The eni FIM Superbike World Championship
heads to previously unexplored territories as the series will race for the first time at the Sepang International Circuit this weekend. The Malaysian venue, located 50km south of the Capital City Kuala Lumpur, will host the sixth round of the 2014 season. The state of the art circuit has a 5.548km sweeping cornered layout, with two back to back straights characterising the final part of the lap.
New Championship leader after Donington Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) has never raced at Sepang before but has always done well at new circuits on the calendar in the past two years: the Brit won the opening race at Moscow Raceway and was second in Race 2 in 2012, while last year at Istanbul he was third and second in the two encounters after starting from pole. The 28 year old from Huddersfield did a test with Kawasaki at Sepang back in 2011 in preparation for the season debut of the new partnership between the Japanese manufacturer and Provec Racing (the current Kawasaki Racing Team).
Sykes aims to continue the good form shown at Donington, after the stunning double taken two Sundays ago at his home track. The reigning Champion had one of the best races in his career in race one, as he made his way up through the field after a poor opening lap to take a remarkable victory over teammate Loris Baz.
After missing out on the podium in the last outing, Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) is looking forward to competing at Sepang. The Ulsterman knows the track already despite not having raced there before, as he did a test for HRC back in late 2010. Rea currently sits second in the standings and he is tied in points with Frenchman Baz.
The Aprilia Racing Team paring of Sylvain Guintoli and Marco Melandri have vast experience of the Sepang International Circuit, having taken part in many events in the past at the venue. The two long straights of the Malaysian track may well suit the RSV4 factory machines and the two riders are hoping for strong results for different reasons: Guintoli is still well positioned in the title race as he lies fourth just 37 points from the top, while Melandri desperately needs a good performance after another difficult round of the season at Donington. Melandri stood on the podium at Sepang in 2007, as he crossed the line in second place in the MotoGP race behind winner Casey Stoner.
Despite being a new circuit for the eni FIM Superbike World Championship, many other riders have knowledge of the Sepang track: Chaz Davies (Ducati Superbike Team), Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike), Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki), Toni Elias (Red Devils Aprilia), Claudio Corti (MV Agusta RC – Yakhnich Motorsport) and Imre Toth (BMW Team Toth).
Aussie Bryan Staring, who is set to make his season debut at Sepang this weekend with Team Iron Brain Grillini Kawasaki, is the only entrant of the EVO class to have contested a race in Malaysia before. The battle for best in the new category is going to be as open as ever, with David Salom (Kawasaki Racing Team), Niccolò Canepa (Althea Racing Ducati), Leon Camier (BMW Motorrad Italia Superbike) and the rest of the EVO field ready to resume their battle for the top honours.
Standings (Round 5 of 13): 1. Sykes 185; 2. Rea 159; 3. Baz 159; 4. Guintoli 148; 5. Davies 109; 6. Melandri 97; 7. Giugliano 82; 8. Haslam 75; 9. Lowes 73; 10. Laverty 65; 11. Elias 65; 12. Salom 46; 13. Canepa 38; 14. Camier 20; 15. Scassa 16; 16. Foret 14; 17. Guarnoni 12; 18. Corti 10; 19. Morais 10; 20. Allerton 6; 21. Bos 5; 22. Andreozzi 4; 23. Fabrizio 2. Manufacturers: 1. Kawasaki 193; 2. Aprilia 162; 3. Honda 159; 4. Ducati 137; 5. Suzuki 115; 6. BMW 26; 7. MV Agusta 10.
The Supersport World Championship is gearing up for the first ever race of the series at Sepang. Of the top 10 riders in the title race, six of them have already raced at Sepang in the past, with the most successful on the Malaysian track being Roberto Rolfo (Team Go Eleven Kawasaki). The experienced Italian rider, currently ninth in the standings, was third in the 250cc Grand Prix race in both 2001 and 2002, while in 2010 he stood atop the Moto2 podium.
Unlike his teammate Lorenzo Zanetti, the current points leader Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Supersport) will have to learn the track during the racing weekend, likewise his closest rival in the standings Florian Marino (Intermoto Ponyexpres Kawasaki) and fourth-placed man Kev Coghlan (DMC-Panavto Yamaha).
Van der Mark has to look out for the likes of Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta RC – Yakhnich Motorsport) and Kenan Sofuoglu (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki), both eager to do well on a track they have knowledge of from the past. The Frenchman’s points situation is much more encouraging than the Turk’s as Cluzel lies at the moment in third place, 28 points shy of the leader, while Sofuoglu sits in seventh with a significant 52 point gap from the top.
Two more Italian riders are not new at the Sepang International Circuit, Raffaele De Rosa (CIA Insurance Honda) and Roberto Tamburini (San Carlo Puccetti Racing Kawasaki).
Standings (Round 5 of 12): 1. vd Mark 90; 2. Marino 76; 3. Cluzel 62; 4. Coghlan 60; 5. Zanetti 49; 6. De Rosa 45; 7. Sofuoglu 38; 8. Tamburini 37; 9. Rolfo 36; 10. Jacobsen 32; 11. Wahr 23; 12. Bussolotti 21; 13. Russo 21; 14. Menghi 19; 15. Kennedy 19; 16. Gamarino 16; 17. Leonov 13; 18. Wilairot 13; 19. Gowland 9; 20. Nocco 8; 21. Coveña 6; 22. Schmitter 3; 23. Calero 3; 24. Rogers 1. Manufacturers: 1. Honda 111; 2. Kawasaki 87; 3. Yamaha 70; 4. MV Agusta 70; 5. Triumph 9.