The eni FIM Superbike World Championship is about to return to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari of Imola for what will be the fourth event of the 2014 season. The historical venue, located in the city, 40km southeast of Bologna, entered the World Superbike calendar in 2001 and has so far hosted the series 11 times. In 2009 a new, slow-speed chicane named "Nuova Variante Bassa" was added to the circuit layout just before the finish line.
Last year Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) had one of his three dominant weekends in his title-winning season: the Huddersfield born rider secured pole position and won both races, setting the new outright best lap and lap record in the process. The reigning World Superbike Champion and current points leader is the only rider to start from Pole Position on more than one occasion at the Italian track – in 2010 (maiden career pole), 2012 and 2013.
After winning his second race of the season last time out at Assen (race one), Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) now lies second in the standings, twelve points shy of the leader and three points ahead of compatriot Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team). Both riders have never won on the Italian track, unlike Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike), who climbed on the top step of the podium at Imola in 2011 (race one).
The Ulsterman is looking forward to the Italian round, hoping to keep the momentum going after some solid performances in the first three outings of 2014 and his maiden race victory of the year scored in the second Dutch race a fortnight ago.
With the riders in the top four within 19 points of each other, the rest of the field is already falling a significant distance behind. Fifth place Marco Melandri (Aprilia Racing Team), still looking for his first win astride the factory RSV4, has a 39 point gap from the top, with Ducati Superbike Team duo Davide Giugliano (49) and Chaz Davies (61), as well as Voltcom Crescent Suzuki's Eugene Laverty (62), further behind.
Following his double DNF at Assen, Laverty hopes to return to his early season form, whilst the goal for Laverty's team mate Alex Lowes is to build on his maiden WSBK podium, achieved on Dutch soil.
The battle for the title in the EVO class continues at Imola with Niccolò Canepa (Althea Racing Team) looking strong after finishing twice on top at Assen. David Salom (Kawasaki Racing Team) will take the charge to the Italian, hoping his injured right hand will not affect his on-track performance. Leon Camier (BMW Motorrad Italia Superbike Team) will again replace the Sylvain Barrier, whilst current Italian Superbike champion Ivan Goi will make a wildcard appearance aboard the Barni Racing Team's EVO-spec 1199 Panigale R.
Team Hero EBR will race with an upgraded machine, with Bimota Alstare and MV Agusta RC – Yakhnich Motorsport) looking for solid results as the action resumes.
Standings (Round 3 of 13): 1. Sykes 108; 2. Guintoli 96; 3. Baz 93; 4. Rea 89; 5. Melandri 69; 6. Giugliano 59; 7. Davies 47; 8. Laverty 46; 9. Haslam44; 10. Lowes 36; 11. Elias 34; 12. Canepa 28; 13. Salom 27; 14. Scassa 11; 15. Camier 11; 16. Morais 10; 17. Foret 9; 18. Allerton 6; 19. Bos 5;20. Corti 5; 21. Guarnoni 5; 22. Fabrizio 2. Manufacturers: 1. Kawasaki 114; 2. Aprilia 106; 3. Honda 89; 4. Suzuki 76; 5. Ducati 73; 6. BMW 17; 7. MV Agusta 5.
Imola is the next stop for one of the closest World Supersport seasons in recent years. The title race sees a consistent Florian Marino (Intermoto Ponyexpres Kawasaki) leading the way, four points ahead of Assen race winner Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Superbike). Kev Coghlan (DMC-Panavto Yamaha), third, and Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta RC – Yakhnich Motorsport), fourth, are only 5 and 8 points shy of the leader respectively, with CIA Insurance Honda's Raffaele De Rosa (15) and San Carlo Puccetti Racing Kawasaki's Roberto Tamburini (20) in fifth and sixth place, followed by three time WSS Champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki).
The Turk has endured so far a difficult early part of the season, crashing out of the opening race and, forced to an early retirement in the last encounter at Assen, due to a technical problem. Sofuoglu did win in Aragon (his only finish of 2014 so far) and can be confident that last year he was victorious in the Supersport race at Imola, edging out Sam Lowes by half a second at the finish line.
Former WSS full timer and podium finisher Alex Baldolini (ATK Racing) will make his return to the series this weekend, as the Italian rider will contest the first of five rounds aboard a privately entered MV Agusta F3 675.
Standings (Round 3 of 12): 1. Marino 49; 2. Vd Mark 45; 3. Coghlan 44; 4. Cluzel 41; 5. De Rosa 34; 6. Tamburini 29; 7. Sofuoglu 25; 8. Zanetti 24; 9. Rolfo 19; 10. Wahr 16; 11. Gamarino 13; 12. Leonov 12; 13. Russo 10; 14. Gowland 9; 15. Jacobsen 9; 16. Menghi 9; 17. Wilairot 9; 18. Bussolotti 7; 19. Kennedy 5; 20. Coveña 4; 21. Schmitter 3; 22. Calero 3; 23. Rogers 1. Manufacturers: 1. Honda 61; 2. Kawasaki 58; 3. MV Agusta 49; 4. Yamaha 44; 5. Triumph 9.
Despite a fifth place in the wet STK1000 race at Assen, Leandro Mercado (Barni Racing Team Ducati) still holds on to first place as the 2024 series approaches the third round. The Argentinean rider is followed closely by Team Pedercini Kawasaki's Lorenzo Savadori and MTM Racing Team Kawasaki’s and Dutch round winner Kevin Valk, second and third with only 3 and 4 points to make up respectively.
The other Barni Racing rider Ondrej Jezek, third last year at Imola behind winner Barrier and second placed Canepa, made up for the lost ground he suffered in the opening round by crossing the line second in the Dutch encounter. The Czech rider is now fifth overall behind Frenchman Matthieu Lussiana (Team Garnier by ASPI Kawasaki) but ahead of David McFadden (MRS Kawasaki), Kyle Smith (Agro-On Wil Racedays Honda) and Romain Lanusse (Team Pedercini Kawasaki).
Several one-off entrants will also add some extra flavour to the Italian round.
Standings (Round 2 of 7): 1. Mercado 36; 2. Savadori 33; 3. Valk 32; 4. Lussiana 26; 5. Jezek 20; 6. McFadden 18; 7. Smith 16; 8. Lanusse 15; 9. Bergman 13; 10. D'Annunzio 13; 11. Day 10; 12. Grotzkyj G. 9; 13. Massei 8; 14. Nemeth 7; 15. Walraven 6; 16. Pagaud 6; 17. Schacht 5; 18. Castellarin 4; 19. Suchet 2; 20. Ayer 1. Manufacturers: 1. Kawasaki 45; 2. Ducati 45; 3. Honda 21; 4. BMW 13; 5. Suzuki
The FIM Europe Superstock 600 riders are ready for another exciting event of the season at Imola, with the title race that sees Finland's Niki Tuuli (Kallio Racing Team) heading the field after his maiden victory in the series a fortnight ago at Assen.
Two thirds in the opening two races of the season have allowed Wayne Tessels (Wayne Racing Team Suzuki) to elevate himself to second place in the standings, whilst San Carlo Team Italia Kawasaki duo Marco Faccani and Andrea Tucci, who dominated the first encounter at Aragon, are now tied with 31 points in third and fourth place, respectively.
Former EJC entrant Kevin Manfredi (Agro-On Wil Racedays Honda), who was second at the flag at Assen, currently lies fifth, 11 points behind the leader.
Two wildcard entrants are going to further increase the already significant number of local riders contesting the Italian Round - Massimiliano Spedale (GRADARACORSE Racing Team Yamaha) and Roberto Mercandelli (MC World Yamaha) could surprise the regulars this time out.
Standings (Round 2 of 7): 1. Tuuli 38; 2. Tessels 32; 3. Faccani 31; 4. Tucci 31; 5. Manfredi 27; 6. Mikhalchik 18; 7. Duwelz 18; 8. Salvadori 18; 9. Hartog 13; 10. Lahti 10; 11. Casalotti 9; 12. Nestorovic 7; 13. Gobbi 5; 14. Lewis 5; 15. Zeelen 5; 16. Rinaldi 4; 17. Marchal 4; 18. Canducci 3; 19. Pittet 2.
European Junior Cup
Marc Miralles (Honda Spain) leads the points in the Pata European Junior Cup, powered by Honda after winning the opening round of the season at Aragon and claiming a third place at Assen. The Dutch race saw Augusto Fernandez (WIL Sport) on top of the rostrum for the first time this season, courtesy of a masterful performance in wet conditions. Fernandez lies second in the title race, 3 points behind Miralles and 10 points ahead of another Spaniard, Javier Orellana (Europ Food SL), with Sweden's Jesper Hubner (Honda Sweden) in fourth place.
Standings (Round 2 of 8): 1. Miralles 41; 2. Fernandez 38; 3. Orellana 28; 4. Hubner 27; 5. Soomer 20; 6. Grassia 18; 7. Perez 16; 8. Licciardi 14; 9. London 14; 10. Brink 13; 11. Fernandez 11; 12. Harland 11; 13. Wisdom 10; 14. Van Sikkelerus 6; 15. Geissler 4; 16. Zhu 4; 17. Moreno 2; 18. Patterson 2; 19. Levy 1.