New championship set to provide new levels of drama
As the paddock heads to MotorLand Aragon for the next instalment of WorldSBK action, it prepares for the first round of the much touted FIM Supersport 300 World Championship. The new series will serve as an introduction to world class competition for many riders and it features a high calibre rider line-up.
Visiting nine European circuits over the season, fans are surely set to be treated to some photo-finishes. With the nature of some of the world renowned circuits on top of the level of machinery used, there is the guarantee of pure racing action. Round Two of the championship at the world renowned Assen in April will be a race to keep an eye on, with the iconic Gert Timmer chicane a common final-lap hotspot. British circuit Donington Park always provides thrilling and close racing, with the fast and flowing opening section popular for over-taking. As well as this, the Spanish circuit of Jerez is to host the season finale and with the 300 machines power, fighting their way around the track will be no mean feat.
Racing with a single tyre supplier, no limit on the allocation of engines and every effort gone into making sure the series features the best possible parity, means action will be nail biting. Regulations have been put in place in order to ensure the series will provide close racing and stick with the ethos of the Championship. There is no doubt that then even machinery will make the already unpredictable grid even more so, on top of the use of the renowned Superpole method to determine grid positions. With 22 Yamaha machines, 10 Kawasaki’s and only three Honda’s, there is sure to be some tight over-takes throughout the field.
Minimum age for the WorldSSP300 series is 15, which means it could be the first time some of the riders have lined up on a World Championship grid and tensions will be high. What is set to be a big learning curve for some, drama is bound to ensue in the opening rounds as riders begin to find their feet in the intense world of racing.
With 35 full-time riders, three manufacturers and a nine race season here are five riders to keep an eye on for the 2017 campaign.
Ana Carrasco The 19 year old Spaniard has endured a lean spell in recent years but having raced in the Moto3 World Championship, and scored a top ten finish at Phillip Island, she is a known quantity with which to judge the rest of the field. Riding a Kawasaki Carrasco will be one of ten riders using the Japanese machine but having spent last year in CEV Moto2 she will need to readjust her riding style to get the most from the smaller capacity bike.
Last year the Murcia native struggled in the CEV championship on the uncompetitive MVR. It was was a trying campaign that saw her register just one top 20 finish but progress could be seen throughout the season with Carrasco improving her pace relative to the rest of the field. Carrasco will be hoping that a switch of championships can help reinvigorate her career.
Alfonso Coppola Having raced in the European Junior Cup and Italian Supersport 300 championships last year Coppola has lots of experience to call upon but also enjoyed strong form in 2016. The 19 year old had two podiums in the final three rounds of the EJC and when combined with three rostrum finishes in Italy he should start the season as a title favourite. Riding the Yamaha, which many expect to be the bike to beat, Coppola's experience could make a telling difference in the early rounds of the formative championship.
Scott Deroue Having been pipped to the Red Bull Rookies crown by Florian Alt in 2012 Scott Deroue had to wait until 2014 to make his Moto3 World Championship debut with RW Racing. It would prove a trying campaign with a best result of 17th in Argentina but crashes and a loss of confidence hampered him throughout the campaign.
Having been a two time race winner in the Red Bull Rookies it was clear that the Dutchman struggled to adapt to life in the midfield but a switch to the British Motostar championship saw him rack up 12 wins, 20 podiums and his first national title. Last year Deroue progressed to riding a STK600 bike and had a solid season but it was his form in Supersport that really impressed. Jumping onto a Triumph for the final four races of the year Deroue registered three top ten finishes in an impressive showing of talent.
Paulo Grassia The Italian has twice finished runner-up in the European Junior Cup but having won twice in 2016, in addition to winning a round of the Italian Supersport 300 championship, his experience with the Kawasaki and speed could make him a dark horse in 2017. Knowing all of the circuits and having spent a year riding a 300 should give him a key advantage over some competitors as they get up to speed with their machinery.
Mika Perez The final European Junior Cup champion was a rider who showed solid progress with each year in the class. Consistency won him the crown in 2016 with six podiums but by finishing in the top four of every race he showed the mentality needed to grind out results and stay out of trouble. This was in stark contrast to 2015 when he only finished two races but again was a consistent top five force. The 17 year old is the youngest rider on this list.
Engines will kick into action for the very first time on 31st March as the riders take on Free Practise one at MotorLand Aragon, kicking off what is set to be a exhilarating season of racing action.