Number 3 is number one in the points standings as World Superbike enters the second half – with Max Biaggi arriving at Aragon after a double victory performance at Misano.
The World Superbike paddock rolls into the Motorland Aragon with Aprilia Racing’s Max Biaggi sitting pretty for SBK title number two. Biaggi defends a 38.5-point title advantage at the Spanish circuit, facing off against familiar foes in Round 8. SBK racing in 2012 has proven pleasingly unpredictable, with the first half featuring six different SBK race winners split up between five different manufacturers. With such parity, the second half of 2012 should make for exciting action on the track.
Biaggi arrives at Aragon after scoring his first double of the season the preceding round at Misano. The now 41-year-old vet is well placed to extend his championship advantage, with Aragon the scene of one of his few victories during his unsuccessful 2011 SBK title defense. This year Biaggi’s title hopes are looking quite promising, with his points advantage even more imposing, as riders continue to split up the points haul. One rider will have to go on a dominating streak to challenge The Emperor, and after Misano the most dominating rider at the moment seems to be Max himself.
Jonathan Rea jumped from fourth to second in the points after a sturdy 5-2 result at Misano. Honda’s title threat will try to gain ground at a circuit he’s never raced, having missed the inaugural SBK Aragon round last season with injury. Now healthy and buoyed by two wins already this year, the Northern Irish rider could use a couple more 25-point results to pressure the leader.
Third in the points, Tom Sykes will be pushing for his second win of the season at Aragon. Home court for the Spanish-based Kawasaki Racing Team, Aragon has hosted the KRT squad at a trio of tests. So the ZX-10R should be dialed, and Sykes has proven his race-winning pace. The English rider may trail Biaggi by a daunting 46 points, but Rea is well within striking distance for an overtake in the point standings this weekend.
Checa needs another run of 2011 luck to reverse the fortunes of his SBK title defense – now 60 points off the leader.
Where Rea vaulted ahead at Misano, BMW’s Marco Melandri fell back. The Italian was running out of the points in the first race thanks to tires woes, while his fourth-place finish in Race 2 was tainted by crashing out Althea Racing’s Carlos Checa when the two came together. Supermarco tallied a victory at Aragon in 2011, racing for Yamaha, and has already delivered BMW a pair of wins in ’12.
As for Checa, Misano was a double-whammy for the reigning champ, who was unable to capitalize on the Ducati-friendly circuit. Aragon’s short SBK history hasn’t been too favorable to the Italian marque – with Checa’s third-place Race 2 result in 2011 the only top-10 finish by a Ducati. In fact, Aragon was Checa’s worst showing in an otherwise dominating title-winning campaign, filing his first DNF of the year in Race 1 last year. This season’s title defense has already seen five DNFs from the Althea ace, with Checa now having to close a staggering 60 point deficit on his rival. A double victory performance on his home soil would go a long ways for King Carlos’ fading title hopes.
The bottom half of the SBK top 10 standings features talented teammates and dark horse satellites. Of the former group Leon Haslam stands out. Around this time in 2010 Haslam looked to be pressing for a title with Alstare Suzuki, but since his switch to BMW the English rider has been searching for that elusive SBK win. Melandri stole the Brit’s thunder by seizing that first-ever Beemer victory earlier this year, a particularly bitter pill considering Haslam has crashed out while leading races – one time the blame cast on none other than his aggressive teammate. The 2012 title may be out of grasp for Haslam, but showing up Melandri certainly is not. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing) and Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) aren’t likely to outshine their title-winning paddock mates, but both have already done so on at least one occasion this year. The dark horse satellite group is comprised of the Effenbert Liberty Ducati duo of Sylvain Guintoli and Jakub Smrz – the French rider having outperformed his Czech teammate in 2012.
In the Supersport series Kawasaki DeltaFin Lorenzi rider Kenan Sofuoglu enjoys a 22-point cushion on his nearest rival, PTR Honda’s Jules Cluzel. A second Honda man, Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda), is 30 points off the leader. The fourth rider in the WSS hunt is Intermoto Step Racing Kawasaki’s Fabien Foret.
As with the premier SBK series, the WSS class has evenly split up the victories this season. Of the four, only Sofuoglu has multiple victories, winning at Phillip Island and Misano. The other three have a win apiece (wild card Lorenzo Lanzi took the checkers in a one-off ride at Assen). All four men have proven they are capable of winning. And all four have proven capable of tossing away wins as well, with each having all least one non-points scoring result from DNF, or in Sofuoglu’s case, disqualification. The Turkish rider has earned the points lead via consistency, while his British rival Lowes has proven the fastest qualifier and constant threat for the win – but the most reckless with two DNFs.