Preview - Vallelunga
27 September 2007
Work at the 4.110km circuit, located some 30km north of the Italian capital city of Rome, has been ongoing for months to get the paddock and facilities ready for the biggest event the track has ever held.
The circuit will feature some unique challenges and it includes both ultra-slow and ultra-fast corners. Despite most of the top teams and riders having tested at Vallelunga at some stage, this will be a new experience for many of them in real race conditions.
Hannspree Ten Kate Honda's James Toseland will enter the penultimate round a reduced 41 points ahead of rider #41 Noriyuki Haga. However, despite gaining ground at Lausitz, the Yamaha Italia pilot needs to keep Toseland's title lead under 50 points by the end of Sunday's two races to prevent the Briton seizing his second world crown one round early.
With local hero Max Biaggi only another 12 points further from Toseland's total of 375, Haga's position is also under potential threat - and the former MotoGP star would like nothing better than a first ever double victory in front of his home fans.
Even the perennial fighting qualities of Ducati's reigning double world champion Troy Bayliss may not be enough to make up the 79 points he finds himself behind Toseland, while another double champion, Troy Corser, lags 42 points behind Bayliss.
The previous round at Eurospeedway Lausitz had a significant effect on the clash just behind the 'big five'. Tough weekends for both Sterilgarda Ducati's Ruben Xaus and Ducati Xerox's Lorenzo Lanzi allowed Toseland's team-mate Roby Rolfo to push his way towards a possible top six. Xaus is currently on 177 points, Lanzi on 173 and Rolfo on 166, making Vallelunga another pivotal race for all three of them.
Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Germany) and Yukio Kagayama (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra) currently complete the top ten, with 14 points between them. Two other riders are determined to make themselves top ten men before the end of the year, however, as Regis Laconi (PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse) is a bare three points adrift of Kagayama's current total, and 2008 factory Ducati signing Michel Fabrizio (DFX Corse Honda) is only a point behind Laconi. Like Biaggi, Fabrizio is another local rider on a mission in front of his home support.
The middle order of the current points standings contains two former 250GP forces to be reckoned with, Fonsi Nieto (PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse) and Jakub Smrz (Caracchi Ducati), respectively 13th and 14th in the standings. Some way back in points comes the first Alto Evolution Honda rider, Karl Muggeridge, who has had a more than eventful year. It continues to this moment, as he is tied on points with Shinichi Nakatomi (Yamaha YZF Team). Muggeridge's new team-mate Yoann Tiberio, will be back for his second taste of SBK action.
Hannspree Ten Kate Honda's Kenan Sofuoglu has already secured the World Supersport title, but behind him the battle for a top championship position is still alive.
Fabien Foret (GIL Kawasaki) hopes that his 26 point lead over third place rider Broc Parkes (Yamaha World Supersport Team) will be enough to leave him on championship runner-up status, but as Parkes has won the last two races, Foret will have to display all his riding credentials to keep himself ahead of the aggressive Australian, whom he will join in the official Yamaha squad next season.
In fourth place comes Katsuaki Fujiwara (Althea Honda) with Massimo Roccoli (Yamaha Lorenzini by Leoni) only three points behind. With no previous formbook to refer to, local knowledge may play into the hands of the Italian-based riders, as Vallelunga is an integral part of their domestic series.
After the SBK legions break camp in the hills outside Rome, a quick forced march to France will bring them to Magny-Cours for the last round of the championship on 7th October.