Crash.Net WSBK News
Preview – Magny-Cours
4 October 2007
Three riders are still in with a chance of absolute title glory - consisting of two seasoned WSBK campaigners and one 'rookie'.
Top of the trio is long-time championship leader James Toseland who left his home round at Brands Hatch in August as virtual champion elect, with a 66-point lead and eight race wins to his credit. But after two subsequent tough weekends, at Eurospeedway Lausitz and Vallelunga, the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider's lead has been cut to 29 points heading into his last WSBK race before starting a new career in MotoGP.
Toseland's two main championship rivals, Max Biaggi - of Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra - and Noriyuki Haga - Yamaha Motor Italia - have been encouraged by the #52's recent dramas, but both would pay a princely sum to have Toseland's advantage going into the final two races.
There are a total of 50 points up for grabs from any rider capable of winning both races in France.
The 2004 showdown saw Toseland claim his first world title in style - overturning a four point deficit to Ducati team-mate Regis Laconi. There are almost endless points permutations that would allow any of the top three riders to be crowned in France 2007, but should Toseland win race one the title would be his, no matter the outcome of the second race.
2006 champion Troy Bayliss is already out of the title fight, but the Ducati legend is the only rider capable of overhauling Toseland's total of race wins this year, having scored his seventh victory at the previous round.
In addition, the double world champion will be all-out to wave goodbye to the 1000cc twin-cylinder era with a win or two in France. Next year WSBK will allow 1200cc twins to compete against the 1000cc fours, albeit with numerous performance checks and balances in place, but having won the world title on a 999 in 2006, Bayliss wants to retire the machine on a high.
Another double SBK champion, Troy Corser is also chasing a last round victory - in Corser's case a first with the R1 during a debut season with Yamaha Italia that has already yielded eight podiums.
Lorenzo Lanzi will be riding in his final event for Ducati Xerox this weekend, where he will seek to keep satellite Ducati rider, and Valencia race winner, Ruben Xaus at bay in the fight for sixth in the standings.
Toseland's team-mate Roby Rolfo is a further 15 points behind Lanzi after he was forced to retire from the opener in Vallelunga. Rolfo is still looking for his first podium of the 2007 season as he seeks to secure a 2008 ride.
With a significant financial incentive up for grabs to the youngest rider to finish inside the top ten, ninth and tenth placed riders Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Germany) and Michel Fabrizio (DFX Corse Honda) are now locked in a personal battle for supremacy for more reasons than just personal pride and team honour.
Although 134 points behind Neukirchner, Fabrizio - who will replace Lanzi next season - is the younger rider and thus if he continues in the top ten, he will take the prize money on the last day.
Fabrizio just has to have a better final day than PSG-1 Kawasaki's Laconi, who is only one point behind Fabrizio in 11th place as he enters his home round. It is not yet clear if 12th placed Yukio Kagayama (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra) will be able to ride at Magny-Cours, after injury ruled him out of the previous round, but he travels to the French track in any case.
Fonsi Nieto will be out to end his Kawasaki Superbike career on a high, and has hopes that a pair of top tens will not be beyond his grasp. Currently 13th behind Kagayama, Nieto heads Jakub Smrz (SC Caracchi Ducati) Vallelunga top ten talent Shinichi Nakatomi (Yamaha YZF Team) and the ever-combative Karl Muggeridge (Alto Evolution Honda).
Muggeridge's team-mate Yoann Tiberio ends his first few races in WSBK with a home meeting, looking to secure points in both races, as he did at Vallelunga.
The 2007 title was long ago decided in the World Supersport championship, but should Kenan Sofuoglu score the race win at Magny-Cours he would carve out his own little piece of history in the class.
Currently he is on seven race wins, equalling the record of another former Ten Kate Honda champion, Karl Muggeridge, but a victory in France would set him out on his own on eight. He has reasons to be hopeful, having been on for the win in 2006 before finishing an easy second behind team leader Sebastien Charpentier, as the Frenchman stole the title.
Fabien Foret (GIL Kawasaki) had a dreadful time at Vallelunga but the mercurial French talent hopes his machine set-up will be optimised enough to allow him to keep second overall, as Broc Parkes (Yamaha World Supersport Team) is only 15 points adrift now.
Katsuaki Fujiwara (Althea Honda) will have to win the race at Magny-Cours and hope that Parkes does not score to get back into the third place he held for a long time this year but - while still nursing a recently broken left foot - he may have more to worry about from behind, as Massimo Roccoli (Yamaha Lorenzini by Leoni) is now only nine points adrift of the Japanese ace, despite a DNF in Italy.