12 June 2008
Preview - Nurburgring.
The World Superbike Championship heads back to Europe for rounds 13 and 14 of the season with the first races to be held at the Nurburgring for the first time in nine years.
Last acting as a WSBK venue in 1999, it was only the second event to be held there after its debut on the calendar in 1998. On those occasions, Carl Fogarty, Troy Corser, Pierfrancisco Chili and Aaron Slight were the winners of the four races.
As such, the German circuit, which also marks the mid-way point of this season, offers a new challenge to most of the riders on the grid, with the level playing field likely to throw up just as many interesting performances this weekend as it did last time out at Miller Motorsports Park in the USA.
That weekend was all about Carlos Checa, who produced his first international victory in ten years with an astonishing ride around the Salt Lake City layout. Going on to double up in the second race, the Spaniard has slashed Troy Bayliss' previously huge championship advantage after the Australian posted his second and third consecutive non-finishes.
Although the five-time race winner still has a relatively comfortable 28 point buffer back to Checa, Bayliss heads to Germany on the back foot after a disappointing run of form, one that included him having a rare fall in the USA.
Indeed, with former MotoGP rider Checa now beginning to get the hang of competing in WSBK's, it is likely he – and Ten Kate Honda - will want to experience that winning feelings once again.
However, while the battle between these two experienced protagonists will be of interest to many, most fans are likely to be turning out for home favourite Max Neukirchner, who has transformed Superbike support in Germany with his stunning form this season.
His determination was certainly in evidence at Miller Motorsports Park, the Suzuki Alstare rider struggling in the early stages of the weekend before chipping down the advantage to the leaders and emerging with dogged second and fourth finishes that help consolidate his third place in the championship. One of the few riders to know the circuit well, courtesy of his time racing there ahead of his move to WSBK, Neukirchner will be confident he can top the rostrum again in the best surroundings possible.
Despite a rather anonymous weekend, Neukirchner's team-mate Fonsi Nieto actually moved up to fourth in the standings with a fifth and eighth place finish, something that was well in contrast to Noriyuki Haga, who slipped to fifth but grabbed all the headlines. Indeed, the Yamaha rider's sixth place finish in the second race of the weekend will still go down as one of the rides of the season having been achieved with a broken collarbone following a tumble in practice. Although not 100 per cent fit yet following surgery, Haga will still complete in Germany.
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