The ever-popular World Supersport Championship gets underway for another season at Phillip Island with its usual blend of new and returning faces.
With the likes of Chaz Davies, David Salom, Luca Scassa, Florian Marino and Gino Rea all moving onto pastures new for 2012, attention now turns to who will emerge ahead this year.
As the only top rider staying put for 2012, Sam Lowes heads into the new season looking for his first wins and a long-awaited maiden title victory for series stalwarts PTR, which this year will operate with distinctive Bogdanka sponsorship.
However, the competition is destined to be fierce and rivals don't come tougher than 2007 and 2010 champion Kenan Sofuoglu, who returns to WSS after a frustrating season at Moto2 level. As a 17-time race winner, Sofuoglu is a safe title prediction, but having enjoyed most of his success with Ten Kate Honda, the decision to join Kawasaki DeltaFin (Lorenzini) adds an unknown factor into his equation.
As for Ten Kate Honda, the Dutch-based team loses one bike but picks up the very experienced Broc Parkes for 2012, the Australian heading into his eighth season of WSS racing keen to secure that elusive first international title.
One man who does have a WSS title to his name, albeit from ten years ago, Fabien Foret returns to the Kawasaki fold this season after a somewhat unfulfilling stint at Ten Kate Honda in 2011. Joining Intermoto Step, who became race winners with Gino Rea and Honda last year, Foret has shown impressive testing form on the ZX-6R, though the Czech outfit will need to show much improved reliability if it is to challenge for victories consistently.
Other notable candidates for 2012 include Moto2 converts Jules Cluzel (PTR Honda), Alex Baldolini (Suriano Triumph), Lukas Pesek (ProRace Honda) and Vladimir Leonov (Yakhnich Yamaha), all four showing decent pre-season testing pace.
Additionally, Sheridan Morais on the second of the factory-supported Kawasaki's, Ronan Quarmby, on one of seven PTR-supported Hondas, and even Balazs Nemeth on the Team Toth Honda have made notable strides over the winter, while highly-rated newcomers Jed Metcher and Mathew Scholtz could also be among those to watch in 2012.
But we want to know your predictions for 2012 – who do you predict will emerge top of the pile in nine months' time…?
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