wire.
Currently, Pitt, who has been out in front since he won the Nürburgring event way back in June, is 32 points ahead of his nearest rival, Donington Park race winner Josh Brookes (Hannspree Stiggy Motorsports Honda CBR600RR). If Pitt leaves Vallelunga with over 50 points more than Brookes, his own team-mate Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) or fourth ranked Broc Parkes, he will win his second and Honda’s seventh successive World Supersport Championship.
With six individual riders having won races so far, the competition for the victory and podium places at Vallelunga will be as intense as ever, however, particularly among the top three Honda riders, who have shared the past five race wins between them. Of the ten races so far, Honda CBR600RR riders have won eight.
Robbin Harms (Hannspree Stiggy Motorsports Honda CBR600RR) is now ninth overall after scoring ten points at the previous Donington round. Having looked capable of scoring a win more than once this year he will be particularly keen to join his team-mate Brookes on the list of race winners before season end.
The last of three Italian based races will offer the best chance for Gianluca Nannelli (Hannspree Althea Honda CBR600RR) to push himself into the top four for the first time in a year which has been studded with injuries and four no scores. Russell Holland (Hannspree Althea Honda CBR600RR) continues his encouraging WSS campaign, which he started at the Misano round.
Pitt said: “The test we had at Vallelunga was OK, although there were one or two issues that we still need to get sorted. We’re pretty sure which way we need to go on those, and it was also a good opportunity for me to learn the circuit, so we have that as a positive. It’s fast in the first part and then a bit stop-start in the second half, but there’s still 25 points up for grabs. The plan is the same as every weekend, really – try to get it all working right in practice and qualifying and then be at the front for the race.”
Rea said: “The test in July went pretty well and Vallelunga actually rides better than it looks on paper or walking around it. It’s got a tight and twisty section, which should provide some overtaking opportunities. I’m looking forward to doing a good job at the weekend, as the championship is hotting-up and there are three riders standing up – all on Hondas. I just want to fight for wins now so, with some dry track time, we’ll aim for a good base setting and hopefully be in the mix come Sunday.”
Brookes said: “These three last remaining races will be very important for us. We need to continue our good work and make sure we score as many points as we can at every round. I’m convinced we are able to do so as we have a really good package to work with. I’m keen on getting the weekend started and I’m preparing to put my head down and work hard for good results.”
Harms said: “Vallelunga is not one of my favourite tracks as I have only ridden there once before, in a test last year. For the race in 2007 I was injured, so I don’t have great knowledge of the circuit. This weekend we have to take it step-by-step, learning and getting comfortable out on the track. It will be hard work but I’m ready.”
Nannelli said: “Our last tests here in Vallelunga were very good so I think we’ll be starting with a strong bike set up. I have to do my best here in Vallelunga because it’s my home race and I know we have the opportunity to reach very good results. I’m determined to fight for the podium.”
Holland said: “My physical condition is now better compared to Donington, and I’m fully fit and ready for Vallelunga. I’m familiar this circuit from July’s official testing. I know this is my team’s home race and I’ll try my best not only during the race but also during practice, because it’s very important to have starting place on the grid. I want to aim for a top five in Sunday’s race.”
After Vallelunga, the penultimate round of the year takes place at Magny-Cours, in France, on October 5. The final round will commence at the new circuit of Parkalgar, near the Algarve coast in Portugal, on November 2.
The following is from Yamaha…
After taking part in a successful official FGSport test at Vallelunga in July both Troy Corser (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB Team) and Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB Team) will see nothing but opportunities at the final Italian round on the 2008 World Superbike calendar.
Corser, who moved into second place in the championship standings after the previous round at Donington Park, will be out to make up ground on long-term championship leader Troy Bayliss, with three rounds left to run.
Haga secured a podium finish of third for Yamaha in the second race at Vallelunga in the 2007 season and he goes for his fifth race win of 2008 this weekend. Corser finished that same 2007 Vallelunga race immediately behind Haga, and with the improvements made on the YZF-R1 racebike since that competition last year, much is expected from the Yamaha duo this weekend.
The Vallelunga test in July this year was the site of the first public test of Öhlins’ variable electronic suspension, which was tried again during the largely wet Donington rounds. The team intends to use this technology once more this weekend, and through to the end of the season.
Vallelunga was only adopted into the World Superbike calendar in 2007 and the experiences learned in that meeting demonstrated that there was not enough paddock space available for all the support classes, and therefore the 2008 Vallelunga weekend will only feature the World Superbike and World Supersport classes.
The team will also be using some new engine parts at this race, developed to keep the competitiveness going right to the end of what has already been a classic year of racing, one which has delivered Corser nine podiums so far, and Haga seven.
Corser is keen to get back into action at Vallelunga and he is raring to have another two tries at scoring his first WSB race win for Yamaha. “We tested at this track earlier in the year; mostly evaluating our electronics package and some development tyres. The track’s layout is pretty good. I don’t think they have changed it from last year, when we had a fair result. The weather may be changeable for us this weekend, even though we expected earlier it would be good, but either way our bike is working well in wet or dry conditions. In terms of set-up, we will probably start the weekend from where we ended testing, before we try anything different. My body is OK after my Donington falls, and the physiotherapy I have had has worked well, so I’m ready to race.”
Haga stated. “I go into the Vallelunga race ready to score more points. Donington didn’t turn out well, but I am determined to make a good raceday this weekend. We have tested at Vallelunga already this year, so that will help us to find good settings for the track.”
Shinichi Nakatomi (Yamaha Team YZF) scored points in the dry race at Donington, and this weekend he will be looking for some dry weather to meet the Vallelunga challenge. He is 21st overall, on 32 points.
David Checa (Yamaha GMT94) is currently 26th, after scoring well with an 11th place finish in race one at Donington. Sebastien Gimbert (Yamaha GMT94) is now two places behind Checa, but ready to take some more points if the opportunity arises.
Vallelunga according to Massimo Meregalli (Yamaha Motor Italia WSB Team Manager)
“We will start the race weekend in Vallelunga the same way as we finished the test there in July, because we were happy with that test. We will use the electronic suspension again, because we have had good results with it. We will also bring some small changes in terms of engine parts. Nothing too radical, but still a small step forward. I think we can look forward to going to Vallelunga with good expectations of success, particularly after the strong test results and our usual high level of motivation to succeed. We know our bike can work well around Vallelunga, and at any other circuit.”
The following is from Suzuki…
The twelfth round of this year’s Superbike World Championship takes place at the Vallelunga circuit, near Rome, this weekend and Fonsi Nieto, Yukio Kagayama and Max Neukirchner are all looking for good results after disappointment in the wet at Donington in the last round. This is the second year that the series is visiting the track and all three riders will be hoping that this year’s races will be better for them than last year, especially Yukio who was a non-starter because of a hand injury.
Once again, another time for me learning a circuit on a different bike. Last year, I finished eighth in both races, but I know I can do better this year. Donington was a disaster, and best forgotten, and I want to concentrate on getting two good results this weekend. I feel I have been a bit unlucky recently, so I am hoping that Vallelunga will be the beginning of an upturn in my fortunes.
I did not race at Vallelunga last year because of injury, so I am eager to make a good show this year. It has been a strange season, in many ways, but I am determined to do well at Vallelunga and the remaining rounds, for myself and the team.
I would like two good results this weekend and leave Vallelunga back in second place in the championship and I see no reason why this is not possible. Some of my competitors have tested at Vallelunga, so they will have an advantage from the start of practice, so it is up to me and my team to get on the pace and find a good set-up as soon as we can. Last year, my best result was a tenth, so I am sure I can do much better then that.
The following is from Ducati…
the Ducati Xerox Team return home, satisfied with the results of the last round at Donington Park, and head now for a weekend’s racing at the Vallelunga circuit in Rome, a “home” race, especially for factory rider Michel Fabrizio who was born and raised just a few kilometres from the track. Having already raced at Monza and Misano this season, Vallelunga is the third Italian appointment on the Superbike calendar for the Ducati Xerox riders Troy Bayliss and Michel Fabrizio.
The last round, held at Donington Park, saw Troy and his F08 significantly increase the lead when Troy took the win in a wet Race 1 while, in a rare turn of events, his four closest rivals Corser, Neukirchner, Checa and Haga all crashed out. It is these five riders that all still have a mathematical chance of taking the world title.
Bayliss and Fabrizio have now just three races left – Vallelunga, Magny-Cours and Portimao – before the close of the 2008 World Superbike Championship. There are 150 championship points still to play for and, with Bayliss now holding a 101 point advantage over second-placed rider Corser, this means that the coming weekend is also the first chance that he has to take a third world Superbike title, which would be his first on board the Ducati 1098 F08, a bike that only made it’s track debut this year.
Troy Bayliss (1st in championship, 359 points)
Troy had a great weekend last year at Vallelunga, with a win and a second place finish. A repeat of that performance this year and Troy would walk away with the title.
“It is very strange to think that I only have three races left before I conclude my Superbike career. I’m trying not to think about the fact that I could sew things up at Vallelunga, I’ll just be going out there and giving it my all as I have done every weekend until now and see what happens! Everything went well here last year so I’m hoping to have a similarly successful weekend again this year.”
Michel Fabrizio (9th in championship, 172 points)
Michel would love to improve on the 5th place finish that he achieved in front of his home fans here last year. Turning 24 on Wednesday 17th September, Michel hopes to be celebrating his birthday with some great results this weekend.
“Of course I want to do well in front of my home crowd. A lot of family and friends will be coming along to see me race too so I hope to be able to have two great races. Last year could have gone better, my final results were a 5th and a DNF, so I’d like to improve on that now I’m aboard the Ducati F08. I also want to wish my team-mate Troy good luck for Sunday’s races!”