The following is from Honda…The World Superbike Championship gets off to its traditional early start once again, with the first of 13 rounds beginning at magnificent 4.445km Phillip Island circuit, 130km southeast of Melbourne, on Sunday 28th February.Honda enjoys the greatest numerical advantage in the Supersport World Championship division, where the majority of the machines are Honda CBR600RRs.
There are also strong Honda forces in the Superbike World Championship, if in slightly fewer numbers than some previous seasons.At the start of a new decade in World Superbike, there is one proven entity and one new face in the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda SBK team, as Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) comes back for a second year, while Max Neukirchner (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) joins him in a strong two-man squad.Neukirchner was a podium finisher at Phillip Island in 2009, while Rea has been a consistently fast rider in winter testing, as he goes into his second World Superbike season. He was top finisher for Honda in 2009 WSB racing, with fifth place.In the Supersport World Championship Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR) is out to take the title he so nearly won in 2009, and he continues in partnership with the ever-improving Portuguese rider, Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR).Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) is the 2007 Supersport Champion, and a three-time race winner last year. Recently recovered from a left leg injury, he was second fastest rider at the recent Phillip Island tests, with his new team-mate Michele Pirro (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) fourth quickest. Pirro is a more than promising rider, who is out to learn at high speed in his first Honda season.At the first round at Phillip Island, the regular Honda entry in WSB will not be present in its full numbers, for unavoidable reasons. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Squadra Corse Italia Garvie Image CBR100RR) rode in the official pre-season tests on 21 and 22 February, and will compete in the races in Australia.A training accident suffered by Broc Parkes (ECHO CRS Honda CBR1000RR) has seen him sidelined until he recovers, to be replaced by British Superbike Championship Honda regular Josh Brookes in Australia.Josh has ridden for Honda in both World Superbike and Supersport Championships in the recent past, and has won World Supersport races in his career.Makoto Tamada (Pro-Ride Honda CBR1000RR) has been forced to miss the first round of the year as his team was only confirmed in the entry list a short time ago, not in enough time to get everything ready to fly out to Australia.In Supersport, the Czech Intermoto team will enter two riders, proven winner Massimo Roccoli (Czech Intermoto Honda CBR600RR) and reigning Superstock 600 European champion Gino Rea (Czech Intermoto Honda CBR600RR). Roccoli is approaching the status of season competitor, while Rea is a complete class novice who was glad of a chance to test at PI shortly before the race weekend begins.After the Australian race weekend is completed, the paddock heads back to Europe for the second round of the series, at the Portimao circuit, in Portugal, on March 28.WSB rider comments.Jonathan Rea, Ten Kate Honda: “We were very busy in our recent PI test, but we are OK, we will be fine at the race weekend. We have crossed some things out now, and we can start with a more polished package for race weekend. My aim, my goal is to win the championship. It is also the team’s aim, but this a very hard championship. We will be aiming for podiums at Phillip Island for sure, and we are optimistic about the season but we are not naïve to think that it will just come.
Everyone else has also upped their game this winter. “Max Neukirchner, Ten Kate Honda: “We have some new ideas to try out after our recent test, where we were about a second off the race pace, but we have some ideas to improve the machine. I am comfortable that we can find half a second for the race. I think a good tyre choice will be more important than normal on raceday at PI.”Josh Brookes, ECHO CRS Honda: “We had a few issues in testing for the race at Phillip Island, but the team has some days to fix it, and if they do I am sure we can improve all the way to Sunday. I’m happy to be in the WSB paddock again and it helps me a lot with my preparations for a full season in the UK Championships.”Vittorio Iannuzzo, Squadra Corse Italia: “We have more equipment arriving from Italy before the race and I set my best time at Phillip Island ever in the tests, with only really half a day of solid work. So that is good for our prospects this weekend.”WSS rider CommentsEugene Laverty, Parkalgar Honda: “We had a really good test at Phillip Island, and our bike is a little bit better everywhere than 2009. We did so much development last year we were at near maximum, but we found some good developments in the chassis set-up. We are all ready to go.”Kenan Sofuoglu, Ten Kate Honda: “All in all it was good to be on the bike for the first time in a couple of months, after suffering an injury. We had some issues with tyre longevity in testing but I am sure we can work out how to make the tyre last for a full race next weekend. My leg is completely fine, and even though it as my gear shifting leg I inured, it was fine in testing.”Michele Pirro, Ten Kate Honda: “Our test was really good and it was my first time at Phillip Island on my Honda. On day two we made improvements in our set-up and we will take those to the race. If all goes well it is possible to follow the other fast riders, because my bike is fast. I am sure I could make a good race.”Miguel Praia, Parkalgar Honda: “We are all ready for the race now that we have tested but tyre choice will be important because in the recent track conditions we found in testing changed a lot of things very quickly.”Gino Rea, Czech Intermoto Honda: “The biggest thing for me to overcome is learning the track, simply because it is so hard to learn. It’s so fast and there are so many bits and pieces that add up to your lap time. It will just take us time for everything to piece together. Testing at PI was invaluable to us before the race.”Massimo Roccoli, Czech Intermoto Honda: “We have tested at PI so we will be ready for the start. The Honda is a good bike and we have taken a step up this year, so we want to take a step up in results also.”