After its season kick-off at Australia’s Phillip Island, the 2013 eni FIM Superbike World Championship lands in Europe for round two, to be held this weekend at the challenging Aragon circuit in northern Spain.
Gosford’s Mark Aitchison joins the world superbike grid at Aragon, confirmed to race the Ducati 1098R of the returning Team Effenbert Liberty Racing. Plans are afoot for Aitchison to continue with the team for 2013. The Australian raced world superbike in 2011 for Team Pedercini Kawasaki and spent five wsbk rounds on a privateer BMW in 2012 before moving to British Superbike mid-year. He snapped up the Italian deal when his 2013 BSB ride with Splitlath Redmond Aprilia folded.
“I’m very happy to have found a place in the world superbike championship for this season,” said Aitchison on his website, looking hopefully to the future.
“Of course we know that it will not be easy coming so late to the series. We have had no testing and development time, so It’s fair to say we have planned to use the first few rounds to accustom myself with the bike and team. I will do my absolute best for the team, and I’m sure once we find a good direction and rhythm the results will follow.”
Aitchison will certainly have his back against the wall at Aragon, with all other teams having raced round one at the island and invested further days in testing since the opener.
Eyes will be on the Aprilia Racing Team after its domination at Phillip Island where both riders scored a win and a second place a piece. They have reason to be confident, knowing Aragon suits well the RSV4 1000 factory Aprilia as well as current championship leader Eugene Laverty. The Irishman has always finished within 2ndand 6th place at Aragon, and narrowly missed victory in 2012 when Marco Melandri pipped him in the last lap of race 2.
On the other hand, Laverty’s new team mate, Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli, has never managed a top ten finish at Aragon. But certainly the new signing for Aprilia appears to have a strong handle on the Italian V4 machine. His race one victory and race two 2nd place, rocketed him to the top of the championship, a position he shares with team mate Laverty – both with 45 points apiece.
The current king of Aragon is without doubt Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet), who has won two races out of four and has taken 2nd when not crowning the podium.
Aragon won’t be easy for the Italian, still recovering from a shoulder injury, aggravated by an unfortunate crash with Carlos Checa in Australia. With Melandri out of action, BMW’s test plans have been somewhat waylaid . Only new signing, Welshman Chaz Davies (who scored his maiden WSBK podium finish last year at Aragon) participated in an earlier test focusing on new electronics installed on the BMWS 1000 RR. Last week with Melandri back on track, BMW put their machines and men through their paces at a two day test at Jerez.
Checa (Team Ducati Alstare), whose braking error during the first Australian race led to both he and Melandri crashing out in race one and suffering injury, is hoping his home event will deliver a turnaround in form and luck. Normally the Phillip Island favourite is an early bolter in the championship, but the Spaniard goes to Aragon with no points under his belt. To further complicate matters for the injury fraught Alstare squad, Checa’s team mate Ayrton Badovini will attempt to participate despite still recuperating from a fractured bone in his left foot.
High expectations remain for the Barcelona based Kawasaki Racing Team, who performed well over last week’s three-day test at Aragon. They shared the track, and compared times, with several teams including FIXI Crescent Suzuki and Pata Honda World Superbike with Kawasaki’s main man, Tom Sykes, coming out on top and proving he is close to full fitness after his island wrist injury.
Leon Camier and Jules Cluzel will compete at Aragon boosted by a new engine-spec on their FIXI Crescent Suzukis, already evaluated on the Spanish track at the April 2-4 test with some positive feedback. Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam’s hard work is not over yet, as the British duo did a further two-day test to check out the new electronics developed by Honda for their CBR1000RR at Alcarras.
1. Laverty 45; 2. Guintoli 45; 3. Fabrizio 29; 4. Sykes 22; 5. Melandri 16; 6. Rea 16; 7. Haslam 15; 8. Cluzel 14; 9. Camier 14; 10. Davies 13; 11. Neukirchner 11; 12. Giugliano 10; 13. Baz 10; 14. Allerton 6; 15. Clementi 4, etc.
The Supersport World Championship is back at Aragon and with title holder, Turkey’s Kenan Sofuoglu, leading the championship after early success in Australia.
The controversial outcome of last year’s world supersport race at Aragon is all water under the bridge as Sofuoglu and Fabien Foret are now team mates under Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki colours.
2012 Aragon race winner Sam Lowes appears the rider most likely to challenge Sofuoglu’s leadership, but the young Brit landed badly on his left hand during a three-day test at Aragon last week and is not 100%. Lowes and Vladimir Leonov (Yakhnich Motorsport Yamaha) were joined on track for the test by Pata Honda World Supersport duo of Michael van der Mark and Lorenzo Zanetti, Luca Scassa (Intermoto Ponyexpres Kawasaki), Kev Coghlan and Vladimir Ivanov (DMC Lorenzini Kawasaki) and Gabor Talmacsi (Prorace Honda).
PTR are looking for redemption after a nightmare season opener, that saw Sheridan Morais held back by technical issues on his CBR600RR. Last year’s STK600 runner-up Riccardo Russo will make his world supersport debut this weekend with the San Carlo Team Italia Kawasaki.
Wollongong’s Mitch Carr and his Perth based AARK Racing kick off their international campaign this weekend in Aragon racing the Triumph 675R; while West Wyalong’s dirt track kid, 17 year old Matt Davies, takes on the second round of the world supersport championship aboard his Honda CBR600RR.
Standings: 1. Sofuoglu 25; 2. Lowes 20; 3. vd Mark 16; 4. Foret 13 5. Salom 11; 6. Scassa 10; 7. Antonelli 9; 8. Zanetti 8; 9. Roccoli 7;10. Kennedy 6, etc.