The relatively new technical rules and regulations in World Superbike, combined with the latest generation of Japanese road going machinery, have allowed several new and existing WSBK teams to mount serious challenges, even with riders new to the whole discipline of Superbike racing.
Yamaha's multi-pronged effort is being led at present by an WSBK rookie – yet experienced Grand Prix competitor - Norick Abe, currently fifth overall for the Yamaha Fance team. One of several former WSS Champions in the field, Andrew Pitt, on the Factory Yamaha motor Italia bike, has had a fraught but fast introduction to his WSBK career, frequently running with the leaders. Abe's team-mate Sebastien Gimbert is another fast rookie who has shown his speed more than once.
Proven World Supersport runners in the biggest league this year, Klaffi Honda, have adopted the most experienced current SBK competitor of all, Pierfrancesco Chili, and promoted 2004's WSS Rookie of the Year Max Neukirchner. Having already been on the podium, Neukirchner is one of the stars of the show after only three rounds. Chili and Neukirchner have each lost points due to high speed falls, but enter Monza with the knowledge that they should be giving nothing away in terms of outright performance to any of their rivals. Karl Muggeridge is another high-profile WSBK rookie this year with the Winston Ten Kate Honda team, showing his obvious speed despite some misfortunes in race situations.
Ben Bostrom returned to the top ten fold at Valencia, overcoming some early season machinery issues just as soon as his technical package was completed. Both Bostrom and his Renegade team are serial WSBK race winners, and want to return to their days of glory before the season is out. Noriyuki Haga is an old sparring partner of Bostrom's and also awaits his first 2005 season podium, with his return to the Yamaha fold with the Motor Italia team.
Aussie pairing Garry McCoy and Steve Martin front-up the Petronas attack this year, running the unique three-cylinder 900s in their recently updated guise. Results in races have not quite matched some of their impressive qualifying performances, but it seems only a matter of time before one of the experienced duo rejoins the elite.
At Monza, most of the other 1000cc machines may just be too much for either Petronas runner to overcome, but in the case of bad weather, anything will be possible. Another technical interest will be present at Monza, as Italian wild card Andrea Mazzali points at the future for an historic racing manufacturer with ambition, riding a privately entered MV Agusta F4 1000 MT.
In Supersport Winston Ten Kate Honda rider Sebastien Charpentier has shown strength and pace to secure two wins from three, and the championship lead. His team-mate Katsuaki Fujiwara has shown that the Ten Kate squad is once more the team to beat in World Supersport; especially now they are armed with a heavily revised CBR600RR. Currently sitting 1-2 in the championship, with all race wins taken between them thus far, their main competitors are Yamaha Motor Germany pilot Kevin Curtain and the Team Italia Megabike Honda runners Fabien Foret and Michel Fabrizio. When fully fit, Broc Parkes, Curtain's Yamaha Germany team-mate, will be another serious threat to the Honda hegemony.
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