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WSB Preview : Races 11 and 12 : Hockenheim.

If the slipstreaming battles of Monza are something special then Hockenheim can be out of this world. The track itself may lack character and provide little challenge for the riders, but the spectacle it provides is something else.

Honda's Colin Edwards clearly had the bike to beat at Monza a fortnight ago and is likely to be the man to beat once again at the German circuit. The VTR1000 excels on power circuit's and none is more powerful than Hockenheim. On this occasion Aaron Slight on the second Honda should provide a closer challenge to the Texan as his fitness improves every time he gets on a bike. The New Zealander suffered greatly in the heat of Monza but temperatures in Germany are likely to be far more tolerable.

Edwards has already won three events this year and holds a clear lead over Noriyuki Haga and Pierfranceso Chili in the championship. Haga will be hoping that a few minor engine modifications on his Yamaha will provide him with an extra boost on a track where the team is expected to struggle. Haga lost his championship lead during the course of the Monza weekend and desperately needs a good result to take some pressure off his back.

Chili wrung the neck of his Suzuki around Monza to provide Edwards' only real opposition, stealing the win in race one at the famous track. The Italian is now just behind Haga in the championship and has his best chance ever of clinching the World Superbike title. Chili won here last year and knows the bike is capable of challenging the Honda. It will take another extra special effort from the flamboyant Chili if he is to challenge the Honda's though.

The current musical chairs situation at Ducati may have a negative effect in their on-track performance. In is Troy Bayliss who performed so well at Monza. The Australian has secured a ride in the factory team for the rest of the season but will have to learn quickly as Hockenheim is another track where he has no experience. In is Juan Borja who has been drafted in to the factory effort for the time being. The Spanish ex-GP rider has far more experience of the European tracks than Bayliss and his experience will prove invaluable for the team. Out is Ben Bostrom, he has moved to replace Borja in the satellite NCR Ducati outfit. The American is still very much under contract to Ducati and has been moved to allow him to gain more experience without the pressure of a factory bike hanging over him. Bostrom also has no experience of many European tracks and the factory Ducati Infostrada outfit could not afford to have two riders (Bostrom and Bayliss) with no collective knowledge of the circuits they were racing on. Ducati have traditionally been strong at Hockenheim, it just remains to be seen whether each rider can adapt quickly enough to their new environments in time for Sunday's races.

Kawasaki and Aprilia are two more team's not relishing the prospect of Hockenheim's long straights. For Aprilia, their problem was apparent at Monza for Troy Corser could simply not keep pace with the leaders. The bike is still being developed and the team knows that more power will become available over time but for this weekend, Corser is in for a struggle.

Kawasaki have been boosted by the return of Simon Crafar to the fold as replacement for the injured Gregorio Lavilla. Crafar spent the most successful years of his Superbike career on the bright green machines and although the team are down on power compared to Honda and Ducati, if he and Akira Yanagawa stay in the draft they could be in contention for victory.

Anthony Gobert is still struggling with his various injuries sustained at Sugo and his Bimota is not expected to feature strongly, but it won't be for the lack of trying. Gobert will be hoping for two points scoring finishes after a double failure at Monza.

Once again the privateers are out in force and a full 34 bike grid is expected at Hockenheim. Of the non factory bikes, the quartet of Red Bull sponsored Ducati's are likely to pose the biggest threat to the works riders. This race is very important to the energy-drink firm and it is heavily backing both the Gerin and Reve team's. Gerin have Andy Meklau and Robert Ulm on the saddle while Reve take a break from the British Championship to let John Reynolds and James Haydon thrash it out with the big boys.

Of the 'big boys' Colin Edwards looks to be the biggest.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Pierfrancesco Chili - Team Suzuki Alstare Corona Extra
Aaron Slight - Castrol Honda

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