Leon Haslam (above) and Max Biaggi (below) are the two front-runners in the 2010 World Superbike championship.
Round 7 of the World Superbike season ramps up this weekend on American soil, with the SBK paddock rolling into Utah’s Miller Motorsports Park. The sole U.S. round will be unique, with the racing schedule running on Monday – Memorial Day here in the US of A. Motorcycle USA will be on hand for all the festivities at the Miller circuit, located about 30-minutes west of Salt Lake City. Here’s what to expect this weekend.
Believe it or not, Miller represents the halfway mark of the 2010 season. Crazy, we know. But my how the time flies when the racing action is strong. Suzuki’s Leon Haslam is headed toward his first SBK title. The son of a racing great, Haslam’s name could also be etched in the record books should he hold his 15-point advantage over Aprilia’s Max Biaggi.
The two front-runners hold a massive 66-point gap over the third-placed Jonathan Rea, making Superbike a two-man title show at the moment. Haslam got back on track last round with a strong 3-1 finish. With the momentum on his side, perhaps the GSX-R pilot can extend his advantage. Meanwhile, Biaggi lost ground with a solid but not good-enough 4-3 result at South Africa. Having tallied two double-victory rounds already this season, look for the Italian to stick the Aprilia on the steps, preferably ahead of the Suzuki.
As for Rea, the Hannspree Ten Kate rider has one double-victory (Assen) to his credit this year and managed a 5-2 result at South Africa. The Honda man seems confident and capable of running at the front, the expected place for a Ten Kate rider. Rea scored a podium at Miller last season to go along with a fifth-place result. Expect more from the Northern Ireland rider this time around.
Former Hannspree Ten Kate rider Carlos Checa managed a double victory at Miller back in 2008 (Spies took the double in 2009). Now the standout Ducati rider aboard the satellite Althea team, Checa will benefit from new rule changes going into effect at Miller which net Ducati pilots a three-kg weight reduction. The change seeks to fine-tune the competitive balance between the 1200cc Twins and 1000cc Fours – aka Ducati vs. the World.
Werox Ducati rider Michel Fabrizio has been on the Miller podium four times in as many races. Fresh off a win at Kyalami the Italian will benefit from new rules giving the Twins a 3-kg weight reduction.
Another Ducati rider with plenty of positive results at Miller? Michel Fabrizio. While 2010 has devolved Fabrizio’s stock from “title contender” to “podium outsider” status the streaky Italian has never finished off the podium at Miller, with double rostrum showings in 2008 and 2009. Add into the mix Fabrizio’s first victory of the season last round at Kyalami and suddenly the Xerox Ducati pilot looks like a stronger candidate for the steps. As for Noriyuki Haga, the Japanese rider’s elusive SBK title hopes have already been doused for another season. The star-crossed Ducati ace is struggling to maintain top-10s this season, much less the top spot on the podium. Still Nitro Nori doesn’t figure to roll over quite yet. The new weight handicap should help out Haga and company on Monday.
James Toseland continues to look for a consistent stride on the Yamaha, but the former champ is bound for a win before the season’s through. King James is almost 100 points down on Haslam for the title, but with a couple of podiums under his belt expect the Englishman to be challenging for the checkers soon. Along with Sterilgarda teammate Cal Crutchlow, the potent R1 contingent remain a real threat for podium results at Miller.
James Toseland (52) has shown a podium pace on multiple occasions, but he’s still looking for his first victory of 2010.
And now the BMW can be added to the list of legitimate podium threats. Troy Corser scored the marque’s first-ever SBK rostrum finish two rounds ago at Monza. The veteran Aussie has been by far the best hope for Beemer success, with Ruben Xaus struggling for consistency. The S1000RR continues to improve at the hands of Corser, so don’t be surprised if the propeller brand finds the steps once again.
The Kawasaki team continues to plod the ZX-10R through the paces. Tom Sykes and Chris Vermeulen have seen up and down results for the ZedX, but will aim for a positive top-5 result at Miller. It’s an all-new circuit for Vermeulen, but the Australian continues to gain strength following knee surgery earlier this season.
Also in the Kawasaki ranks, Roger Hayden represents the sole American on the SBK grid this weekend. The 26-year-old will campaign on the Pedercini Kawasaki. It’s been a rough year on the new international circuits for Hayden, with a scant two championship points to his name. But with the home field advantage, perhaps Roger Lee will be able to find a way to climb into the top 10. Last year Jamie Hacking stuck the Kawasaki up in seventh at Miller during the first Superbike race, though the former AMA champ will not be competing this season.
Honda’s Eugene Laverty trails in Supersport by one point, but leads in in total wins with four for the year.
The World Supersport series features a three-rider race for the title. Former champ Keenan Sofuoglu leads the points, but Eugene Laverty trails the Ten Kate Honda rider by only one point. Laverty can boast the most dominating form for the season, however, with the Parkalgar Honda man scoring four victories. Sofuoglu has managed just one victory in ’10, the same figure as Kawasaki rider Joan Lascorz, who is a mere 5 points arrears of the title lead in third.
The front three are not the only podium threats, Chaz Davies continues to show strong form aboard the PakinGO Triumph. The Welsh-born rider has two podiums this year and will look for number three on a circuit he rode in past seasons during AMA campaigns. Davies is a World Supersport regular, but plenty of his former AMA colleagues will have a go at Miller as wild cards. Notably Melissa Paris will return to MMP, along with up-and-comer Tyler Odom. Other American wild cards include Dylon Husband, Chip Yates and Jason Farrell.