Preview – Lausitz
7 September 2006
Despite falling in the rain of race one at Assen last weekend, Troy Bayliss arrives at Eurospeedway Lausitz in Germany with an increased 100 point advantage over James Toseland as the 2006 Corona Extra title creeps inevitably towards the Australian.
The hunt for Bayliss may have got all the harder after most of his immediate championship rivals endured tough weekends at Assen, but in the war for other championship positions, Assen's results have pushed even more riders into the frame for top three finishes come season end, at Magny-Cours in France, on October 8.
Bayliss' race two win at Assen was his tenth of the season, but came after PSG-1 Kawasaki's Chris Walker scored the first race win of his entire WSBK career in race one, making the Englishman the seventh rider in the top eight of the championship to have taken at least one race win in the 2006 season.
At Lausitz, the possibilities of other riders notching up a victory are very much alive, despite Bayliss' impressive record of scoring three wins in four attempts at the German track. The only other currently active WSBK rider to win a race at Lausitz is none other than his 2006 Ducati Xerox team-mate Lorenzo Lanzi, who took his first ever WSBK victory at Lausitz in race two last year.
No one involved in WSBK racing expects any drop off in the personal points battle between second placed Toseland - set to spend a second season with Ten Kate in WSBK next season - and Yamaha's perennial title challenger Noriyuki Haga. Each has scored one race win, eight podiums in total and are only separated by two points - with 150 still up for grabs for any rider who can win every remaining race.
Haga's team-mate Andrew Pitt was the top points scorer in the previous round at Assen and now sits fourth place in the title chase, 33 points behind his team-mate Haga, but with a high confidence level being pushed along by the momentum of three podium finishes in a row, including two second places at Assen, each in vastly different conditions.
At the tight Lausitz track all riders will face a very different challenge from the high speed G-force ride around some sections of Assen, but Pitt has proven nothing if not adaptable this year. As Pitt's fortunes have swung upwards, reigning champion Troy Corser has found his season on a downward spiral since even before the mid-season break, having scored no podium places since Monza, way back in May! The Alstare Suzuki rider provided the most consistent early season challenge to Bayliss but six DNFs in 18 races have had an obviously detrimental effect on his campaign, and he enters Lausitz fifth overall.
Klaffi Honda's Alex Barros will find himself in an unusual situation on the entry to Lausitz, having carried out a successful test at the German circuit earlier in the year, posting competitive lap times on a machine which is now improved after some engine modifications before Assen. An unhappy Dutch weekend has not aided his Lausitz preparations, but the Brazilian star will once more be out to eradicate his record of being the only rider in the top eight to not have won at least one race so far. Riding for a German-speaking team, a debut WSBK win for the MotoGP veteran would be a popular outcome for both the German fans and neutrals alike.
Walker's breakthrough win provided Kawasaki with its first WSBK victory since 2000, but the PSG-1 team is set to drop from three to two riders next season - meaning that either Walker, Fonsi Nieto or Regis Laconi will have to go. Nieto also improved his own chances of survival with a debut WSBK podium in race two, increasing the pressure on multiple race winner Laconi to join his team-mates on the rostrum.
Meanwhile, a fine fifth place in race two at Assen marked a season's best for Ruben Xaus, who will stay with the Sterilgarda Berik Ducati squad in 2007. Lausitz has been occasionally good to him in the past, and he hopes that his machinery will allow him to challenge once more, as he attempts break into the top ten at season's end. Currently 12th, he leads a talented trio of Norick Abe, Laconi and Karl Muggeridge, which completes the top 15.
Ducati SC Caracchi's Roberto Rolfo has had an eventful rookie season so far, but the missing link has this been the fortune to have his machinery match his obvious talents at the right time and place. He is nonetheless fully 32 points ahead of his closest championship challenger, another rookie, Shinichi Nakatomi of Yamaha Motor France. Sebastien Gimbert, Nakatomi's team-mate, injured his back in a crash at Assen, and is now almost certain to miss Lausitz.
Young German rider Max Neukirchner will have the best wishes of the large German crowd riding pillion with him at Lausitz, as he takes part in his second meeting with his new Alstare Engineering team. Sixth on his Suzuki debut in race one at Assen, only a fall stopped his double points score, but much is expected this weekend at the same circuit where he had his first shakedown laps for Alstare. Neukirchner's former Klaffi Honda team-mate Pierfrancesco Chili (DFX Honda) hopes to make Lausitz a high-point of his season so far and get back into the top 20 again.
Steve Martin give Foggy Petronas its bets results of the team's final season with 12th and 11th places at Assen, despite his power disadvantage on the 900cc triple, and another Aussie force, Josh Brookes (Bertocchi Kawasaki) earned his first point of the season, with a single for 15th in race two. Each is out for points again, while Martin's team-mate Craig Jones is after his first points score of the year.
For the first time this year Yamaha's Kevin Curtain enters a World Supersport event with a clear championship lead, after scoring second behind Kenan Sofuoglu at Assen, while main championship rival Sebastien Charpentier managed only fourth, giving Curtain a seven point advantage over the reigning world champion.
The championship battle will continue this weekend, where Curtain will be without his team-mate Broc Parkes, who sustained three broken ribs and a punctured lung in a heavy crash at Assen and will be replaced by Fabien Foret.