World Superbike Nurburgring Preview 2012

September 5, 2012
Byron Wilson
Byron Wilson
Associate Editor|Articles|Articles RSS

Byron's sure to be hunched over a laptop after the checkers are flown, caught in his own little version of heaven. Whether on dirt, street or a combination of both, MotoUSA's newest addition knows the only thing better than actually riding is telling the story of how things went down.

Marco Melandri in session one at Monza.
Marco Melandri gained the points lead from Max Biaggi after his strong performance at Moscow Raceway.

The 2012 eni FIM Superbike World Championship returns for Round 12 at Nürburgring after a two-week break following the incident-packed round at Moscow Raceway. BMW Motorrad’s Marco Melandri racked up enough points with his 2-1 finish in Russia to move past Aprilia’s Max Biaggi into the top spot overall. The BMW rider now has an 18.5-point advantage over Biaggi heading into a circuit where the Corsair has yet to earn a Superbike podium.

Biaggi started strong at Moscow, taking a third place podium finish in Race 1, but a collision in Race 2 with Melandri’s teammate Leon Haslam took him out of the contest entirely. The crash ultimately cost him the points lead and also allowed Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes to make up ground in the title contest. The British rider took his second win of the season in Race 1 and now sits just 22.5 points behind Biaggi in third.

The BMW ace contested Nürburgring for the first time in 2011, earning second-place in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2 after the contest was called due to inclement weather. Sykes earned his first Superbike race win at the German circuit in 2011, also the first win for the Ninja ZX-10R which he still pilots. Sykes is the only rider to bring a Kawasaki across the finish within the top five. Biaggi missed out on the race in 2011 due to injury, and though he’s always earned points at Nürburgring, his best results are a 4-5 finish in 2010, the year he took home the title.

Melandri heads to the ‘Ring this weekend with the added weight of racing to protect his tenuous lead in front of the BMW home crowd.

“It is great to come to the BMW home round at the Nürburgring leading the championship. However, this may also mean even more pressure, because everybody will expect a good result,” said Melandri. “I think that our RR will run well there. If all goes according to plan, I am sure we can be competitive in the races. We have to improve our pace in qualifying, because we still struggle with the soft tire. But I am happy, I feel good and I am ready to fight again.

Tom Sykes couldnt make it to the front of the pack at Miller  going 8-5 in the American round.
Tom Sykes took his second Superbike win of the season in Race 1 at Moscow and could challenge for the title.

“We still have six races to go, which is a lot. It is never easy because there are many fast riders and there is always the possibility of mistakes. The last few races have seen a lot of major changes in the championship. You can score many points, but you can also drop points. We need to focus on each individual race and to do our best to pick up some more wins and stay in front.”

Sykes’ commanding Race 1 win at Moscow, coming in over eight seconds ahead of Melandri, has bolstered his confidence in the series. He’s been a Tissot-Superpole master, earning seven of 11 pole positions, but has struggled to convert the number one spot on the grid into a race win. In Moscow his fortune finally changed as he came fast off the start and led every lap of the contest. He’s been increasingly pleased with his bike’s performance and configuration, making him a definite threat to Melandri and Biaggi through the remaining three rounds of the series.

“We go to Germany now and the recent form of the Ninja ZX-10R is great, so we are obviously a lot closer in the ballpark to where we need to be with the overall set-up,” said Sykes. “Germany should be good for us – going on the results we have had there in the past. We got a win last year there. OK, in wet conditions of course, but even in the dry we have been quite close to the front there, which fills me with a bit more excitement for this weekend. The current package we have now is even better and that means that we have to go to Germany with the aim of collecting lots more points. People ask me about the positions in the points rankings now and realistically it is still possible to win the championship.”

Althea Racing’s Carlos Checa crashed out in Race 1 at Moscow and took fourth in Race 2, leaving him with an almost insurmountable 75-point gap to close in order to defend his championship title. He’s been successful at Nürburgring in the past, winning Race 1 in 2011 and holding four total podium finishes in the Superbike class.

“Unfortunately Moscow didn’t exactly go to plan and now we need to make up for that at the Nürburgring,” said Checa. “I feel prepared and ready for the challenge and hope that data from last year’s race will be able to he help us do equally well this year. We’ve seen a lot of wet weather this season and will probably have rain in Germany too – the important thing is to adapt to the weather and track conditions, and do our job at the highest possible level.”

Jonathan Rea test at Assen in The Netherlands.
Johnathan Rea recently became one of the busiest men in international motorcycle racing, filling in on the Repsol MotoGP team while contesting World Superbike.

Honda’s Jonathan Rea will return from testing Casey Stoner’s Repsol Honda RC213V MotoGP Bike in Aragon as he fills in for the injured Australian rider. Rea started strong at Nürburgring after making his debut in World Superbike, earning two wins and three total podiums in his first four races at the circuit. In 2011 he returned to racing in Germany after a three-month hiatus to rehabilitate an injury and went 10-4. He’s effectively out of the running for a shot at the title, 96 points behind Melandri, but could take crucial points from the top four overall riders with a strong finish in either of the upcoming races.

“I’ve certainly got a tough few weeks coming up, competing in two world championships, but I’ve enjoyed everything so far – it’s going to be an incredible experience,” said Rea. “I’m really looking forward to this Nürburgring weekend – I like the circuit and I’ve had some success there in the past.

“I’m excited to see how the CBR performs at the Nürburgring and to see if we can maintain the pace that we ended up showing in Moscow. We’re going into the last three rounds of the season now and the team is working just as hard as they were at the beginning of the year, coming up with new things to try. Hopefully, that will allow us to consolidate and even improve our championship position in the last few races.”

Haslam and Biaggi’s teammate Eugene Laverty, sixth and seventh overall respectively, made it through Race 1 at Moscow within the top ten and both crashed out in Race 2. Laverty missed the podium by just half a second in fourth while Haslam held on to sixth. Both riders have earned positive results at Nürburgring in the past, Haslam finishing in the top-ten in all six races he’s completed there and Laverty going 4-5 in 2011, winning the Supersport contest in 2010 and coming in second in the same class in 2009.

“Nürburgring is a fun circuit to ride with so many cambered turns,” said Laverty. “All the changes of direction make it quite a physical circuit which I enjoy. We’ve been strong during the last three races but we haven’t been rewarded with the results we deserve so I hope that everything falls into place this weekend in Germany.”

Leon Camier had one of his best days of the season during qualifying on Friday at Silverstone  coming in fourth-fastest.
Leon Camier will go to Germany slightly injured after crashing in the previous round at Moscow Raceway.

FIXI Crescent Suzuki duo Leon Camier and John Hopkins are a feeling a bit more reticent about the trip to Germany since both riders have experienced difficulty there in the past. Camier is also recovering from a minor injury sustained during the previous round at Moscow.

“I saw my osteopath yesterday and he told me that there is some damage to the muscle above my right hip,” said Camier. “I’m a little stiff, but it’s not going to affect me on the bike and I’m looking forward to riding this weekend. The Nürburgring hasn’t been particularly lucky for me – I broke my wrist there in 2010 and last year the weather was awful.”

Hopkins added, “I don’t have any good memories of the Nürburgring, because the last time I was there in 2009 I was run over on the first lap of race one and got knocked out! What I do remember is that it’s quite a technical circuit, with a bit of everything and also many elevation changes.”

In World Supersport, Kawasaki Lorenzini’s Kenan Sofuoglu continues to chase his third title in the class, coming out of Moscow with his third win of the current season and a 33-point advantage over PTR Honda’s Jules Cluzel.

“The Moscow race was a good step for me,” said Sofuoglu. “We lost some points in previous races but got them back at the Moscow round. I was happy to win that race and to take good points for the championship, but there are still three more races to go, including Germany. I believe in my bike and going to the Nürburgring there are fast corners and uphill sections, which are good for our machine.”

Cluzel has never been to Nürburgring but will push hard to contend for a podium finish, as will his PTR teammate Sam Lowes, who trails the French rider by two points in third.

“I’m really looking forward to the last three races,” said Lowes. “The pressure is on Kenan, it’s not on me, so I can just focus on going out there and fighting to win the last three races and then we’ll see what happens. The last three tracks I like and I’m good at so I’m in good spirits.”

All riders on the grid will be looking to the skies in the hopes that the veritable monsoon that descended in 2011 doesn’t make a repeat appearance. Practice and the first qualifying session will take place Friday, with Superpole on Saturday and the main events on Sunday.

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