WorldSBK Aragon preview: World Superbike, World Supersport, Supersport 300, Superstock 1000
The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship heads to the Spanish circuit of MotorLand Aragon for the first European round of the season, and it is a circuit Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing Ducati) has dominated at in the past. Set in the stunning desert landscape of Alcañiz and just hours away from the city of Barcelona, the modern circuit is certainly one which can capture the imagination of many, and can produce some stunning racing to match. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) has dominated the field so far in 2017, but are we about to see another familiar face back on the top step?
Kawasaki Racing Team duo Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes head to Spain with an impressive opening record so far for 2017; one which will be tough to keep up heading into Europe. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) had a perfect start to his title defense, taking two pole positions and four victories in the opening rounds, and in very different circumstances. However, the Northern Irishman has only secured one victory around MotorLand in the past – in 2015’s Race One. Despite this, his pre-season testing times were impressive and he brings a strong feeling with his ZX-10RR to Spain. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) has a more notable record around the tight and twisty circuit, with four pole positions and the double race win in 2014 to his name. Sykes has made some changes to his riding style which is paying off so far for 2017, so it will be interesting to see how this has altered in Spain.
Undoubtedly the favourite heading into the Pirelli Aragon Round, Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) has a stunning record around the 5km circuit, taking the last three victories in dominant, track-day style as well as winning back on BMW machinery in 2013. MotorLand could be the chance for Davies to get his season well and truly underway, as he has been unable to secure that all important first win. Despite this, team-mate Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) could be the dark horse in Aragon – he took the first pole position and win at the circuit’s debut to the calendar in 2011 on a Yamaha, as well as returning to the top step in 2012. Making appearances on the podium already in 2017, this could be Melandri’s chance to be back on top.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team have had a steady start to their 2017 campaign, with some consistent results for the team who made big steps over the winter. Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) will be aiming to find that something extra to get him onto the podium in Aragon, but MotorLand is a circuit he has struggled at in the past, collecting only a few top ten finishes. With a stronger package behind him and his confidence growing, what steps can he make this weekend? Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) is continuing to gel with his new team and had some misfortune in Thailand Race Two, unable to make the restart. The Dutchman has a mixed record around Aragon; taking two second positions in WorldSSP but only two top eight finishes so far in his WorldSBK career. It will be intriguing to see how he takes on the YZF-R1 in Spain.
Continuing to develop the brand new CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team have another tough learning weekend ahead of them. Securing top ten finishes last time out in Buriram, Nicky Hayden (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) and Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) are working hard with their teams to get their machines competitive. Hayden had a tough weekend in 2016, finishing one race in the top six and the other 23rd; however the American has a strong record on a MotoGP™ machine. Bradl has a similar history around MotorLand, only finishing outside of the top ten on two occasions out of seven appearances, meaning he can take his experience forward to help develop his Honda.
Milwaukee Aprilia duo Lorenzo Savadori and Eugene Laverty will hope to put their tough opening rounds of 2017 behind them and get their season properly underway in Spain, as they both head to a track they know well. Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) and Markus Reiterberger (Althea BMW Racing Team) have had a steady start to the season but will be aiming to impress as the series heads into Europe, with the cooler conditions perhaps being kinder to the duo. Torres has a couple of top five finishes around Aragon to his name, and following his top five finish in Thailand Race two, he will hope to impress his home fans. Whilst Reiterberger had a steady debut around the circuit, meaning there will be some progress to be made for the pair.
MV Agusta Reparto Corse with lone rider Leon Camier are another team hoping to bounce back in Europe, with a tough 2017 so far. Mechanical problems have hampered the team this season, but Camier has shown his British resilience, fighting his way through the pack in both Superpole and the races this season. Struggling around the Spanish circuit in the past, it will be a tough test for Camier and his Italian outfit this weekend. Spanish fans will be treated to home fights as Roman Ramos (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) hopes to build on his solid start to the season, sitting in 13th position in the championship standings, but what impact will the boost from his home fans provide?
Action kicks off at 9:45am LT with Free Practice One for the first of three jam-packed days of racing action.
They say whilst the cats away the mice will play, which could have been the case in the FIM Supersport World Championship, as the opening two rounds saw the absence of title favourite and reigning world champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) through injury. However bad luck plagued his two main title rivals PJ Jacobsen (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Jules Cluzel (CIA Insurance Landlord Honda) and they were both only able to score 10 points between them in Australia and Thailand. Heading to MotorLand Aragon for Round Three, it could be said the title fight starts now.
Set in the Spanish desert landscape, MotorLand is a stunning modern circuit which provides fast and close racing – perfect for a close series such as WorldSSP. With the introduction of the seven European Supersport riders as they begin their 2017 quest, Aragon is bound to provide some stunning action.
Kenan Sofuoglu makes his return following his fight back to fitness, with two races apart from his Kawasaki ZX-6R machine. Kyle Ryde (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) has been holding down the fort for the team so far with Thai rider Thitipong Warokorn drafted in for Round two, and whilst both have had credible results the team haven’t made the step onto the podium just yet, which is something the Turkish rider will hope to change. Sofuoglu has won at the Spanish circuit for the past three years, but he will face some stiff competition.
American PJ Jacobsen was unable to get involved in the intense fight in Thailand as he suffered a mechanical issue with his Italian MV Agusta machine, resulting in a DNF in Round Two. Heading into Europe Jacobsen will now be accompanied by his team-mate Alessandro Zaccone (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) who is making his second appearance in the ESS following a third position finish in the cup last year. Jacobsen has a strong record around MotorLand Aragon; despite never winning a race in the class there he holds the race lap record set in 2015, which is no mean feat around Aragon. With a reliable machine, the 23 year old will be putting up a tough fight in Spain.
Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) is another title hopeful who has suffered with bad luck so far in 2017, with a big crash followed by a technical problem respectively in the opening races, hindering his title fight. The French rider was lucky to bounce back from injury from the opening round at Phillip Island, but he went to Thailand fighting. Securing pole position in Buriram, a technical problem meant he was forced to retire from the lead meaning he has scored no points so far in 2017. Cluzel is another rider who will head into Europe hoping to secure a positive result at a track he has proven pace around, taking pole position and the pole lap record in 2015. It will be tight at the top, and with the addition of Hiromichi Kunikawa – the team’s ESS entry for 2017 – the Frenchman has three competitive team-mates to fight with alongside Robin Mulhauser and Hikari Okubo.
Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) continues to impress and exceed expectations into 2017, as the Italian currently sits in second in the championship standings following a stunningly crafted race win in Thailand. Battling through the heat and a drama fuelled race, Caricasulo came out on top with a mature ride. His history around MotorLand stands him in good stead in the competitive series; taking two podium finishes in the STK1000 class on top of a top seven finish in WorldSSP last season means the Italian has space to improve at a tough track.
Niki Tuuli (Kallio Racing) made his debut on the podium for 2017 last time out at Chang International Circuit and the Finn sits in second in the world championship standings, three points from the top. A well planned and succinct ride in Thailand allowed him to take a top three finish in a tough race for many. Continuing the journey in his debut full season with the Yamaha-backed team, Aragon could produce all kinds of shocks for the field and Tuuli will be there hoping to secure another solid finish to add to his impressive points scored so far.
Kyle Smith (Gemar Team Lorini) will be hoping to put a tough round in Thailand behind him, as he was disqualified despite crossing the line in second position. After pulling some risky over-takes, Smith was requested by race direction to drop three positions which he didn’t adhere to meaning he was black flagged and as a result, disqualified. Proving he has the pace aboard his Honda CBR600RR, he will hope to make a big impact as the series takes on the European battles. With an increased field it will be an even tougher battle for the Brit, however he has a strong history around the circuit, taking away trophies from MotorLand in the past.
World championship leader Roberto Rolfo (Team Factory Vamag) continues to impress following his stunning season opening victory around the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. Consistency is the key to winning championships and heading into the third round with a three point lead, could the Italian veteran be the underdog for 2017? Securing a top 11 finish in the the intense Buriram heat, Spanish sun will be much more bearable for Rolfo as heads to MotorLand he will hope to improve on his past results of top ten finishes.
Sitting in a credible 14th position overall in the Championship standings, home hero Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) is the lone Spanish rider in the series, meaning he will hope to impress in front of his home fans at MotorLand Aragon. Securing some points scoring finishes so far this season, Calero will be looking to continue this steady form this weekend and take some points away from a circuit he has struggled at in the past.
British duo Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing) and Stefan Hill (Profile Racing) are hoping to bounce back from a very tough opening two rounds aboard their Triumph machines, as the Thai heat caused major issues for their Daytona 675’s. Now the series hits Europe, the young pair will be closer to home and hoping to get those all important points scoring finishes which the team deserve.
World Supersport 300
In what is set to be a historic day in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship paddock at MotorLand Aragon this weekend, the first ever FIM Supersport 300 World Championship sessions will take place in Southern Spain, as 37 riders will take to the track for the first time in Alcaniz. MotorLand Aragon is a stunning new circuit which can provide plenty of challenges; with speed, tough corners and a stunning landscape.
With a variety of experience all across the field and the youngest competitor is only 15 years old there will be plenty of learning to do in the series, of which an integral part is starting riders on their Journey to WorldSBK.
Harun Cabuk (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) continues to be supported by Turkish WorldSSP champion Kenan Sofuoglu as the young rider will have the backing of a world championship winning team in the new series, and with some wins from the European Junior Cup behind him, he has experience in close racing. Dutch rider Scott Deroue (MTM HS Kawasaki) brings his understanding from the world stage, set to take on the new championship with a Kawasaki Ninja 300.
There are two female entries in WorldSSP300, both will be at the helm of the Kawasaki Ninja 300 machines; Avalon Biddle (Sourz Foods – Benjan Racing) who topped the Female FIM EJC Cup and Ana Carrasco (ETG Racing) who has been racing in a wealth of different championships, some on the world stage. Dorren Loureiro (DS Junior Team) is at the helm of David Salom’s effort in the new class, as the former EJC rider will take on the favoured Kawasaki Ninja 300, and the South African will rival fellow compatriot Jared Schultz (DDM by BWG_Bike & Motor RT_Grimaldi). Schultz spent 2016 in the KTM 390 Cup, and has a vast experience behind him.
Borja Sanchez (Halcourier Racing) was able to set some faster times in the unofficial pre-season test with his Yamaha YZF-R3 machine, whilst his Spanish team-mate Daniel Valle (Halcourier Racing) was also able to set some competitive looking times, and if they are able to work together they will be able to impress around MotorLand. Mika Perez (WILSport Racedays) comes off the back of taking the EJC title in 2016, and was another Spanish rider to set some fast looking times in their testing. One of the few teams using the Honda CBR500R, it will be interesting to see how the Japanese machine fares against the rest of the field.
With such a strong line up, the level of depth we are set to see in the WorldSSP300 series will be nothing short of stunning. With the Superpole format in place for the riders, it will be the perfect learning curve and step into a world paddock, which will no doubt provide levels of drama which cannot be rivaled. The much anticipated action gets underway on Friday 31st March at 12:15LT, and their sessions will eagerly be watched throughout the whole season.
The European Superstock 1000 Championship gets underway this weekend and its set to be as unpredictable as ever, however one thing can be guaranteed is the stunning racing action fans are set to be treated to. 34 riders will line up on the grid for the opening round at MotorLand Aragon, and it will be an intense fight for the lead between the adrenaline fuelled riders. The Spanish circuit of Aragon is the perfect setting for the stunning opening round of the championship, as it can provide close racing at a high standard, with the 5.007km circuit offering speed, tough corners and some strong overtaking options.
With 11 nationalities lining up, of all ages on board six different manufacturers it will be interesting to see which riders can make the most of large field.
Roberto Tamburini (Pata Yamaha Official STK1000 Team) heads into his third season in the championship and with the backing of the official Yamaha team, the Italian has a strong history around MotorLand Aragon – taking the victory and fastest lap in 2015. Team-mate Florian Marino (Pata Yamaha Official STK1000 Team) was pole position holder in 2016, unfortunately injury plagued the French rider last season, but he’s back and fully fit, ready to take on the battle ahead of him.
Illia Mykhalchyk (TripleM Racing) moves across to the European Superstock 1000 Championship for 2017, as the Ukranian rider put up a strong fight in the European Superstock Cup last season. Turkish rider Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) has the support of WorldSSP World Champion Kenan Sofuoglu once again for 2017, taking on the new season again with Kawasaki Puccetti Racing. The young Turk will be hoping to improve on his top five championship finish last season.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team) will be a rider in particular to watch throughout 2017, as he set the fastest lap around MotorLand last year and finished in second position. Nuova M2 Racing have undergone a vast testing regime over the winter to get their riders Luca Vitali and Maximillian Schieb prepared for the tough season ahead. The Aprilia-backed team will be taking on the STK1000 class with two experienced riders with them, as they face a tough season ahead.
Marco Faccani (Althea BMW Racing Team) joins the string of riders to keep an eye on over the season, taking on his second full series in the class and will be hoping to improve on his results from the opening round last season. Emanuele Pusceddu (RSV Phoenix Suzuki) and Kevin Calia (RSV Phoenix Suzuki) are the two lone Suzuki riders in the class for 2017 and with an experienced background between the pair; it will be interesting to see how the GSX-R1000 develops throughout the season.
STK1000 action gets underway for the first time on Friday 31st March and it will be sure to be an action packed field with plenty of riders to keep an eye out for. Action gets underway at 09:00am LT, before the all important race at 15:15LT.