World Superbike Portimao Preview

October 29, 2008
Ken Hutchison
Ken Hutchison
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The ulcers keep piling on for the warden of the MotoUSA asylum. With the inmates running rampant around the globe, Hutch has opted to get in on the madness more these days than in years past and is back in the saddle again.

Nitro Nori got 2008 off to a rather poor start - Qatar
How will Noriyuki Haga fare in his final ride on the Yamaha R1? Tune in and check out the first World Superbike race at the new track in Portimao, Portugal.

The final round of the 2008 World Superbike season will take place at the recently constructed Autodromo Internacional do Algarve circuit in Portimao, Portugal. Although Xerox Ducati’s Troy Bayliss has already wrapped-up the title there is still the matter of the other riders vying for positions in the final rankings for this year’s championship. With a fresh track that no team has spent any significant time testing at, this should make for some good racing once again.

The all-new Algarve circuit was only competed recently and the first tests have just been carried out by a handful of World Superbike teams, including Xerox Ducati. Blind corner entries and abrupt changes of elevation are key elements of this track so riders who can adapt quickly will be at an advantage early on. For this weekend’s World Superbike races a lap will be 4.592km and 22 laps.

“Portimao is a new circuit which I have never ridden,” says Haga. “We planned to test last week but unfortunately that test was cancelled so we will start from scratch. Anyway, this is the last race of the year so I would like to finish well, for me and especially for our team. This season we have all tried and worked really hard and we had both good and bad days.”

It really is an inter-team battle in the Yamaha Motor Italia pit box with Noriyuki Haga, currently 2nd in points and in his final race with Yamaha, and Troy Corser (9-points behind Nitro Nori) battling for second place. Alstare Suzuki’s Max Neukirchner is currently third followed by Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s Carlos Checa.

“The track is all new for us but we know the bike has a very good level of performance, explains Yamaha Motor Italia WSB Team Manager Massimo Meregalli. “We haven’t tested at Portimao but this is the same for almost everybody so it’s not an issue. We are confident we can find a good set-up for the race weekend. Our bike and riders have been very good in the last few races, and we all know what we can do. We are ready to race, like always. Our bikes have been refreshed for the Portimao race but there won’t be anything new in the set-up.”

“I’m looking forward to this weekend and I’ll be going all out to get one or two of those wins we have been trying to take all year,” Corser reports. “It will be very interesting riding at an all-new track that maybe only one or two of the other guys have ridden at before. Most others, like us, have not been there to test. I don’t know anything about the circuit at all but we are in the same position as we were in at Miller in America this year. That was a completely new track for us as well.”

Alstare Suzuki s Max Neukirchner was about a half-second off of Corser s timesheet-topping pace during Friday s qualifying session.
Alstare Suzuki’s Max Neukirchner in action on his GSX-R1000

Behind the dynamic-duo at Yamaha is a man on a mission, Max Neukirchner of Alstare Suzuki. The German ace has had his share of success and failure in 2008 so capping of the year on a high-note would be great for him and the squad.

“I know nothing about the track apart from seeing photos of it, so the first thing I have to do is learn the circuit,” says Neukirchner. “Normally I am quite good at learning circuits and if the weather is OK I am sure we can get a lot of work done in practice. At the moment, I am in fourth place in the championship, but Corser is only 18 points ahead, so I want to put pressure on him and see if I can take third.”

Carlos Checa “I hear a lot of good things about the new Portimao circuit so I’m looking forward to riding it myself. It’ll be great to be among the first riders there, but I hope the track surface doesn’t give us too many problems with grip. I’m hoping of course to finish the season on a high note and it will be good to prepare for 2009 with a positive finish. It’s been a great first season in World Superbike for me, with a new team, new bike, new tyres, and new championship. There has been a lot to learn and it’s been tough, particularly since the wins in America. But we’ll use this last race to finish as high as we can in this year’s championship and to start making improvements for next season.”

Ryuichi Kiyonari: “I had the operation on my shoulder in Japan so I’ve just been relaxing at home there and got back to Europe around a week ago. The shoulder feels good but I’ve seen the video of Portimao and it looks like it will test the injury! It seems to be very up and down – a bit like Brands Hatch or Phillip Island – but it also looks like fun. I am relaxed and want to finish the season with two strong results this weekend.”

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