The Santamonica Circuit at Misano Adriatico is a perennial favourite on the World Superbike calendar, the seaside venue offering a holiday atmosphere to both fans and teams alike - away from the intensity of competition at the racetrack at least.
The San Marino round takes place in its traditional mid-summer slot once more, with high expectations of seasonal sunshine blessing the 4.060km circuit throughout race weekend.
Misano offers a wide contrast of corners over its relatively short 4km length, with the triple lefts leading onto the back straight posing a unique challenge for all riders, and juxtaposed with long hairpins at Tramonto, Curva de Rio and Curva del Carro. Races have been won and lost on the approach and exit of the final chicane, the Variante del Parco, and the exceptionally high track temperatures mean the left hand side of the tyres will undergo a severe workout over full race distance. One of the toughest challenges of the year; one of the most enjoyable for the fans.
Troy Bayliss (Ducati Xerox) is the man for the rest of the 28 regular SBK competitors and three wildcards to beat, sitting as he does with a clear lead over his peers after five rounds and ten races. Having won seven in-a-row so far, Bayliss returns to another of his team's home tracks with expectations of more wins, but right behind him are two riders who have already beaten him this season, and another who is capable of beating anyone on his day.
This far 2005 Champion Troy Corser (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra) has scored two wins, but two non-finishes have left him some 76 points behind Bayliss. James Toseland (Winston Ten Kate Honda) has scored one win thus far, and is likely to begin the Misano weekend with a new electronics package on his Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR, after recent test at Brno. Currently fourth overall, Toseland is only four points down on Yamaha's leading light of the 2006 year so far, Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia). Four times a podium finisher already, Haga will be pushing for a win on his team's native soil, partnered by another proven podium finisher in '06, Andrew Pitt (Yamaha Motor Italia), currently sixth overall.
Alex Barros (Klaffi Honda) has entered World Superbike at a very high level, and has already taken a trio of podium finishes. He hopes for even more from the Misano weekend, as he has tested a full race spec CBR1000RR at Misano already this year, a luxury he has not previously enjoyed since his move over from MotoGP. In a one-man team, Barros can only improve as his SBK experience grows, and he looks to the second half of the season with confidence of scoring consistently high points throughout.
The aforementioned Pitt lies sixth, with two heavy hitting Ducati riders immediately behind. Lorenzo Lanzi's form has been changeable in his first full factory season for the Ducati Xerox team, but he sits in seventh place, six points ahead of Ducati privateer Ruben Xaus (Sterilgarda Berik Ducati). Having just missed out on a podium in race one at the most recent Silverstone round, Xaus looks to Misano as another opportunity to show his outstanding prowess, especially around the triple lefts of the Curva Grande.
The second year of SBK competition for Norick Abe (Yamaha Motor France Ipone) has been another mixed bag, with injury interspersed by some great individual performances, most notably at Valencia where he scored a brace of fourth places. He currently ties on 51 points with top Kawasaki runner Chris Walker (PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse), with the Englishman still looking for his first podium of '06. Walker's classy team-mates, Fonsi Nieto and Regis Laconi now sit 11th and 14th respectively. The Kawasaki Bertocchi squad once more features their latest recruit Joshua Brookes, after the exit of Franco Battaini before the previous Silverstone round.
The championship top 12 is currently rounded out by another former MotoGP rider of great skill, Roberto Rolfo (Team Ducati SC Caracchi) who has nonetheless found the challenge of World Superbike every bit as tough as any he has faced before. Injury and bad luck are capable of holding back the championship push of many a top rider, so don't be surprised to see big names like Karl Muggeridge (Winston Ten Kate Honda, currently 13th), Yukio Kagayama (Alstare Corona Extra Suzuki, currently 16th) and Michel Fabrizio (DFX Treme Honda, currently 15th) reasserting themselves this weekend. Returning to the fray at his home track is SBK legend Pierfrancesco Chili (DFX Treme Honda), back from recent pelvic and shoulder injuries.