2007-02-28 02:22
After two of the four officially supported Honda
riders in the 2007 World Supersport championship
left Qatar last weekend with podium finishes,
including the race win, the new CBR600RR has
already proven its battle-worthiness at the first
attempt. Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda
CBR600RR) had disputed the race lead with his
team-mate Sebastien Charpentier (Hannspree Ten
Kate Honda team) until Charpentier's crash left
Sofuoglu the winner by some distance. Third in
Losail may even be exceeded by a superlatively
confident Katsuaki Fujiwara (Althea Honda Team
CBR600RR) who was setting the same times as the
leaders mid-race in Losail, and finally took third spot on the podium.

The prospect of racing at the classically
sculpted 4.445km circuit is a happy one for all
of Honda's four officially supported 600 riders,
each of whom is looking forward to the experience
of racing in Australia. Even new boy in the
line-up, 26-year-old Lorenzo Alfonsi (Althea
Honda Team CBR600RR) has experience of the track,
and is as eager as any of his peers to accept the
challenge of competing there on the new CBR600RR.

Qatar race winner Sofuoglu is out for a repeat
performance in Australia, but is keeping his feet very much on the ground.

"Qatar was great for me, I was so happy to get
the win after the team worked so hard to get the
bike right," said Sofuoglu. "Now I have to look
forward and concentrate on the next race, because
Qatar was only the first round so I will not be
taking anything for granted. I rode well at
Phillip Island in January so I feel good about
the circuit. I can't wait to get onto the track."

Charpentier knows that only a top points score
will alleviate the gloom of crashing in Qatar.

"This race is now very important for me," said
the 2005 and 2006 champion. "I need to race well
in order to get back the points I lost in Qatar,
but I am not too worried. I won the race here
last year and in 2005 so it is a good track for
me. I need to concentrate and not make any mistakes, but I should be OK."

Fujiwara's first race of the year gave him plenty
of reasons to be cheerful for more podium opportunities this year.

"Losail showed us what we can do, even at this
early stage," said the six-time WSS race winner.
"I hope for a good season. The bike should also
work well at Phillip Island and I like riding
there very much. Next race I want to win!"

Alfonsi scored three points in Losail, and is
enthused at the chance of racing for even more this weekend.

"Qatar was not such a bad result for me in my
first weekend with the team," said the 2004
European Superstock 1000 Champion. "I hope to do
even better and qualify better than I did in
Qatar, because I at least have experience of
Phillip Island. So far so good for the start."

The championship, along with World Superbike,
returns to Europe for round three, with the next
race scheduled for Donington Park on April 1.

World Superbike Round 2 of 13


James Toseland (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda
CBR1000RR) answered the call to arms at Losail
last week with enough spirit and skill to leave
with a share of the championship lead for
himself, and Honda as a manufacturer. At Phillip
Island Toseland will be out to turn previous
podium success in Australian into wins. He will
also be out to ensure higher points scores than
his only race-long rival at Losail, Max Biaggi,
to try and lead the championship outright before
the end of the season's two long-haul races, and the return to Europe.

Roberto Rolfo (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda
CBR1000RR) had one good and one disappointing
race at Losail, and is looking forward to the
return to Phillip Island; the scene of one of his
best points scores during his rookie SBK season in 2006.

DFX Corse Honda runners Steve Martin (DFX Corse
Honda CBR1000RR) and Michel Fabrizio (DFX Corse
Honda CBR1000RR) are big fans of the Phillip
Island track, but in terms of previous 'Island'
success, Joshua Brookes, (Alto Evolution Honda
CBR1000RR) holds the loftiest perch, having won
the WSS race for Honda at the 4.445km circuit,
two hours drive from Melbourne in the State of
Victoria. Karl Muggeridge (Alto Evolution Honda
CBR1000RR) is currently the last of six supported
Honda riders in the current championship table,
but the 2004 World Supersport Champion is well
capable of a strong ride at his home circuit,
even without a full 2007 spec engine at his disposal yet.

Toseland has made the most of a good winter of
testing and machine development, and wants to add
a Phillip Island win to his current portfolio of
nine previous SBK race victories.

"We had a great start to the season and I came
away from Qatar a very happy man," said joint
leader Toseland. "I can't wait to get to Phillip
Island and start the next round. I enjoyed racing
against Biaggi, although I think there might be a
few more of us up at the front in Australia. I
got two podiums there last year but I didn't get
a race win so that will be my goal - I'm fired up and ready to go."

Rolfo's love for PI has been plain in previous
results at the circuit, and on his rapid
Fireblade, he may well be a force to be reckoned with.

"I enjoy racing at Phillip Island - I have had
some good results there so I am looking forward
to the next round," said Roby. "Of course, I am
hoping to do better than I did in Qatar. The
problems were out of my control and that was
frustrating but I hope to do well in Phillip
Island and put all that behind me. When we tested
here in January my times got better each day so
I'm quite confident about the circuit."

Home tarmac is a boon for Martin, but he knows
that there is still work to do for the machine to
be 100% ready for competition at the sharpest end of the field.

"I should go well at any track but track, not
just Phillip Island," said Martin, "and Qatar was
good for us because we learned what you can do
and what you can't do with this bike, at this
stage at least. We still have a way to go before
I am happy with the set-up and so on, but I hope
to be much further up the finishing order at
Phillip Island. I want to get a good feeling with
the bike and carry on from there."

After mixed fortunes and a race one crash because
of a collision with another rider at Doha last
weekend, Fabrizio is looking to Phillip Island to get his race pace back.

"The bike is good but after 10-12 laps the things
change and it's difficult to keep going at the
top pace," said Fabrizio. "Doha was not a great
result for me, but in Phillip Island I hope we
are back at 100%. The circuit is incredible, very
enjoyable, but the most important thing is to get
a good start position after practice and Superpole."

For Brookes, Qatar was a great learning
experience on his Fireblade, after riding for a different manufacturer in 2006.

"I finished the Qatar weekend knowing more about
the bike and feeling OK about PI this week," said
Brookes. "I am absolutely pumped for the Island
race, and I will hopefully crack a top ten."

Muggeridge, in the points in race two at Qatar,
is hoping that a good chassis package will help
his cause at the second fast circuit to be raced on in as many weekends.

"I think our bike's potential is good and we know
what we need to do with the engine package," said
Muggeridge. "I don't know what to expect in
Australia really, but my last two years'
experience on the bike will definitely help me.
Our chassis will be fine and we will find good
settings I'm sure. We need more time to work on
the engine package some more but it won't make
any difference to my commitment to do my best."

Source: Honda Pro Image

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