5 October 2006
Preview – Magny Cours.
Further back, DFX's Michel Fabrizio and Winston Ten Kate's Karl Muggeridge are about to experience the denouement of their own Honda civil war, while Yamaha Motor France's Norick Abe is out to leapfrog both of them on what could be his world championship farewell.
A double no-score for Sterilgarda Ducati's Ruben Xaus at Imola dropped him down the order but as a former race winner in France (in 2003) he knows his way around Magny-Cours on a Ducati. Third PSG-1 rider, Regis Laconi, is used to being the top placed French rider in SBK, but as he is currently only 15th in the championship and has never won a race in France his motivation will have a keen edge to it this weekend. The fact that he has yet to score a podium of any colour in 2006 is another reminder to watch the number 55 in action at his home track.
Former grand prix rider Roberto Rolfo has had occasional high points in his 2006 SBK rookie season, but Magny-Cours will be the final chance to end a disappointing recent run. Well behind Laconi in the current point standings, the Ducati rider is nonetheless well ahead of another SBK rookie, Shinichi Nakatomi, of Yamaha Motor France.
Despite missing some of the season, and no-scoring in Imola, Alstare Engineering Suzuki rider Max Neukirchner is overall 18th, with Petronas rider Steve Martin and third YMF competitor Sebastien Gimbert close behind. Magny-Cours will be the final outing for the Petronas FP-1 triple and both Martin, who will ride for DFX Honda next season, and rookie team-mate Craig Jones will be aiming to close the first chapter of Carl Fogarty's race team on a high.
The Petronas project has now run for five years, but a far longer WSBK career will be coming to an end on Sunday when Pierfrancesco Chili will start his record breaking 278th race, before finally hanging up his racing leathers for good, ending a glittering career in top flight racing. Arguably the most globally popular rider in the near 20-year history of the SBK series, Chili is sure to receive an emotional send-off, irrespective of his final race or championship positions.
In the World Supersport championship, a first place for Sebastien Charpentier and a second for Winston Ken Kate Honda team-mate Kenan Sofuoglu Imola has kept the battle for supremacy alive until the very last round of the year. With Yamaha Motor Germany's championship leader Kevin Curtain third at Imola, the Australian had his lead trimmed back to 18 points - but is still very much in the driving seat to take his first World Supersport crown, and Yamaha's first riders' championship since 2000.
Another fight, for third overall, is more finely balanced, with Sofuoglu on 137 and Curtain's team-mate Broc Parkes on 129.
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