The World Championship Championship heads to Italy this weekend for the San Marino round at the Misano Circuit with Aprilia’s Max Biaggi leading the series over fellow Italian Marco Melandri and Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes – the pair tied in the series standings.
Parity still reigns supreme in the series with five manufacturers represented in the top five in the championship at this point in the season.
This weekend’s event will mark the 21st time the track has hosted a World Superbike event with Doug Polen winning the inaugural race there in 1991.
Points leader Biaggi’s win in Australia has been his lone victory of the season, but the Italian has defended his lead with a sequence of solid results on his Aprilia RSV4. Two years ago, Biaggi’s double win launched him on the path to his world title.
With two wins at the last two rounds (Donington Park and Miller Motorsports Park) Marco Melandri is now just 18 points behind. After giving BMW its first historic win, the man from Ravenna is now starting to think about the title. BMW has a good record at Misano with Troy Corser scoring the German manufacturer’s first pole position in 2010 before finishing third.
Last year Melandri was second in race one and crashed out of race two on the factory Yamaha.
Equal on points with Melandri is Sykes, the Brit coming close to a podium at Misano last year. The Japanese manufacturer had its last win at Misano way back in 1994 with Scott Russell.
The two previous rounds have also re-launched the title hopes of Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team), who is now just 19.5 points behind Biaggi. At Misano in 2009 Rea was virtually unbeatable, but he hasn’t had much luck since then and he missed last year’s races after crashing in the morning warm-up
The top five is completed by defending World Champion Carlos Checa – though the Althea Racing rider is now 30 points behind Biaggi following two untimely crashes at Donington Park and Miller Motorsports Park. Misano will offer the Spaniard the chance to get back into contention and Ducati has always fared well there – with 28 wins and 71 podiums in 40 races. Checa was untouchable last year, and he began his run-in to the title at the Adriatic Riviera circuit.
The FIXI Crescent Suzuki team is the only one unable to score the big win so far despite the team’s big commitment and the talents of Leon Camier and John Hopkins. Misano is a special place for Hopkins who finished third behind Casey Stoner and Chris Vermeulen in the 2007 MotoGP race.
Misano is an abrasive track on tires and Pirelli has made a big effort by bringing a total of 12 options for teams, including three for the front and five for the rear slicks, in addition to the usual intermediate and rain solutions and the Superpole qualifying tire.