After an extended break following Round 1 at Phillip Island
, World Superbike returns to action this weekend at Spain’s Motorland Aragon circuit. That first 2013 SBK outing saw Factory Aprilia riders Sylvain Guintoli
and Eugene Laverty
go 1-2 and 2-1 respectively, while Red Devils Roma’s Michel Fabrizio took third in Race 1, giving the marque five of the six podium positions available in Australia. Only BMW Motorrad GoldBet’s Marco Melandri
was able to keep the Italian bikes from making a clean sweep, grabbing third in Race 2. Will the RSV4
prolong its tenure at the top or will another ride best the Noale-based mount? Be sure to check back here for full Aragon race results to find out…
Laverty will likely be a force on track; he went 5-2 at Aragon in 2012
and only missed the Race 2 win by 0.042 seconds. The Irishman has already shown improvement in his second year with Aprilia. Guintoli demonstrated he was a worthy heir to 2012 champion Max Biaggi
’s ride with his showing at Phillip Island, though he’ll have the chance to really prove his merit at Aragon where his results in the past have been dismal. He’s yet to earn a top-10 finish at the Spanish circuit, though this is also his first year riding there with full factory backing.
With his shoulder in better shape, Marco Melandri is ready to fight for a podium during Round 2 at Aragon.
Melandri should contend for one or both race wins, especially if his shoulder is fully healed and no longer causing him pain. The Italian’s shoulder issues began over the winter break and persisted through pre-season testing; therapy didn’t provide the relief he was looking for and then a crash in Race 1 in Australia left him with little recourse other than surgery. Melandri underwent an arthroscopic operation
directly following the round at Phillip Island, where doctors "cleaned adhesions and arthritis to the acromion,” according to BMW PR. He’s now confident the problem is fixed and he can ride without pain. In 2012 Melandri went 2-1 at Aragon, missing the win in Race 1 by two-tenths of a second behind his old GP rival and fellow countryman,Biaggi.
Another competitor aiming for the top step is Kawasaki Racing’s Tom Sykes
. The British rider went 5-5 at Phillip Island, but did so under strained conditions thanks to the crash he endured in the lead-up to the season opener. At the time it was reported that he had a slight crack in his left wrist, but since then it’s come to light that he’d also broken three ribs. His recovery over the break has gone well and he was the fastest rider during a recent test at Aragon.
FIXI Crescent Suzuki’s Leon Camier
was three-tenths of a second off Sykes’ pace during testing at the Spanish circuit. The British rider placed second on the combined timesheet over the three-day test while his teammate, Jules Cluzel, grabbed the third-fastest spot. Both finished outside the top-five at Phillip Island and Suzuki hasn’t earned a race win in World Superbike since 2010, so there’s hope for an encouraging turnaround for the FIXI riders in Spain. Development on an updated engine , which was tested at Aragon, is said to be ongoing and will be introduced this season as soon as it’s ready.
Tom Sykes cracked his wrist and broke three ribs prior to the race at Phillip Island. With his injuries all but healed, he's looking to dominate at Aragon.
Chaz Davies, Melandri’s factory BMW teammate, has enjoyed previous success at Aragon. In 2011 he took an unexpected win in Supersport and then earned his first Superbike podium there in 2012 when he finished third in Race 2. Davies showed speed in Race 1 at Phillip Island, placing fourth, but then hit a rough patch in the following event, crashing during the early laps. He recovered and finished the race, though he placed last among active riders in 17th.
Loris Baz, Sykes’ teammate, also went down in Race 2 at Phillip Island, but was forced to retire after his incident. In Race 1 the French rider scored a sixth-place finish and will look maintain performance at that caliber through both contests at Aragon.
Pata Honda duo, Jonathan Rea
and Leon Haslam
, are also in the hunt for improved results following a disappointing showing at Phillip Island which left them sixth and seventh overall, respectively.
Team SBK Ducati Alstare’s Ayrton Badovini and Carlos Checa
possibly had the worst luck of all in Round 1 as both riders fell victim to injuries that forced them out of competition. Badovini fractured his foot prior to the main races and missed both, whereas Checa was in competition for podium position during Race 1 until a crash took him out in which he sustained a concussion, leaving him unable to compete in Race 2. Badovini still doesn’t have full mobility in his foot, which may prove troublesome at Aragon, and Checa is ready to ride, but stated in a Ducati Alstare press release that “I still can’t really go cycling or running.” Both riders’ physical fitness will play a factor on Sunday.
Weather has been unpredictable at Aragon of late, especially during testing which saw riders face high winds, clear skies or rain through the three days. A practice session and the first qualifying round are set for Friday April 12, 2013 with further qualifying and Superpole scheduled for Saturday and the races on Sunday.