Preview World Superbike-Supersport, Donington Park, Great Britain2007-03-28 09:10
Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) leads the world into the third round of the World Supersport Championship after an astonishingly effective start to the 2007 season. Having won one race and finished second in the
other, he now enjoys a seven point lead and further proof of how effective the 2007 CBR600RR has been in its first season of competition comes from the fact that third place in the rankings is occupied by well-known championship challenger Katsuaki Fujiwara (Althea Honda Team CBR600RR).
An unlucky and occasionally dramatic start to the season by 2005 and 2006 champion for Honda, Sebastien Charpentier (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR), sees the most successful Supersport rider ever languishing in ninth place at present. The obvious talent and determination that
characterised his 2006 championship push are, however, expected to propel him upwards at the very next pportunity.
Riding a 2006-specification CBR600RR Lorenzo Alfonsi (Althea Honda Team CBR600RR) will be racing at Donington Park for the first time in any form of competition. His excellent start to his 2007 campaign has nonetheless netted him a top ten race finish already, and he holds tenth in the overall rankings after two rounds.
In 2001, the last time Donington was used for a World Supersport event, the very first CBR600RR was still under development, but since its appearance in World Supersport in 2003, all three model variants have been stunningly successful at garnering points and prizes. So much so that
CBR600RR riders having won every World Supersport Riders' Championship since 2003.
As a complete novice to Donington Park, Sofuoglu is by no means alone in his inexperience in the Supersport pack heading to England this year, but few are as keen to get down to action as the remarkably talented Turkish rider.
"I am so happy with the way things have gone so far and I'd like to thank the team for getting the bike to such a high standard," said Sofuoglu. "I was so happy to get two podium finishes, but I am trying to look forward to the race ahead
because you can't take anything for granted. I have never ridden at Donington Park before so I can't wait to get to grips with the circuit."
Charpentier is aware that a good result at Donington has now become a necessity, but he also knows that few will enter the latest fray in such good shape as he and his team.
"It's been a difficult start for me," admitted Charpentier, "However the team has worked really hard on the development of the new bike so there is no reason why I shouldn't be back at the top for Donington. I'm more than ready for the next race."
Fujiwara has been a revelation all over again this season, and is happy to go to Donington after a positive recent test at Valencia.
"We had a good test in preparation for Donington, and we were able to experiment with the suspension a little bit and that was very useful," said 'Kats'. "I have been to Donington three times in the past, on Superbike and
Supersport bikes, so I don't think it will be too difficult to re-learn. The start to our season has been very good so far and I want to make it even better this weekend."
Alfonsi has scored strong points in races so far, in what is his first full Honda season in WSS racing. For Donington, he is equally happy to have tested only a few days before he heads off to England.
"Donington is an all-new track for me, but I spoke with some other riders and they say it is not such a difficult track in some parts, tricky in others," stated the former European Superstock 1000cc champion. "The only thing is the weather but our recent test in Valencia was a good
preparation for us and my feeling with the bike was good again."
After the Donington race, Valencia in Spain is the venue for round four on March 15 and Assen takes an unseasonably early slot in the calendar this year, on Sunday April 29.
World Superbike Round 3 of 13
TOSELAND THE LEADING LIGHT ON EVE OF DONINGTON EVENT
James Toseland (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) has had his best ever start to a Superbike campaign this year and leads second place rider Max Biaggi by an impressive 16
points, after two wins and two second places. Toseland's excitement at returning to home tarmac for the first of three British races in the World Superbike championship has been evident after his race two win in Australia was concluded so successfully.
He is looking for his first pre-race Superpole win of the 2007 season at Donington, but like many of his peers he will have to spend some time re-learning the track layout before laying down any possible pole-winning times.
Roberto Rolfo (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) is currently just outside the top ten in the championship order, but compared to most of his peers he has great recent experience of Donington, thanks to several year of competition there in 250GPs and then MotoGP.
Michel Fabrizio (DFX Corse Honda CBR1000RR), his
team-mate Steve Martin (DFX Corse Honda CBR1000RR) and Joshua Brookes (Alto Evolution Honda CBR1000RR) are ranged out in order behind Rolfo in the championship standings, with
Fabrizio 12th overall. Martin, despite being told he would not have a ride at Donington, or for the rest of the year, due to sponsorship issues, will be present in the DFX team until at least round six at Monza, and thus he will have the opportunity to score points at Donington this weekend.
Karl Muggeridge (Alto Evolution Honda CBR1000RR) has suffered bad luck recently, but like Brookes found real progress in his machine's set-up at a recent official test outing in Valencia, and thus returns to a circuit he knows well with hope of good results, and almost free of injury after a big pre-race fall at the previous round in his native Australia.
Toseland has drawn confidence not only from his own form but the comments of other riders, with even more world titles than James's single WSB crown from the 2004 season.
"So far, the racing has been spot-on for me," says an ebullient Toseland. "It's an honour to be riding with such great competition and to hear the like of Troy Bayliss complimenting me at Phillip Island is very flattering. It's a great feeling to be heading to Donington as the championship leader - I couldn't ask for a better way to be going into the first home race. I feel fitter than ever and I cannot wait to race in the UK. I'll give it everything I have to get a win for the fans."
Rolfo now feels ready to move into the upper echelons of his chosen class, after some tough rides since joining his new team.
"Although the first two rounds did not go as smoothly as I might have hoped, my aim was to be inside the top ten and that's where I am," said Rolfo before heading to England. "I feel more confident on the bike and I know that I can do
well at Donington if I get my head down and concentrate on the task. I have ridden at the track before from my days in the 250cc World Championship so I'll use that to my advantage and hopefully get the top six place we are aiming for."
Despite two retirements so far Fabrizio is still close to a top ten placing and holds memories of 2006's three podium finishes dear as he enters a track he has limited experience of.
"At the moment I am concentrated on the championship and all my personal resources are focused on getting the best results possible," said Fabrizio. "After the second Australian race I have demonstrated that it is possible for us to get onto the podium again. I know the Donington
circuit because I raced there when I was in the 125 GP World Championship. I am sure that my motorcycle and my team are ready for this challenge."
Martin, who was unsure of having a ride until Monday of this week, is now ready to deliver his usual large hit of talent and commitment to the next task in hand. He also thinks Donington will even things out through the field.
"Donington is the first track we get to ride this year where the factory teams haven't tested," said Steve. "Although my bike is unchanged from Phillip Island I feel it will be easier to be closer to the front as no one will have benefited from any testing there."
For Brookes the most recent test was a real step
forward and he hopes Donington will provide an even bigger one in his first year of Honda World Superbike competition.
"Valencia was good, and it gave us the chance to look at the main areas of concern for us," said the former WSS race winner. "The suspension is still not working the way we would like it to, but it's better than it has ever been. I hope that Donington will see another Superpole qualification, and hopefully a little better result again from Phillip Island. I don't know the circuit, but I've heard it rocks. Maybe the team and I can crack a couple of top tens in the races! We'll see."
Karl Muggeridge is nearly back to full fitness.
"We did a lot of good work at Valencia," he stated, "and I can't wait to get down to it at Donington. My foot is nearly healed after by crash in Australia but I can't say it's healed enough to let me go running on it just yet. But
it should be good for the next race. I haven't
been to Donington for some time, but I have raced there a lot in the past."
Source: Honda Pro Image
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