WorldSBK: Aragon preview – World Superbike, World Supersport, Superstock 1000
MotorLand lies in the Teruel province of Aragón, the crowning glory set in the middle of the dry, arid countryside of the landscape around the city of Alcañiz. Built due to the history of racing in the vicinity, MotorLand is a modern, spectacular and technical track that is often cited by riders as a favourite. It was also the stage for the first win for the Ducati 1199 Panigale R in 2015 in Race 2, with winner Chaz Davies getting close to hitting that milestone a few hours before: the winning margin between him and Rea in Race 1 was recorded as only 0.051 seconds in favour of the Northern Irishman.
This year, the Panigale R arrives as a winner. With five victories for the bike as we approach Round 3 of the 2016 Season, the question only remains as to when that count will get higher. With Davies showing great pace so far in 2016 and teammate Davide Giugliano beginning the season injury free, MotorLand could well host the next Ducati victory and the first in 2016.
Kawasaki rider Jonathan Rea, however, surely has another plan. After doing the double at Phillip Island and splitting the spoils down the middle with his teammate in Thailand, the reigning Champion is in fantastic form. Buriram saw his teammate Tom Sykes able to fight with him on a more even footing and beat him at his own game, but the Yorkshireman will have to do that every weekend to start stamping his authority on the Championship once more, as he did in 2013. Taking into account the others on the grid who are both eager to and capable of deposing the Kawasaki dominance we have seen so far this season, MotorLand should be a fantastic battle once again.
Michael van der Mark went into Race 2 in Thailand with a 100% podium record in 2016, and only just missed out on keeping that going with a controlled ride to P4 on the Sunday in Buriram. With an updated Fireblade and the Honda rider’s talent for finding the limit and, seemingly, remaining on the right side of it, he will surely be a threat for a maiden win until such time as he achieves it.
His teammate could also prove a tough adversary. With growing experience of both the bike and especially the tyres, 2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden heads to MotorLand as a beginner in WorldSBK but a veteran of the circuit, having ridden there in MotoGP since 2010: a year he finished on the podium in the first GP held at the track.
Another newer face on the grid who nevertheless counts on great experience of MotorLand is Spanish Althea BMW rider Jordi Torres. Now recovered from his injury in testing and having scored good points at Phillip Island and Buriram, the local rider knows MotorLand from his time in the FIM CEV Repsol and the Moto2 World Championship and is sure to put on another fantastic show.
Returning manufacturer Yamaha will be hoping to keep building on their start to the year, with the YZF R1 making good progress on the path to becoming a winner in the hands of Alex Lowes and Sylvain Guintoli. MV Agusta, meanwhile, count on points scoring finishes at MotorLand and will look to Leon Camier to keep his impressive 2016 form going and push the bike forward even further in their development program.
Since WorldSBK visited Aragón last year, the deck has shuffled, that much is sure. What remains to be seen is who played an ace in Thailand and who is holding the best hand as we fit together the jigsaw of what 2016 will have in store for us, with MotorLand ready to reveal it’s piece of the puzzle on Saturday and Sunday at 13:00 local time (GMT +2).
After only two Rounds of its 2016 calendar, the FIM Supersport World Championship is already taking interesting shape. As Aragón looms, two different riders and manufacturers have already celebrated race victory.
This weekend’s World Supersport race will be the sixth staged at the MotorLand Aragón facility on the outskirts of the picturesque Spanish town of Alcañiz. The first, back in 2011, was won by Chaz Davies en route to that year’s WorldSSP title.
Fast-forward half a decade and Randy Krummenacher finds himself with the Championship lead, having at Phillip Island become the first Swiss rider to win a race in this category. PJ Jacobsen sits second thanks to his consistency thus far, while the victor in Thailand, Jules Cluzel, is third from rapid debutant Federico Caricasulo. Young Italian Caricasulo is tied on points with reigning World Champion Kenan Sofuoglu. Kawasaki holds the advantage in the Manufacturers’ Championship, edging out Honda and MV Agusta by nine and ten points respectively, with a lot of racing still ahead of us in the season.
Last year at the Spanish track, Cluzel was denied a chance of victory due to a mechanical problem. Sofuoglu subsequently claimed top honours and became the first World Supersport rider to win twice at MotorLand, following the previous successes of Sam Lowes, Fabien Foret and the aforementioned Chaz Davies.
Bolstering the grid to well over 30 riders, the FIM Europe Supersport Cup (ESS) becomes part of the agenda and will line up on the WorldSSP grid at every European round. Out of the ashes of the now disappeared Superstock 600 FIM European Championship, this new class allows teams and riders to sign up for the European rounds only. They will battle in their own points table, taking points from the positions in which they finish the races but at the same time, there is nothing stopping the ESS competitors from mixing it with the regulars and scoring overall championship points. The ESS class will include the likes of rapid Ilya Mikhalchik, Axel Bassani (who went very well on his debut at Magny-Cours last year) and Javier Orellana, who is the reigning Champion in the European Junior Cup.
Opening practice for the MotorLand Aragón World Supersport round will come on Friday morning, ahead of Sunday’s race which starts at 11:20 local time (GMT +2).
The Pirelli Aragón Round moves the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship onto European soil for the first time in 2016, with MotorLand Aragón once again staging the first of the 9 races for STK1000 this season.
Last year’s and reigning Champion Lorenzo Savadori has moved up to WorldSBK to partner Alex De Angelis at IodaRacing, and the throne vacated by the Italian has many aspirational heirs; both riders who are new to the category and those who count themselves as veterans of the Cup.
Amongst the first to mention are the rider who dominated last year’s STK600 Cup, Turkish rider Toprak Razgatlioglu, who will race under the umbrella of Kawasaki Puccetti Racing, and Savadori’s predecessor Leandro Mercado. Argentine rider Mercado returns to try and win back his crown aboard the Ducati of the Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team, alongside Italian debutant Michael Ruben Rinaldi, who was runner up in STK600 in 2015.
Many manufacturers all well-represented. Runner up in the category last year, Roberto Tamburini is aboard an Aprilia RSV4 RF this season with Nuova M2 Racing, replacing outgoing Savadori. His teammate is countryman Kevin Calia. Six riders will count on BMW S 1000 RR machines in 2016, including 2015 third-placed rider Raffaele De Rosa riding for Althea, and 10 riders will be on Yamaha YZF R1 machinery, including German rider Toni Finsterbusch (BCC-Racing Team) and Frenchman Florian Marino (PATA Yamaha Official Stock Team).
Marino’s compatriot Jeremy Guarnoni, who won the final race of the season in 2015 at Magny-Cours, remains on the grid and will be one of 15 riders on Kawasaki bikes this season, a list that includes other high profiles names such as Australian Bryan Staring.
A total of 39 riders from 12 different countries will line up on the grid this year, of which an incredible 21 are Italian. France, Switzerland and Germany each have 3 riders, the Netherlands 2, and seven more different countries from around the world make the grand total to nearly forty.