In a country as big as Russia, you’re sure to find just about anything you’d want. Up until 2008 though, you’d have been hard pressed to find a professional-caliber racing circuit. That year, members of the Russian Automobile Federation and Ministry of Transport of Moscow Region hosted a ground-breaking ceremony in which a row of oak trees was planted along the future alley to the main buildings of the soon-to-be-built Moscow Raceway.
Construction proceeded through the subsequent years, and by September 2011 officials were booking events ahead of the 2012 season, including a World Superbike stop on August 26, 2012. Infront Motorsports’ CEO Paolo Flammini alluded to the inclusion of a Russian round during a one-on-one interview with MotoUSA in July of 2011, and by September had signed an agreement with Alexander Yakhnich, CEO of YMS Promotion Ltd, to bring WSBK to Moscow Raceway for a total of 10 years. At that point, construction on the raceway was still going strong and the final touches wouldn’t be made until early summer 2012.
The grand opening of Moscow Raceway took place on July 14, 2012 with a Formula 1 event and by mid-July had met all homologation requirements for the FIM Safety Commission. When World Superbike riders arrived in August, they were met with an unknown track and given just one day of testing ahead of the official round to get used to the layout. Carlos Checa came through as the fastest rider during that initial test, but had Leon Haslam, Tom Sykes, Marco Melandri and Max Biaggi right on his heels.
Checa continued to dominate once official proceedings were underway, winning the first ever Superpole at the venue. Tom Sykes trailed closely behind and Eugene Laverty rounded out the top-three. Dry conditions prevailed in the early rounds, giving riders full ability to push their machines to the limits at the circuit.
Conditions changed for Race 1 though, and competitors were faced with a wet race that proved to be a boon for Sykes. The Kawasaki ace ran out front early on and held the lead through the entire contest. He was followed by Marco Melandri and Biaggi. Checa took a DNF after crashing mid-race, and others, such as Davide Giugliano and Jonathan Rea, suffered similar fates.
In Race 2 conditions improved and Melandri was able to score the race win and move into the overall points lead. Sykes followed in second and Chaz Davies made the podium in third. Checa enjoyed a much better result, taking fourth while Biaggi went the other direction, crashing out of the race after colliding with Haslam.
Though the drama was typical of many WSBK rounds in 2012, there were some challenges unique to the circuit. Since teams typically fly equipment and staff into rounds outside Europe, decisions needed to be made whether to follow the same format for Moscow Raceway. The circuit is just over 60 miles from the Moscow city center though, so some teams opted for an extended road trip that proved to be a logistical miracle to pull off. In Kawasaki Racing Team’s case, the trip included 28-hour ferry ride, both there and back, and then a long drive down unfamiliar roads, some of which were still gravel for miles.
Russia returns for the upcoming season, as the SBK paddock visits new global markets. Expansion continues in 2013 as WSBK moves to India and the newly-built Buddh Circuit for Round 2 scheduled to take place on March 10, 2013. Riders will get a string of European rounds after that, but then it’s back to Moscow Raceway July 21, 2013.
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