The following is from Yamaha…Yamaha World Superbike Team rider Ben Spies heads to Imola this weekend looking to build on his championship lead over rival Noriyuki Haga. In a dramatic clash two weeks ago at the Nurburgring in Germany Spies put on a breathtaking race performance after mixed qualifying results to finally take the championship lead he’d been chasing all year with a win and a second placed finish. Although the WSB championship hasn’t raced at Imola since 2006 it has proved to be good for Texans, being the scene of a double win for Colin Edwards in 2002 where he won back to back races against Troy Bayliss to claim the World Championship title.Team mate Tom Sykes is heading to the Italian circuit looking to convert his recent qualifying form into race success. Pre race sessions at the Nurburgring offered a glimpse of Sykes’s potential to run at the front with consistent fast race pace however the British rider was unable to convert it to a top race result after struggling with grip issues on race day.Spies has an 18 point lead over Haga now with six races to go and a potential 150 further points up for grabs. Sykes currently sits in eighth position, trailing Carlos Checa in seventh by 12 points and 36 points behind rival Brit Leon Haslam in sixth.Both riders benefit from having tested at Imola over the summer so will not have to use their first practice sessions to learn the circuit.”I’m looking forward to riding on a track we’ve tested at again,” said Ben Spies. ” I feel we should have a good weekend coming up as we have a lot of data to go on, we got a lot accomplished at the test. We don’t have as big a lead as we would like but I’ve been in this situation before, it’s not so strange for me. As far as I’m concerned, we’re going to Imola to try and win two races. We know this is Ducati’s back yard and the past has been pretty good for them, so it will be tough. Having said that we have some good stuff worked out with the bike and the team has been continuing to develop so I’m confident we can pull in some good results.”I’m really looking forward to Imola”, said Tom Sykes. “I had a two day test there and it was a decent one, we came away with a lot of positives. I’m hoping to go back there with what we’ve learnt and start with a good race setting. I’m really ready to get on the rostrum and taste the champagne, I certainly feel like I’m capable of doing it. That’s the plan so hopefully we can go there strong, not having to learn the circuit and get stuck straight in. I really enjoyed riding on the track, there are a few bumps that remind me of home and there’s certainly a lot of history there, it’s strange seeing houses as you come down the fast left on the track.”Imola Technically speaking according to Tom Houseworth, Ben Spies Crew Chief
“We had a very productive test at Imola, a big factor being Ben knows the track now. This will allow us to work on setup straight away, on both bikes if necessary. Unlike Nurburgring we won’t lose any track learning time if it rains, last race weekend proved that puts us behind quickly. Both Ben’s bikes are a bit different so we’ll try each one and figure out which is more comfortable to go fast on. We’re hoping to be able to test some race rubber and dial in the ‘back in’ control in the second session. If all goes well and the weather holds Saturday should be fine tuning day. By this time we will have picked a bike and will concentrate on tuning the traction and wheelie control. Of course the goal is to make the bike as easy for Ben to ride fast as possible come Sunday. We’ll see how it goes!”Imola technically speaking according to Sergio Verbena, Tom Sykes Crew Chief
“For Imola we can and will concentrate immediately on getting the best performance and finding the best balance between the tyres, chassis and suspension. We also have a lot of tyre data, even if the conditions turn out to be different compared to the summer tests. We had very hot temperatures in the summer, for the race we are hoping for lower temperatures! We’re going to start with the base setting from the test as Tom produced some really good lap times with it and build into that what we’ve learnt at Brno and the Nurburgring and go from there.”Massimo Meregalli, Yamaha world superbike Team Manager
“we are ready for Imola, we know how the bike works there. I think as we’ve done in the last races, we will be going into this weekend with confidence, I’m positive we can continue to achieve great results. We’ve worked and studied the data from the test so we can prepare the bikes for optimum performance, we will we see Friday at noon if that works well. We are positive that both riders can perform here so we’re looking forward to a successful weekend for the team.”After a flawless performance at the Nurburgring Yamaha World supersport rider Cal Crutchlow heads to Imola this weekend with the team intent on gaining another gap in the championship lead as the British rider closes in on the title. As with World Superbike, both Crutchlow and Foret have tested at Imola this year so go to the track armed with circuit knowledge and a working set-up from the start.Crutchlow is leading the championship with three rounds to go with 210 points, 22 points ahead of closest rival Eugene Laverty in second position. Team mate Foret is in fifth on 99 points, 29 points behind fourth placed Sofuoglu.”The test went well at Imola,” said Cal Crutchlow. “I intend to carry on where we left off after the last race and keep on putting in 100% to win. The plan is to keep the championship lead this weekend and increase on it as much as possible to get closer to the title win.””The weather looks great which is a good thing”, said Fabien Foret. “According to the test we had in the summer the bike works well at Imola and I have a set-up that performs well for me. I’d like to score some good points for the championship this weekend, I’m definitely looking for a podium finish on Sunday.”The following is from Suzuki…With regular rider Max Neukirchner not quite ready for his race return, Aussie Karl Muggeridge will once again partner Suzuki Alstare Brux rider Yukio Kagayama this coming weekend. Karl deputised for Max in the last round at the Nurburgring and is no stranger to Suzuki Alstare, so was the logical choice to ride in Italy. Max however will travel to Imola and will consult with the Clinica Mobile before a decision is made as to whether or not he will make his return at the following round in Magny-Cours the weekend after.Since the Superbike World Championship was last in Imola, in 2006, the circuit has undergone several modifications, including a completely different approach the to the final chicane and entrance to the pits. Yukio has tested this new layout, when there was a Top Teams test back in July, but for Karl it will be his first time racing the new design and so he will have to spend the first practice learning the track before he can attack it.Yukio
We tested here in July and I think that the changes may be better for cars than they are for bikes. The approach to the final chicane is not so good for us and I hope that nobody crashes in this area, especially if they are in a group of riders. But of course, the track is the same for all of us and I, like everybody, will be doing the best we can.
In the last round, we made a radical change to the bike and it worked out pretty well, so this is where we will start from in first practice. I am hoping that we can be more competitive this coming weekend because I really want to do well again. Sometimes this season has been a bit frustrating, so it would be good to have some positive results in Imola and then more of the same in the last two rounds.Karl
It’s great to get another opportunity to race for Suzuki Alstare Brux and I hope that now that I know the bike a bit better I can give them better results. There was a lot for me to learn in the Nurburgring and I will continue this process in Imola. I will be at a disadvantage to most, if not all of, the top riders because they tested in July and so they will know the new layout better than me. I am looking forward to working with the whole team again and repaying their faith in me. I would like to wish Max all the best and hope his recovery has gone well and he returns soon. In the meantime, I will do the best I can.The following is from BMW…The twelfth round of this year’s Superbike World Championship takes place at the Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit in Imola, Italy, and will be the first time the series is at the track since 2006. Since then, modifications to the circuit have been made, especially on the approach to the chicane before the front straight. The top teams tested the new layout in mid-July and the revisions to the track drew mixed comments. Troy took a runner up spot in 2005, but Ruben has even better memories of the circuit as he took a superb double victory there in 2003.Troy
Although we have tested at Imola this year – on the new layout – there is still lots to learn and do. For me the new approach to the front straight is not as good as before and the final chicane could cause problems. I am looking forward to riding my bike again as I believe that we have made really good progress recently and I want to see how this progress continues in Imola. Hopefully the weather will be better than the Nurburgring and we will get a good crowd and a good result.Ruben
My physiotheraphy and rehabilitation has gone very well and I think I will be able to race in Imola. Just before Imola, I will get on a bike and see how my leg behaves and how it feels when I get off the bike. In the normal scheme of things, I should really not be on a bike at all before Portimao, but everything has gone well so far and I am very eager to get on my bike and race. I saw the progress at Brno before I crashed and I am itching to get on my bike and see how much progress the team have made since then. There is no absolutely final decision about Imola yet, but I am very, very hopeful.Berti Hauser (Director – BMW Motorrad Motorsport)
Hopefully, our normal team will be back in action at Imola and it will be a pleasure to have Ruben back and interesting to hear what he says about the bike since Brno. Until he rides the bike, we do not know how strong he will be, but we know that his rehabilitation has gone very well and we know how keen he is to get on the bike again. These last three races are very important to all of us and we are aiming to end the last part of the season in very positive frame of mind and build on that for next season.The following is from Ducati…This year the Imola circuit takes the place of Vallelunga as the third Italian track on the World Superbike calendar, having not featured on the schedule since 2006. In that time various modifications have been made to the track, including the construction of a controversial new chicane just after the start line that the Superbike riders experienced for the first time during the July test session organised by Infront Sports.During the pre-summer tests, held in extremely hot conditions, it was Michel Fabrizio who dominated the sessions; he was consistently the fastest rider on track which bodes well for the coming weekend’s racing. Noriyuki was unfortunately unable to participate in the aforementioned testing due to the injuries he had sustained earlier at the Donington Park round, and so he returns to a track that he hasn’t ridden since the 2006 event.At the start of September the German Nürburgring hosted the eleventh Superbike round but although Noriyuki was strong in both Friday’s (wet) and Saturday’s (dry) sessions, taking too his first pole of the season, a race win unfortunately eluded him; after finishing a close second in Race 1, an incident with Honda rider Rea in Race 2 meant game-over and zero points for Nitro-Nori. As a result, Haga, having led the championship until that point, now finds himself in second place, eighteen points behind Yamaha’s Ben Spies, and 57 points ahead of third-placed rider, team-mate Fabrizio. Michel also had a difficult race day at the Ring; having finished seventh in Race 1, he was forced to change bikes before the second race but, for various reasons, found it difficult to fight for the podium and concluded proceedings in ninth place.
Although the World Superbike championship cannot be decided until at least the Magny-Cours round, there is a mathematical chance that young Belgian rider, Xavier Simeon, currently leading the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup with the Ducati Xerox Junior Team, could take the title this weekend in front of the Italian crowd. There are, as last year, four riders still in the running but Xavier currently holds a 40 point advantage over second-placed rider Corti, and so would need to increase this lead to at least 50 points in order to secure victory at Imola.Another appointment is fixed for Saturday evening, when Imola’s town council, in collaboration with Ducati and circuit managers Formula Imola, will award Ducati ambassador and three times World Champion, Troy Bayliss, with a lifetime career award. Troy Bayliss will be at the track with the Ducati Xerox Team all weekend.Noriyuki Haga (2nd in championship, 346 points)
Noriyuki’s best result at Imola was a third place finish, scored in 2005 – this year only victory will do.”We came away from Nürburgring disappointed, because we know we should have, and could have, taken at least one race win. Now I am in second place in the championship which means that at Imola it is even more important to finish first. There are 50 points on offer at Imola and the gap between Ben and I is only eighteen… It is of course Ducati’s home track and we haven’t been here for a few years, so, as well as needing the points for the championship, it would be great to do well in front of all the Ducatisti.”Michel Fabrizio (3rd in championship, 289 points)
Although the 2006 Superbike event at Imola didn’t go to plan for the Italian rider, Michel won the Superstock 1000 race held at the same track back in 2003.”I was very comfortable on this track when we tested here in July, and one of the fastest, but I’m aware that it will be significantly cooler for the race and that may make a difference. The 2006 Imola event was one to forget for me but this year I am much more confident, mainly due to the fact that testing proved the 1198 can go well here. I’m looking forward to the final Italian race event of the season!”The following is from Honda…Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) took his second career World Superbike race win last time out but success has only made the 22-year-old Ulsterman hungrier than ever for more wins.After some up and down early results Rea is now seen as one of the riders to beat as the season comes to a close, with the overall championship still closely contested between Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga, with Michel Fabrizio some way off the leading duo.Some 45 points from third place rider Fabrizio, Rea has some ground to make up to get into the top three, but including Imola this weekend he has six points scoring races to advance his cause.A July test at the slightly re-shaped Imola, now with a slow chicane added on the start finish line, was attended by most of the top World Superbike and World Supersport teams. Ominously for his rivals, Rea was fastest at that test, which was a forerunner to the first Imola WSB races since 2006.Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR) was not quite able to peg back long-time championship leader Cal Crutchlow at the most recent WSS race in Germany, but he was competitively fast in Imola testing in his first visit to the Italian track. Laverty is 22-points adrift of Crutchlow, with three races to go, including Imola.Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) was looking like a podium certainty in the last WSB round, but simple bad luck got in the way at a key time, and Leon could not improve his still-impressive overall sixth place on his privateer Honda.Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) saw his WSS fortunes swing away from him once again recently, but as a two-time race winner this year, and a champion in 2007, the Turkish star can never be counted out.Anthony West (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR600RR) is a lone Stiggy Supersport rider in Italy, as Gianluca Vizziello (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR600RR) will not run at the Imola race, due to budget constraints.Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) has been fast and consistent in the most recent races, and is now hunting Haslam’s sixth place overall. Ryuichi Kiyonari (Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) took time out of his WSB season to race in the British Superbike series for Honda recently, but he is firmly back in the WSB world this weekend, looking for his first podiums since Monza, in May.John Hopkins (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) will not be racing at Imola, and is a doubt for the rest of the year, as follow-up tests on his Nürburgring injuries showed he needed an operation, which has now been successfully carried out. His recuperation period is such that he will most probably miss the last few races.Matthieu Lagrive (Honda Althea CBR1000RR) has been a revelation on his privateer Honda WSB machine since making the switch from WSS mid-season. After only eight of the 22 races run so far, he has scored enough points to sit inside the top 20, no mean feat in such a competitive season all through the field.For 2008 World Champion Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) 2009 has been a challenge almost throughout, and he is yet to win a race, despite two early second places in Australia and Qatar. He is currently seventh.Mark Aitchison (Althea Honda CBR600RR) has a team-mate at this race, as Flavio Gentile (Althea Honda CBR600RR) joins the Althea set-up once again. Aitchison has not had a repeat of his breakthrough podium midseason, but will be at his team’s home race in Imola.Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR) is all set for his first top ten finish at Imola, after a successful test there in July.SBK Rider CommentsJonathan Rea: “The Nürburgring win in race two was good, but I needed it after messing up the first race. It just shows that I’m still learning and how much I need to keep pushing. But it was another step up for me, the team and the bike, and that’s what we’ve been looking for in each race this season. The CBR1000RR is a race-winning package now and I need to make sure that I’m there too. It’s all positive for Imola and I’m looking forward to heading back there. We’ll look to confirm the setting that we finished the July test with and then try to get down to some serious lap times, fine tuning things for Sunday.
It was a good test that we had there and I hope we can turn that, and recent form, into some decent results.”Leon Haslam: “The spec of our bike is what it is at the minute, but we proved in Germany that we are still capable of running and battling at the front. We have tested at Imola this summer, and were third quickest on race tyres. And we didn’t get to use the best tyres at that test, whereas the official teams did. You don’t need that much top speed at Imola and our bike feels good out of the turns. We set our gearing choices at the test so we should be able to spend most of our time working on the electronics. I’m looking forward to Imola.”Carlos Checa: “The last few races have been good for me and for the team and it has felt really nice to be up on the podium again. We have found the right balance with the bike over the last few races and I would say that 70% of the improvement has been down to the way we have been working as a team and with the new suspension technicians.
Electronics have improved, too, and the faster tracks seem to suit our bike a little better.
It’s a good thing that the last three rounds are all at those kind of circuits. We had a good test at Imola and the recent improvements and results have given us a momentum that we want to continue and given me a renewed confidence for the remainder of the season.”Ryuichi Kiyonari: “I enjoyed going back to the British Superbike championship after the last race at Nürburgring. It was good to see the British fans again and to work with my old team.
The results were not exactly what we wanted but I enjoyed it anyway. I was feeling quite confident after the last races at Nürburgring, when the bike felt a little better during each session. I think that, with my team, I am beginning to understand the Öhlins suspension better now and I had quite a good feeling with it when we tested at Imola in July.”Matthieu Lagrive: “I know the circuit of Imola and I like it. Our last tests here in Imola were very good and so I think we’ll be starting with a good bike set up. I have to do my best in Imola because it’s one of my team’s home races and I know we have the opportunity to earn a good result. The plan is the same as every race weekend, try to get it all working well in practice and qualifying and then take the best possible results in the races.”