First Wins For Ducati And Yamaha
Phillip Island confirmed that Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) will be one of the favourites this year, the Japanese rider winning one race and finishing runner-up in the second. But at the same time it also highlighted the competitive and balanced nature of the series, with several riders in with a chance of fighting for the win. One of these was Yamaha World Superbike rookie Ben Spies, the three-times AMA Superbike champion spectacularly winning race 2 and demonstrating that he will also be one of the men to beat this year. Germany’s Max Neukirchner also began the season well for Suzuki Alstare, fighting side-by-side with Haga right down to the chequered flag. Two more riders to watch in Qatar will be Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) and Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), who this time will be aiming for a podium place.
Even with the presence of seven manufacturers (Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha), the championship also offers the possibility for private teams, thanks to the technical regulations, to score good results. In Australia Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda) stepped onto the podium and Régis Laconi (Ducati DFX) came very close. Further surprises are expected at Losail.
Aprilia And BMW On The Pace
Both the Italian and the German machines immediately proved to be competitive in their debut race, so much so that Troy Corser (BMW) recorded the fastest lap in race 1 and Max Biaggi (Aprilia) fought for a podium position right until the very end. The layout of the Losail circuit should reward the characteristics of the two four-cylinder machines, even more so given the fact that Corser and Biaggi have both won on this track. Kawasaki are the only factory team who appear to be struggling at the moment, but the Japanese manufacturer is working hard and improvements are expected in Qatar.
Thumbs Up For New Superpole
The new Superpole format passed its first test with flying colours. The knock-out formula (20 riders become 16 and then 8 for the front two rows) has added further excitement to Saturday qualifying and also looks good on television. At Losail the teams and riders will have to perfect their strategies, which are fundamental if they do not want to be left out for the battle for the front row of the grid.
The opening round of the Supersport World Championship offered an amazing spectacle and Losail will be another chance to see some more slipstreaming action, in particular down the long pit straight. The favourites are still the two Supersport champions Kenan Sofuoglu e Andrew Pitt (both Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), but Anthony West (Stiggy Racing Honda) and Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha World Supersport) can’t be ruled out as well in the battle for the top places, while even the young Spanish talent Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki) has winning potential. Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda) was also on the pace, while Garry McCoy and Gianluca Nannelli (Triumph) still have to get the new three-cylinder machine up to the leaders’ competitive level.
Lap records: Race – Fonsi Nieto (Suzuki) 1’59.156 (2008)
Best lap: Troy Corser (Yamaha) 1’58.053 (2008).
The Qatar Round of the HANNspree Superbike World Championship takes place from Thursday 12 thru Saturday 14 March. World Supersport and World Superbike free practice and qualifying takes place on both days, with WSBK Superpole scheduled for Friday at 3:00. The two 18-lap Superbike races are scheduled to run on Saturday at 12:00 and 3:30, with the 18-lap Supersport race at 1:25pm local time.