2008-06-25 08:46
Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) approaches the Misano round of the 2008 World Superbike Championship in a strong second place after half the season has been completed.

In his rookie WSB season, as are a few of his fellow official Honda riders, Checa has shown that years of MotoGP experience have translated quickly and effectively to World Superbike, scoring a podium finish in only his second ever WSB event, and then scoring not one win but two at the American round in early June.

The popular Spanish rider, now 35 years of age, is 39 points behind Troy Bayliss in the championship standings, with seven rounds and therefore 14 points scoring races to go. Checa approaches the second half of the year safe in the knowledge that he is on an ever-improving machine, which has already proven to be the pick of the four-cylinder 1000cc options.

Checa’s team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) has had a first WSB season marked by greater extremes of high and low finishes, but he is still the second Honda rider in the rankings, with 89 points and one podium finish to his name. In Misano the reigning double BSB champion approaches another circuit new to him this year, but is determined to learn fast and take his place in the top sector of each race.

The Misano circuit underwent an array of changes last year and since the last WSB weekend it has been resurfaced, and according to anecdotal reports, improved from the often-bumpy asphalt negotiated by the riders last season. At 4.180km, the flat Misano layout is generally tight and physical, and features an unusual set of right-handers. From the fast Curvone to the slow hairpin of Curva del Carro, the riders have to judge how much speed to lose on each corner entry, as each successive corner is taken more slowly than the last.

The Misano races last year threw up a double winner in the shape of Bayliss, but this year, with so many fast riders on fully competitive machinery, there appears to be any one of ten potential race winners ready to do battle this weekend.

Roberto Rolfo (Hannspree Althea Honda CBR1000RR) was fourth in one race on an official Honda Fireblade last year, and after recovering well from a recent collarbone and shoulder injury, he hopes to make his and his team’s home round a memorable one.

Gregorio Lavilla (Ventaxia VK Honda CBR1000RR) is not only the top Honda privateer so far, he is the top four-cylinder privateer of all, but in recent races Karl Muggeridge (DFX Corse Honda CBR1000RR) has made inroads to his points totals and is now only six points behind, in what is a busy and highly competitive WSB midfield.

Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR Jr) has shown flashes of the form that has taken him to the status of World Supersport Champion 2007, but the combination of making a transition to a Superbike and a recent family bereavement have conspired against his best efforts. With the full support of his Honda team, and the entire WSB paddock, the popular Turkish rider is looking to get back to his very best form, starting in Italy this weekend.

Shuhei Aoyama (Alto Evolution Honda CBR1000RR) is another rookie World Superbike rider finding the transition to a 162kg and 200bhp+ machine anything but straightforward. Like his team-mate Jason Pridmore, however, he has learned much as he goes for his season-best result in Misano.

Checa said: “Misano is a great track and I like racing in hot conditions. I just hope we can find the grip that we lacked at the Nürburgring and that brought us the wins in America. The bike is feeling good and I’m feeling in pretty good shape as well, so we should be in a strong position to push for a podium place. But anything could happen. If we can find the right setup early in the qualifying sessions I can secure a good spot on the starting grid. I’m still working on improving my starts, but I’m confident I can fight for a good result this weekend.”

Kiyonari said: “I’ll try to take a good result this weekend and learn from the mistakes I made in my last race. I wasn’t able to concentrate well in Germany. My thinking wasn’t good and I made some mistakes in the direction of the machine’s setting. If I can overcome my mistakes in Misano I will be able to set a better result in qualifying and start the race in a better position. I need a good result.”

Sofuoglu said: “I hope the results will be better than the last race in Germany. I was expecting to take some good things away from there but it was a personal drama for me. It will be a tough race in Misano, very hot, but it will be a change for everybody. My aim is to set a good result in qualifying. If I manage to qualify well, then the race should not be so hard as I won’t have to start all the way from the back of the field and then chase forward. I would like to end both races within the top ten.”

Rolfo said: “I’m eager to race in Misano as I think we’re finally on the right track and I’m anxious to take some good results. I’m really sorry for what happened to Tommy Hill and I wish him a speedy recovery and fast return to racing.”

Lavilla said: “It’s a shame that we face another new track especially as we are trying to develop the bike. We didn’t get the results we wanted but we did make progress in Germany. Hopefully we can work well from Friday morning, ride comfortably and find a set-up quickly. The way we approach qualifying has to be different from what we used to do in BSB.”

Muggeridge said: “We’ve had some good results this year and some not so good, and it all depends on how well we get the bike ready for the races. It’s also down to how far up the grid we qualify, so you don’t have to pass so many riders. It’s important to find a good set-up early in the weekend to improve on both those things.”

Aoyama said: “I need to work on my approach in my head and try to ride like I did in America. I know Misano, anyway, after riding there in 250GP last year, and I like it. I will try harder next race and try to get some points.”

Pridmore said: “We’ve got to look to the future now. There are some things with the motorcycle that we need to change but the team is fantastic. We had a good meeting last night and for sure we know the direction we need to take. Misano won’t take me too long to learn, we just need to get the bikes right. We’ve got all the pieces we need, we’ve just got to make them fit and go on from there.”

The ninth round of the World Superbike Championship will take place at another favourite venue for most riders, Brno, on 20th July 2008.

World Supersport Championship

Pitt Leads a Gang of Five Going Into Misano

After taking his third hard fought win of the year at the Nürburgring 2001 World Supersport Champion Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) took the championship lead for the first time in the 2008 season. He is the only rider to have scored more than a single win in the six races so far but the experienced Australian knows very well that this year’s contest is as evenly-balanced as any in the ten years since WSS gained full FIM World Champion status in 1999.

For six years in succession a Honda rider from the Ten Kate team has won the World Supersport championship, usually by a comfortable margin, but this year opponents from without and within the Honda camp look to be putting up serious challenges for the title. Fabien Foret is only four points behind Pitt, with seven races including Misano still to run, and only five from the lead is Josh Brookes (Hannspree Stiggy Motorsports Honda CBR600RR) who has now scored three second places.

Full privateer Honda rider Joan Lascorz is fourth in the standings, with Broc Parkes on the same points score, and each of these riders has already won a race apiece. They are only seven points from Pitt, completing the leading gang of five top championship challengers packing the top of the table.

Craig Jones (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR) is sixth, leading up a three rider running flush of supported Honda riders, with Jones on 60 points, Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) on 51 and Danish rider Robbin Harms (Hannspree Stiggy Motorsports Honda CBR600RR) on 39, in eighth place overall.

Gianluca Nannelli (Hannspree Althea Honda CBR600RR) was forced to retire from the previous race and thus sits 13th overall, an artificially low place for this proven WSS force.

The luckless Tommy Hill (Hannspree Althea Honda CBR600RR) is out of action once again, recovering from his second femur fracture in a few months. From now until his eventual recovery ex-DFX Corse Honda Superbike rider, Russell Holland, will replace Hill.

Pitt said: “We need to have another good race this weekend. We’ve recovered the two races we lost earlier in the season, now we need to build a points differential and try and confirm the lead. It’s like starting from scratch again now. The bike is working well and we should be able to perform. I have never been on the new Misano track so I will have to familiarise myself with the circuit on my first outing on Friday and do as many laps as possible. The tyre choice for the race will be important this weekend in the hot Misano conditions. We need to be strong at the end of the race, like we were last time in Germany, to get a good result.”

Brookes said: “Nürburgring was great for us. We had a good weekend from the start and managed a great race result. I’m now third in the championship, but I will be working to make sure I stay in the top three and put pressure on the guys ahead. I have never raced at Misano before, though I have done a few laps of the track on a standard bike just to see which way round it goes. It will be an interesting weekend for us and I’m sure it will be a tough and hard, but we are ready.”

Jones said: “I am up for it this weekend. In the last two races we’ve had a few problems, including a broken hand in Monza and then in Germany the weekend was going perfectly until I got T-boned in first corner and then had to ride my spare bike. Now we have got the bike sorted out with more power, and that should help to make us stronger for these next few races.”

Rea said: “We are still making good progress with the bike. We made a good job in Germany and my motivation is quite high. Hopefully we can gather some momentum and get on the podium again to get the ball rolling. It’s good for my motivation that Andrew is now leading the championship. He has managed to convert the speed of the CBR600RR into race wins and provoked a bit of a healthy rivalry between us. It’s a good target for me, now I must try and do the same as Andrew.”

Harms said: “We have been struggling a bit lately, so I’m really happy to be back at Misano, a race track I like and where I have had some great results. Last year we managed to set the bike up really well for the race and had lots of grip despite the heat. Misano will be a hot one for sure, but the heat doesn’t bother me much, even though I’m from the north!”

Nannelli said: “I wish all the best to my team-mate and friend Tommy during this difficult and delicate moment. We will race for him as well as us at Misano.”

Holland said: “I’m eager to ride an official Supersport Honda and I would like to thank the Hannspree Honda Althea team for having chosen me to replace Tommy, who has been unbelievably unlucky. I know my new team will help me adapt to the new bike and I’ll do my best because I want to be one of the top five Supersport riders.”

The race after Misano, round eight of the WSS series, is to be held at Brno, on July 20th 2008.

Source: Honda Pro Image

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