23 May 2007
Preview - Silverstone.
It is only apt that the former airfield circuit of Silverstone will have its weekend on-track action publicised by an aerobatic display at nearby Sywell Aerodrome on the Thursday proceeding race weekend proper. It is also particularly fitting as a British rider, Hannspree Ten Kate Honda's James Toseland, arrives in his native land as the high-flying championship leader once more.
Despite leaving Monza without a win two weeks ago, the first round he has not been victorious at since he started his 2007 campaign, Toseland has nonetheless extended his championship lead still further. He is now 35 points ahead of his nearest challenger. Toseland knows what it is like to win at Silverstone, having taken race two in 2005, but he will be fighting the recent formbook at the 3.561km circuit. The last four wins have been scored by riders on factory 999 Ducatis. Toseland has already won a race in the UK, taking the first race victory at Donington.
Toseland may have been the convincing force since the start of the season, but after a dominant Monza weekend for Noriyuki Haga on the Yamaha Motor Italia Toseland has a new rider and machine threat to concentrate on more closely. Haga's double win displaced Max Biaggi on the Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra from overall second (albeit by only three points) making the Silverstone tussle between the Yamaha and Suzuki riders a battle to be enjoyed in itself.
Troy Bayliss aboard the Ducati Xerox is the fourth serious threat to Toseland's championship lead at the halfway point of the season, having put a gap of 29 point between himself and the frequently luckless SBK champion of 2005, Troy Corser on the second Yamaha Motor Italia.
Nonetheless, Bayliss has work to do it catch up with the fight for second, never mind the attack on Toseland's lead, but his recent form at Silverstone and the circuit's tight and twisty nature make it an ideal spot to pull back points in partnership with the flickable and torquey Ducati 999F07.
Lorenzo Lanzi, team-mate to Bayliss and Ruben Xaus on the Sterilgarda Ducati both became the last two riders on 100-plus points scores at Monza, despite unlucky results in Italy. Each is a proven race winner, Xaus most recently at his home circuit in Valencia, Spain, but after Monza they have some serious competition coming up from behind. Roby Rolfo, Toseland's team-mate was in near race-winning form two weeks ago and if what he says is true - that he has made a set-up and confidence breakthrough - a new chair has just been pulled up at the top table of World Superbike yet again.
Rolfo's immediate championship target is the highly talented German rider, Max Neukirchner riding for Suzuki Germany who sits in overall eighth place, on 81 points. The last rider in the current top ten is an SBK factory team regular, and a former British championship contender, Yukio Kagayama on the Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra.
Michel Fabrizio riding for DFX Corse Honda leads the fight in the mid-table slots, with the young Roman rider looking to get back onto the podium soon. He is only one point behind Kagayama at present, in 11th, and has a scrum of riders just behind him going into Silverstone. In what has been a tough season so far for the factory Kawasaki runners, Regis Laconi and Fonsi Nieto are still looking for a genuine podium-threatening performance from their riding packages, as they languish in a very uncomfortable 12th and 13th places respectively.
The top 15 is rounded out by the startling effective Jakub Smrz on the Ducati SC Caracchi who has taken to SBK racing like a seasoned veteran, despite being a rookie rider and finally Josh Brookes riding the Alto Evolution Honda. Both Brookes and his team-mate Karl Muggeridge are overcoming the reliability problems that have afflicted their machines this season and each showed their own speed in qualifying at Monza, going fifth and third on day one.
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