Preview – Brno
18 July 2007
Brno is the perfect place to get competitive action back on the agenda, after two recent test sessions - one at Brno for the top tyre development teams only, and then a more recent outing to new track of Vallelunga for all the SBK and WSS teams who wished to attend.
James Toseland on his Hannspree Ten Kate Honda may have looked like a clear championship bet after four or five rounds, but as round nine approaches, his rivals are massing on the borders of his reduced 21-point championship lead.
Twenty-one may be an ominous number all round, as it is the race number of his new number one threat, Troy Bayliss aboard the Ducati Xerox machine who currently leads Noriyuki Haga from Yamaha Motor Italia by five points. Between the top three there have been 13 victories in 15 attempts (after one cancelled race at Silverstone robbed everyone of the scheduled 16th).
In fourth place, some 43 points behind Toseland, is Max Biaggi on the Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra who has frequently found himself in a new situation this season, but at Brno at least he not only has previous knowledge from many years of GP racing and winning in the Czech Republic, but he also relies on recent experience on his 2007 GSX-R1000. A recent top team's tyre development test gave Biaggi valuable track time, and the previous GSX-R has won three of the last four SBK races outright. Two of those victories came for Biaggi's team-mate, Yukio Kagayama who was unstoppable in race trim in 2006, winning both races easily.
Troy Corser is currently fifth overall in the championship chase, some 78 points from leader Toseland, and looking for his first 2007 win. The third most successful SBK race winner ever, Corser has scored 33 race wins and 111 podiums in his glittering career, and has previous experience of being a Brno race winner, during his second championship winning season in 2005.
Lorenzo Lanzi is an SBK race winner of yore but his more immediate task this year is to hold off the attentions of the only rider outside the top four to have won a race in 2007, Ruben Xaus of Sterilgarda Ducati. Lanzi is sixth and with Xaus only three points behind, he will have to make good friends with Brno again early in the race weekend to keep his nose in front of the potent privateer rider.
Roby Rolfo has had some difficult periods since his move to the official Honda team but the flashes of excellence he undoubtedly has may well find Brno a great conductor this weekend. It is a circuit ex-GP rider Rolfo knows very well, as he fights to hold onto his top ten status. For the privateer wünderkid Max Neukirchner riding for Suzuki Germany, Rolfo is an immediate target, and only nine points ahead.
A good recent test for Regis Laconi in the PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse and Fonsi Nieto needs to be translated into strong results in each Brno race, to allow the talented Kawasaki twins to scale the heights of the top ten before the season concludes. Laconi is currently 11th, 13 points behind Kagayama's Suzuki, with Nieto 14th, 26 points from his team-mate. Splitting the Kawasakis in the championship table right now are two very different riders, on very different machines. In 12th place, Michel Fabrizio was a double Brno podium force in 2006, aboard last year's DFX Corse Honda, with Jakub Smrz only six points behind him currently, riding to his relatively venerable Caracchi Ducati SC 999.
Josh Brookes is out of the SBK limelight now and very firmly in the forefront of the Supersport stars, with his old Alto Evolution team-mate Karl Muggeridge staying put to see out the season in the Superbike class. Shinichi Nakatomi riding for the Yamaha YZF Team, Luca Morelli of DFX Honda Corse, Alessandro Polita on the Celani Suzuki and Dean Ellison are also privateer riders to watch, while a bit of local flavour comes from wild card rider, Milos Cihak on the Prorace Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Kenan Sofuoglu has been a fixture at the top of the championship table this year, and his recently extended gap of 61 points over Fabien Foret of GIL Kawasaki is a formidable step to make up with only five rounds left. The endlessly dramatic season in WSS continues apace, with Katsuaki Fujiwara on the Althea Honda in third, and with big name riders both leaving and joining the series since the last competitive round at Misano in June.
Robbin Harms riding for Stiggy Motorsports Honda is now joined by proven WSS race winner Joshua Brookes, while double WSS race winner Anthony West has now chosen to race in another class entirely.
After the previous Misano round Barry Veneman on the Pioneer Hoegee Suzuki is sixth, with the top placed regular Yamaha rider proving to be Broc Parkes on the Yamaha World Supersport Team seventh. Radomil Rous Riding for KRTZ IV Yamaha and his team-mate Michal Filla join the regular WSS ranks as wildcard riders this weekend.
The biggest race in the SBK voyage, Brands Hatch, takes place on August 5, before the traditional August break in the calendar. Round 11 of 13, at EuroSpeedway Lausitz on September 9, brings the series back to life again.