The following is from InFront Sports…The latest World Superbike Championship season kicks off at the magnificent 4.445km long Phillip Island circuit in Australia this weekend with an entry list split between seven competing manufacturers. There are challengers for race wins in almost every single team and the list of riders who could feasibly win the series outright is as great as it has ever been in over 20 years of WSBK racing. In short, this season looks like a solid gold classic even before the first points have been fought over.Starting proceedings at a real rider’s circuit like Phillip Island will go a long way to indicating who the most serious contenders are, but with 26 individual points scoring races scheduled in the season, across four continents, opportunities about in this most competitive of race classes.NUMBERS GAME: Machinery from Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha will power a Phillip Island WSBK grid of 24 riders this weekend, with seven official squads being backed up by privateer teams of great strength-in-depth. In the final pre-season tests at Phillip Island on 21 and 22 February, private riders filled a few of the the top places in the lap time rankings, with Ducati riders in particular enjoying the dry track time. Last year at PI there were wins for Ducati (Noriyuki Haga) and Yamaha (Ben Spies) but in real race conditions few other machines can be ruled out of contention for the podium places.EUROPEAN TALENT CONTEST: There are over ten previous race winners in the current SBK field, with nine of the top ten riders from the 2009 championship back for more. Last year’s Ducati Xerox duo Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio were second and third respectively, making each a potential winner come Sunday’s races. Aprilia Alitalia Racing team rider Max Biaggi is teamed with new full-time entrant Leon Camier, one of seven British riders in WSB this year. BMW Motorrad Motorsport once more field Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus, but BMW S1000RR machines will also be ridden by private riders Andrew Pitt and Roland Resch (Reitwagen BMW). A fierce Ducati privateer line-up includes Carlos Checa and Shane Byrne (Ducati Althea Racing) plus Pata B&G Racing loner, Jakub Smrz.MULTIPLE CHANCES FOR JAPANESE MANUFACTURERS: Leading the Honda effort will be the pairing of Jonathan Rea and Max Neukirchner (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) both proven race winners in Superbike and both keen to make the step up to be genuine championship contenders. Local rider Josh Brookes will replace the injured Broc Parkes in the ECHO CRS Honda team for this round. Kawasaki, with a rejuvenated backroom staff and riding line up, field Chris Vermeulen and Tom Sykes in the official Kawasaki Racing Team, while Pedercini Kawasaki duo Matteo Baiocco and Roger Lee Hayden add new flavour to the category in 2010. Perennial competitors Suzuki have the talents of Leon Haslam and Sylvain Guintoli in the Suzuki Alstare squad, while 2009 champions Yamaha bring former double champion James Toseland and reigning Supersport World Champion Cal Crutchlow into the mix.
The second round of the championship takes place at Portimao, Portugal, 26-28 March.
SUPERSPORT: A transitional year for the World Supersport Championship sees potential race winners come in two groups – the slightly less experienced and riders with either Championship titles or multiple wins in this category. Honda features the leading talents of 2007 champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda) plus the bulk of the field. Kawasaki has proven winners Joan Lascorz and Katsuaki Fujiwara (Kawasaki Provec Motocard.com) and 2002 champion Fabien Foret (Lorenzini by Leoni). Double champion Sebastien Charpentier (ParkinGO Triumph BE-1) returns to the class this year, leading a total of four riders in Triumph colours. There will be two official qualifying sessions for the Supersport riders in 2010, one on Friday and one on Saturday.