Preview - Misano
19 June 2003
Just one week after two of the most closely contest World Superbike races in recent history, at Silverstone, San Marino hosts what is expected to be a superheated next round at the Misano Adriatico circuit, Italy.
Situated behind the Adriatic Riviera towns of Riccione and Cattolica, which become a summer playground for visitors from all over Italy, the Misano Adriatico circuit has hosted 12 previous World Superbike rounds, in an unbroken sequence from 1991 to 2003.
Legendary names such as Fogarty, Corser, Chili, Polen, Falappa, Kocinski, Russell, Slight and Bayliss have all won races at the compact Misano track, a circuit which has experienced ambient temperatures of up to 40°C in the run-up to this year's race weekend.
The track itself is something of a torture chamber for tyres, with so many extreme lean angle left hand corners in its relatively short 4.060km length. Most bends are slow and technical but a flat out blast through the gearbox, from the Curva del Caro to the exit of the third left-handed section of the awe-inspiring Curvone, marks Misano out as a uniquely challenging circuit on the WSBK trail.
Always a popular venue for the enthusiastic Italian fans, Misano has been a happy hunting ground for some notable names in the current SBK paddock. Pierfrancesco Chili and Troy Corser have both taken wins at the venue, but for current runaway championship leader Neil Hodgson, Misano will be another new world for him to conquer, should he continue his rich seam of form.
Eleven wins from 12 attempts sums up his season better than a thousand words of prose, but for Hodgson, Misano may prove to be a crucible, rather than an opportunity to bag another golden cup.
Hodgson's single defeat thus far took place at Oschersleben in Germany, on a similar track to Misano and in hot weather conditions, and thus the man who sits second in the table at present will fancy his chances to repeat his Oschersleben race two victory.
HM Plant Ducat's James Toseland was that man, although his second position in the title race is a closely contested one.
Ruben Xaus, Hodgson's team-mate in the Ducati Fila team, is a close third, after two podium performances in England ended a run of bad luck and crashes from the outrageously talented Catalan. His performances may be unpredictable but his ability to push the motorcycle to feats of breathtaking bravado put him in an all action class of his own.
On a fully private machine, NCR Ducati's Regis Laconi will still be a threat at such a technical circuit, while Misano may be a venue that Alstare Suzuki's Gregorio Lavilla can take his first win of the year. Proving beyond doubt the prowess of himself and his four-cylinder 1000cc machine, Lavilla has been a major star this season.
Injury and pain have held back the title charge of Chris Walker, but with every week that passes without injury for the enthusiastic Englishman, Walker's chances of repeating his podium finished increase exponentially.
For Chili home tarmac has always been a bitter sweet experience, but even on a privateer machine the 38 year old will be a threat, having scored a win at Misano in 1997.
DFX rider Steve Martin heads up a gaggle of fast Ducati privateers yet to win a race: Juan Borja and Marco Borciani (his team-mates) will be out for a big points haul, Lucio Pedercini on his self entered machine is always capable of a strong performance, especially when flanked by his team-mates Nello Russo and Serafino Foti.
Walter Tortoroglio rides a WET Honda VTR1000 on home ground again, while his local riders Ivan Clementi and Mauro Sanchini battle the 1000cc machines on their ex-factory Bertocchi Kawasaki 750s.
Alessandro Gramigni is a big name wild-card on his Team Nuvolari 391 Yamaha R1, and a host of other Italian WSBK regulars will be out to get their names on the WSBK point's ladder in 2003.
In the World Supersport Championship the seemingly limitless talent and speed of Ten Kate's Chris Vermeulen has taken him to four wins out of six, the only others scoring full points so far being Alstrare Suzuki's Katsuaki Fujiwara and Yamaha Geremany's Christian Kellner.
Vermeulen's outstanding performances have drawn him 47 points clear of his competitors, the closest of them being Belgarda Yamaha's Jurgen van den Goorbergh who has scored numerous podiums but no win so far.
Former Misano race winners who will be back in Italy this year include 2000 World Champion Jörg Teuchert (Yamaha Motor Germany), 2002 champion Fabien Foret (Kawasaki Racing Team) as well as Kellner.
A podium place for Vermeulen's team-mate Karl Muggeridge may have broken the hex that had appeared to plague his results in the first half of the season, while any number of the 19 full factory machines in World Supersport could be in for a podium finish.