29 October 2008
Portimao - Preview.
The 2008 World Superbike Championship reaches its conclusion at the brand new Portimao circuit this weekend, when newly-crowned triple world champion Troy Bayliss will make his final appearance before retirement.
Built in less than a year at a projected cost of almost 200 million Euros, the challenging Portimao track is currently undergoing its finishing touches, but it promises to be one of the most spectacular circuits in Europe and is a fitting climax for both this year's championships and the career of a World Superbike legend.
Bayliss was crowned champion for the third time one month ago at Magny-Cours and the 39-year-old Ducati star will hang up his leathers after a glittering Superbike career that began as a wild-card at Phillip Island in 1997.
Troy has been at the top of his game for the past eleven years - during which he also won the British Superbike championship and spent three seasons in MotoGP - and will be aiming to bow out on top, just as he did in grand prix racing.
The battle for the runner-up slot is also keeping the end of season alive as just nine points separate Yamaha Motor Italia WSB team-mates, Noriyuki Haga (325 points) and Troy Corser (316).
Both riders have plenty to aim for as they tackle their final races for Yamaha; Haga will be aiming to finish second for the second year in a row before 'replacing' Bayliss at Ducati, while Corser is still chasing his maiden R1 win after nearly two years of trying. Corser will ride for the brand new BMW squad next season.
Alstare Suzuki's Max Neukirchner, currently fourth on 298 points, can be satisfied with his debut season after scoring two wins, while Hannspree Ten Kate Honda's Carlos Checa, who also has two wins to his name, will want to finish off the season in style after failing to reach the rostrum in the last seven rounds of his rookie season.
The second half of the year has been much kinder than the first to Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati's Max Biaggi, who has bounced back from several injuries to string together five podiums in the last six rounds.
Biaggi, who will lead Aprilia's factory effort in 2009, still has to hold off the final attacks of Alstare Suzuki's Fonsi Nieto, one point behind him in seventh, while the other rider from Rome in the top ten, Ducati Xerox's Michel Fabrizio, is one slot down in eighth on 203 points.
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