The Corona Extra Superbike World Championship may only be reaching its 2005 halfway point at Misano this weekend, but it is already looking like mission impossible for some riders as they attempt to rein in runaway points leader Troy Corser.
Even Alstare Suzuki team-mate Yukio Kagayama, currently second in the championship, is 78 points behind the experienced Australian, and that sort of deficit has only been seen twice after ten races in the history of superbike racing, with Carl Fogarty enjoying a 95-point lead over Aaron Slight in 1995, and Neil Hodgson carrying 113 points over James Toseland two years ago. In both cases, the championship went to the leader at that point.
The most amazing comeback after the tenth round happened in 2002, when Colin Edwards was able to overcome a 38-point gap to Troy Bayliss and go on to win the title with an eleven-point advantage. By contrast, the slightest tenth round advantage was recorded last year, when just two points separated Ducati Fila riders Toseland and Regis Laconi, with the Briton going on to win the championship by only nine points.
If Corser manages to finish on the rostrum after both races at Misano this weekend, he will be able to boast 13 podiums on the Santamonica circuit, the second highest total of all time for any one circuit. The record holder for podium finishes per circuit is Fogarty, who managed to climb on the rostrum 15 times at Assen. Corser's quest will be aided by the fact that the Australian has a stunning record at Misano, where he is the only rider to have climbed onto the podium more than ten times. With fastest laps, pole positions and 262 points also to his credit at the Italian venue, the rest have been warned.
Despite the apparent Corser dominance, there are other current riders that have performed well at Misano in the past. Laconi has been in the top four in all races in the past couple of years - taking third, fourth, first and second in 2003-04 - while current Yamaha Italia hero Nori Haga has been there or thereabouts too. Klaffi Honda's Frankie Chili, meanwhile, has fitted a couple of wins and four third places in between six retirements at the Circuit Adriatico. It doesn't make such great reading for the Brits, however, with reigning champion Toseland racking up just one second place - in 2003 -and nothing else in the top five, and PSG-1 Kawasaki's Chris Walker 'boasting' just one fifth place finish in six outings.
Corser's recent winning run came to an end last time out at Silverstone, where the Suzuki rider had to give second best to Ducati twins Laconi and Toseland, who won a race apiece. That is particularly good news for the Italian camp ahead of one of its home rounds, especially as the second race at Misano in 2004 saw the Borgo Panigale marque put six bikes in the first six places with Chili, Laconi, Steve Martin, Haga, Leon Haslam and future world champion Toseland. In all, Ducati has gained a grand total of 50 podiums and 18 victories in Misano, records for the series.
The Italian manufacturer is in the middle of a Misano winning streak that started in 2001. It is now eight races since the last non-Ducati win was posted, by Corser - who else - and the Aprilia RSV 1000 in 2000. The same streak applies to pole positions, with Corser's Aprilia the last non-Ducati to head the grid, also in 2000. Indeed, on only three occasions has Ducati been prevented from qualifying fastest at Misano, with 's rivals managed to conquer the pole position in Misano, the other two being Akira Yanagawa in 1997 and Scott Russell in 1994, both on Kawasakis.
Yanagawa's pole speed of 156.331kph still registers as the fastest average around the 4.6km version of Misano, with Toseland's 2004 effort of 'only' 150.956kph the slowest, after the Briton took top spot in the rain.
It may be 75 race since Haga last set pole position - at Sugo in 2002 to exact - and ten since he recorded his last win - Magny-Cours in 2004 - but 'Nitro Nori' heads to Misano buoyed by a race two podium at Silverstone. Chili, meanwhile, is hoping for a happy return to one of his home tracks, having last won when the series visited Misano in 2004. Laconi could be the pre-race favourite, however, having not suffered a mechanically-induced retirement for some 30 races - if the Frenchman can remain on board, Corser could find himself a race-long rival.
One other milestone of note... since Colin Edwards defection to MotoGP, America has struggled to find a WSBK replacement, and Misano mark the 1000th day since anyone from the land of the free took a pole, win, fastest lap or podium finish in the international series. Over to you, Mr Bostrom...