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World Superbike Preview: Round 12 – Oschersleben
7 September 2000
The newly constructed Oschersleben circuit will provide a tough challenge for the World Superbike riders, few of whom have any experience of the twisty 2.28-mile circuit.
There are just 100 points left to play for in this year's gripping World Superbike Series and there are still three riders in with a chance of the title heading into the penultimate round of the series at Oschersleben this weekend.
Colin Edwards and Noriyuki Haga both scored a victory a piece last time out at Assen which means that for Troy Corser, this weekend will make or break his title chase. The Australian Aprilia rider is now 38 points behind Edwards and he must use the Aprilia's nimble characteristics to good effect around the ten turn course to avoid being eliminated from contention altogether.
Edwards meanwhile will have to manhandle the bigger Honda VTR 1000 with the same bravado that he used in the deluge that was race one at Assen. The American said that he had to perform in Holland and he was true to his word, even if his dry weather set-up was not on a par with Haga in race two.
The Japanese rider could possibly be making his final appearance of the year if the Court of Arbitration for Sport rule against him and his Yamaha team in their ongoing Ephedrine appeal on October 12th. Haga was electric at Assen, a circuit that he does not rank amongst his favourites and is just 20 points behind Edwards. The Japanese rider may be leaving Superbikes next year for a factory Yamaha Grand Prix ride and so it could be now or never for the most exciting man on two wheels today.
Amongst those who could spoil the party are Troy Bayliss, Juan Borja, Akira Yanagawa and Peter Goddard, all of whom are capable of victory this weekend. Bayliss was unlucky to record two non-finishes at Assen but was on course for a victory in race one until he was caught out by the conditions, further proof that the young Australian needs just two days of practice to learn even the most difficult of circuits.
The Ducati 996 is still the class of the field when it comes to the overall package and both Bayliss and Borja, who put in his best Superbike showing by far with a double podium last weekend, will be a factor this weekend. With the Manufacturers Championship still very much in the balance both riders will want to salvage something from what could have been a disaster year for Ducati.
Kawasaki also look like potential winners, as they are one of the only teams to have any experience of the track that opened for business in 1997. The KRT squad have added a third member to their ranks this weekend in the form of Goddard, who has racked up many testing miles at the track and who performed strongly in his stint with the team earlier this year. Yanagawa is coming off his first podium finish for ten races and the Japanese star is keen to show that there are two potential champions from the 'Land of the Rising Sun' currently in the series.
With many riders and teams stepping into the unknown when practice begins Sunday's two races are still wide open, especially when you add the fickle German weather into the mix, several other potential front-runners begin to emerge.
Doriano Romboni made a brave comeback for the R&D Bieffe Ducati outfit at Assen and cemented his place on the leaderboard with two points scoring finishes. The veteran Italian was especially impressive in the wet where he finished seventh in his first race for some 18 months.
Alessandro Gramigni was another star and was easily the best true privateer all weekend. Despite falling to 14th in race one, the Valli Racing Yamaha rider made amends with a superb sixth place just eight seconds behind Edwards.
The Gerin Red Bull Ducati team are another outfit that thrive on short tracks and both Robert Ulm and Andy Meklau should be consistent top 15 runners. Meklau is fighting for a place in the top ten overall and the Austrian team will have a major fan base to cheer them on this weekend.
However the form guide will only reveal itself once practice begins on Friday and despite the 'Mickey Mouse' characteristics of the circuit, you can count on a massive, fanatical crowd to make it one of the biggest events of the year, unless it rains.
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