Preview – Imola.

The World Superbike Championship will return to Imola, scene of its greatest title showdown, for the first time since 2006 this weekend.

The 2002 Imola season finale (pictured) produced a breathtaking title showdown between world champions Colin Edwards and Troy Bayliss, which ended in the American's favour, although Bayliss went on to clinch his second crown at the Italian circuit in 2006.

WSBK returns for round twelve of the 2009 championship to find the circuit slightly modified in the section from the Rivazza to the pit straight, following the construction of a new chicane.

Eleven WSBK races have been held at Imola, and the list of winners includes Ruben Xaus and Regis Laconi, with three victories apiece, Edwards (two) and one each for Chris Vermeulen, Alex Barros and Troy Bayliss.

As for the manufacturers, Ducati lead the way with six wins, followed by Honda with four and Aprilia with one.

But Yamaha has an excellent chance of adding its name to that list, with rookie superstar Ben Spies arriving at Imola with 12 wins from the 22 races so far this season - and having finally taken the title lead from Noriyuki Haga by 18 points at the last race in Germany.

Haga, who finished first or second in the first nine races of the season, has now gone ten races without a victory - partly due to injuries sustained at Donington Park - and the Japanese will be doing all he can to prevent Spies from breaking away.

Unfortunately for the Ducati Xerox star, he missed the July Imola test due to his British round injuries, although he may soon be able to count on the support of team-mate Michel Fabrizio.

The Italian was strong at the July test and, with a 75 point gap to Spies, knows he will soon be called upon to support Haga's challenge.

Hannspree Ten Kate Honda could also play a pivotal role in the race and therefore title battle, having regained competitive form in recent rounds. Rookie Jonathan Rea and Spaniard Carlos Checa have taken five podiums between them in the last four races, including a second win of the season for Rea in Germany.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Champions both. Troy Bayliss and Colin Edwards displayed exceptional character at Imola.
Chaz Davies, Ducati [Credit: Ducati Media]
Savadori, Imola WSBK 2017
Savadori, Imola WSBK 2017
Hayden, Imola WSBK 2017
Sykes, Imola WSBK 2017
Jonathan Rea, Imola WSBK 2017
Alex Lowes, Imola WSBK 2017
Eugene Laverty, Imola WSBK 2017
Pitlane walk, Imola WSBK 2017
Savadori, Imola WSBK 2017
Eugene Laverty, Imola WSBK 2017
Eugene Laverty, pitlane walk, Imola WSBK 2017
Savadori, Imola WSBK 2017
Savadori, Imola WSBK 2017
Paddock, Imola WSBK 2017
Pitlane walk, Imola WSBK 2017
Pitlane walk, Imola WSBK 2017

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