ROME, Italy – The eni FIM Superbike World Championship returns to Monza’s Autodromo Nazionale for the fourth round of the season this weekend, with riders ready to take on the fastest track in the calendar.
Following the two races at Assen, Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) is still the championship leader at 111 points. The Frenchman, who ended his seven podium finish streak in race two of the Dutch round, is now looking forward to riding his works RSV4 on a track that exalts the top-speed of the vee-four Aprilia engine.
Guintoli will have to face fierce competition from a trio of riders ready to challenge him for the lead. Team mate Eugene Laverty, double winner at Monza two years ago in his rookie season, has been boosted by the outstanding race two win of the last round. He is tied in points at 83 with Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet), who dominated the Supersport event at Monza in 2011 thanks to a pole position, a win and the fastest lap, and Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team), the latest race winner at Monza.
Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) welcomes Kousuke Akiyoshi, his teammate in last year’s Suzuka 8 Hour win, who has been selected as substitute for injured Leon Haslam for the upcoming round. The British rider is speeding up his recovery in order to race at Donington Park later this month. Rea and the team can count on the experience of the 38-year-old HRC official test rider to further improve the CBR1000RR after some good indications from the recent two-day test at Assen.
Monza is the first of two home races for Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet), who is trying to bounce back from an unfortunate Sunday at Assen, and for Michel Fabrizio, who scored his maiden World Superbike race win in 2009 at Monza.
Monza provides good memories for Jules Cluzel (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) from last year’s victory in the Supersport race – his first top-step finish in the series.
Carlos Checa and Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) are about to face a tough challenge on a track that hasn’t suited the Ducati bikes in recent times. The 1199 Panigale R, though, will feature a 52mm air restrictor as per FIM regulations regarding the performance balance between twin and four-cylinder machines.
Following the close two-way battle at Assen, World Supersport rivals Sam Lowes (Yakhnich Motorsport Yamaha) and Kenan Sofuoglu (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki) will be back on the track that saw both riders completing the podium behind Cluzel last year.
Supersport championship leader Fabien Foret (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki), known for not being at ease on wet track conditions, hopes to find good weather to score another positive result on a favourable track for the French veteran, who won in 2002 and 2008, was second in 2007 and third in 2009 and 2011.
The second place rider in the standings, Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Supersport) has never managed to achieve a podium finish at Monza. Teammate Lorenzo Zanetti, on the other hand, scored his first and only victory in 2011 in the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup race.
Last year’s Superstock 1000 race at Monza was a turn of events after the first two rounds of domination by Sylvain Barrier. The defending Champion and current leader tackled the race with a dislocated shoulder and, despite his effort to finish the 11-lap race, had a crash at “Variante Ascari” that worsened his injury and led to his first DNF of the season.
Lorenzo Savadori won the race, and rode the 1199 Panigale to an historic first win. The Italian rider, now with Team Pedercini Kawasaki, is still looking for an encouraging result after the tough start of the season. Eddi La Marra (Barni Racing Ducati), on the contrary, appears to be in great shape and – after the outstanding race win at Assen – lies second in the standings, tied in points with teammate Niccolò Canepa.
Current Superstock 600 leader Gauthier Duwelz (MTM Racing Yamaha) is the man on the move after winning the first two races of the season. Last year at Monza the young Belgian was second at the chequered flag behind Riccardo Russo – who’s now racing in Supersport – and ahead of Swiss Bastien Chesaux (EAB Ten Kate Junior Team Honda).
The Pata European Junior Cup, powered by Honda already showed some unpredictable and close racing, with two riders able to secure a win so far in the first two rounds and Italian Michael Canducci (Colors Experience), the current championship leader, proving to be the most consistent by finishing both races in third place.