World Superbike Steeped in history, Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola is the setting for the fifth round of the MOTUL FIM Superbike... WorldSBK Imola round, race weekend preview: World Superbike, World Supersport, WorldSSP300

World Superbike

Steeped in history, Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola is the setting for the fifth round of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship and there is no doubt we will see more history made this weekend. In front of the dedicated Ducatisti, 22 riders will battle it out to take victory around one of the most popular tracks on the calendar. Tight, twisty and technical, Imola offers challenges not found on any other circuit this season, and the passion will be unrivalled.

The man to beat in recent years, Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) is heading to Imola as the obvious favourite this weekend, standing on the top step on the last four occasions with his Panigale R machine. Holding the pole, race and circuit lap record, the British rider has been an unstoppable force over the past seasons as thousands of Ducati fans descend on Imola to show their support. However glory hasn’t always come easily to the 31 year old in Northern Italy, with six podiums out of 12 appearances in his WorldSBK career here. Sitting 30 points off the top of the championship standings, there is still plenty to play for on his number seven shod machine.

It can be easy to forget Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)’s history around Imola, but the British rider has certainly impressed around here in the past. Taking four victories from as many races in 2014 and 2015, the reigning world champion has tasted the special glory of victory in Italy with both Honda and Kawasaki. Taking his first win at Imola back in 2011, championship leader Rea is not short of success and he has his sights set on higher prizes. Just two victories shy of equaling the overall number of WorldSBK victories, he has his first chance of writing his name in even more history books this weekend.

Another victor around Imola, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) will be heading to Italy with a new feeling of confidence, after his stunning return to the top last time out in The Netherlands. Keeping one eye on the overall Superpole record, Sykes will be hunting down more success this weekend – and with the double win secured here in 2013 he will be poised to take on the tight and twisty circuit.

Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) will no doubt be heading south to Italy still beaming from a stunning double podium at his home round. The Dutch rider put on a show for his fans who ascended on TT Circuit Assen in their thousands, but van der Mark’s thoughts will now turn to Imola as he will hope to retain his top four position in the championship standings. However with a tough record in WorldSBK around the 4.9km track, it will be a challenging weekend with the aim of improving his best result of seventh. But with a spring in his step, it will be interesting to follow his progress.

As Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) prepares for a battle in front of his home fans, there will be plenty of eyes on the SMR squad as Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) hopes to make his return to the WorldSBK paddock following his horror crash in Thailand. Aiming to be passed fit by the medical team this week, the Irish rider is hopeful of swinging his leg back over his RSV4 just seven weeks after breaking his pelvis.

After a tough weekend in The Netherlands for the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team with both Leon Camier and Jake Gagne sitting out of the round due to injury, the duo will have their fitness assessed before the Pata Italian Round. But PJ Jacobsen (TripleM Honda World Superbike Team) is set to make his WorldSBK debut at the famous Imola track. With two podium finishes to his name in WorldSSP, the American will be hoping to make strong steps with the CBR1000R as he continues to develop the package with his Italian team.

Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team) sits in the top nine of the world championship standings, and will be aiming to improve his overall pace in round five this weekend. With four starts under his belt here, the Frenchman will be looking forward to returning to the tight and twisty track which has welcomed two top four finishes in the past. Baz has had a steady return to the WorldSBK championship so far, but with a string of consistent points scoring finishes, he will be looking to continue to break into the top 10.

Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) is continuing his development with his new team, and felt some big steps were made throughout the Dutch Round. Heading to a circuit where he was able to secure a podium in 2015, the Spanish rider has had a mixed history in Italy, but as his team took a strong top six finish here last season, the foundations have been built for a solid weekend.

Not forgetting home hero Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), who will be searching for his first victory in WorldSBK around Imola alongside team-mate Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team), as the adoring Italian fans will be out in force for the duo. With Valdimir Leonov (SPB Racing Team) making his second appearance of the season and Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) returning for the first time of 2018, it will not be one to miss.

Catch all the action from 09.45 (GMT +2) on Friday, before riders prepare for the Superpole battle on Saturday at 10.30. Lights go out for Race One on Saturday and Sunday at 13.00LT, and there’s plenty worth fighting for.

World Supersport

Renowned for its nail biting racing action, the FIM Supersport World Championship is preparing to serve up another round of memorable racing as the series rolls into Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola. With one point splitting the top two in the championship standings, the passionate Italian fans are in for a stunning on track battle around a circuit where the passion of racing runs through the tarmac.

Reigning world champion Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) heads to Imola with a podium finish in his sights after tough back to back rounds. Missing out on the podium finish on both occasions, the Frenchman hoped to spend his time between Assen and Imola working on his bike and set up. Taking a podium finish last season, Mahias could go one further as it’s clear the YZF-R6 is a strong bike in WorldSSP this season. With dedication and motivation, Mahias is looking forward to a strong weekend.

Swiss rival Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evans Bros. WorldSSP Team) stunned the paddock after he made up 27 positions in the Dutch race, and is showing no signs of slowing down. With a one point deficit in the world championship standings, Krummenacher has a big battle on his hands this weekend with a tough record around the 4.9km track. Relishing every battle out on track so far this season, he has only finished outside of the top two once with an 11th at MotorLand Aragon. Not afraid to fight at the front, you can always guarantee entertainment from the 28 year old.

Keeping the championship battle tight at the top are Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) and Jules Cluzel (NRT) who each took a victory in the back to back rounds at MotorLand Aragon and TT Circuit Assen respectively. German rookie Cortese sits seven points from the top, whilst Cluzel is 21 off the championship leader, but in the unpredictable nature of the series they will certainly be involved in the battle this weekend.

Britain’s Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing) has put up a strong start to his season at the helm of the Triumph machine. With three top six finishes – and a top ten in Thailand – he sits in an impressive sixth in the world championship standings. No doubt building on his confidence and feeling with the bike, the British rider has a top 13 and top 18 finish to his name around Imola and if recent results are anything to go by, there is always room for improvement.

Aiming to be swinging his leg over his Kawasaki this weekend, Anthony West (EAB West Racing) is recovering from a right wrist injury which required surgery, after a fast crash around TT Circuit Assen which forced him to sit out of the race. Heading straight to Barcelona for an operation, the Australian rider has been recuperating ready for the Italian Round this weekend. Securing 17 points so far this season, West will be hoping to break into the top five as the season continues into Europe. But, Imola has been a tough circuit to West in the past so it will be a big challenge.

Rob Hartog (Team Hartog – Against Cancer) has been impressing in the European Supersport Cup this season, getting a top seven overall in front of his home crowds whilst topping the ESS standings in both rounds so far. With two top tens under his belt this season, Hartog is making the most of his ESS opportunity in the competitive WorldSSP field.

Don’t miss the nail biting WorldSSP action as everything leads to lights out at 11.30 (GMT +2) on Sunday.

WorldSSP300

Imola is a track where the best truly prove their mettle, a launchpad for title wins. In the inaugural FIM Supersport 300 World Championship round at Autodromo Internazionale Enzo d Dino Ferrari di Imola, Marc García and Alfonso Coppola had their first true showdown: they entered Imola as two decent prospects and exited as championship contenders. Imola was their springboard to eventual success. Two races into the 2018 season, we’ve had two winners, five riders on the podium, and all the top positions settled by tenths of a second. Everyone on the WorldSSP300 grid will travel to Italy eager to prove a point.

Heading into Imola as the championship leader for the second year running*, Scott Deroue (Motoport Kawasaki) might not have won the two opening races as he did in 2017, but he’s shown a consistency that could prove to be vital by autumn. Last year at Imola, Deroue could only qualify in 21st place after the Superpole 1, finishing the race 11th. Will he find the pace this year to battle for a first win of the season?

The rider to make his mark at Assen was Luca Grunwald (Freudenberg KTM WorldSSP Team), taking advantage of the last-lap chaos to grab his first WorldSSP300 victory. The German crept up quietly throughout the weekend and kept his cool when push came to shove. It remains to be seen if he can he repeat the feat at Imola.

While neither rider has made it onto the podium yet, DS Junior Team are the only squad so far to have had both their riders in the top 10 in 2018. Both Ana Carrasco (DS Junior Team) and Dorren Loureiro (DS Junior Team) are proving to be dependable in both qualifying and race conditions, which bodes well for the season ahead. Loureiro also recorded the fastest lap here last year.

Koen Meuffels (KTM Fortron Junior Team) relinquished his leadership at Assen in dramatic fashion, falling to the floor on the final turn of the final lap after leading long stretches of the race. He’s now fourth in the standings, but just 11 points off the lead, and given the wild nature of the competition will be looking to jump straight back to the top.

Another rider who came agonisingly close to the finish line at Assen only to suffer a last lap crash was Mika Pérez (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team). The Spaniard has started both 2018 races from pole position, and took his maiden WorldSSP300 Superpole at Imola last year. He could only finish the race in 10th then – a lesson to be learnt for the weekend.

With the successes of his fellow Dutchmen, Glenn van Straalen’s (KTM Fortron Racing Team) performances so far might have flown slightly under the radar. This could play in his favour: van Straalen has proven to be reliable, and sitting just 7 points off leader Deroue, he could look to strike before the other title contenders notice.

For Tom Edwards (Nutec-Benjan-Kawasaki), his WorldSSP300 baptism of fire has been as rough and heartbreaking as they come. The Australian has spent every lap of 2018 in the top 10 and in contention for the win, yet in both races he went to the floor in the final turns. Nonetheless, the 16-year-old has shown insulting pace for his age. Will it be third time lucky at Imola?

*Results from MOTUL Dutch Round pending decision from FIM following technical investigation

Source: WorldSBK.com