WorldSBK commentator Steve English takes a look at some underdogs as we return to Portugal
While Europe has returned to school in recent weeks, WorldSBK returns to Portimao this weekend for the Portuguese round of the 2017 season. There was a “back to school” feeling last time out in Germany when the racing resumed after the summer break, but have the lessons been taken to heed?
The are four rounds remaining of the season and while it's always easy to be swept up by the battle at the front with Kawasaki and Ducati, it’s just as easy to lose sight of what is happening behind it. The progress that has been made by Leon Camier and MV Agusta in the last year has been consistent but also marked.
Two years ago the Italian team was having a tough time at the back of the field. Points rather than podiums were the goal, but since Camier came on board they have raised their sights significantly. Gone are the days of MV arriving at a track and being down the pecking the order, but still the thought of overachieving remains in the back of your mind.
But this shouldn’t be the case, as the package has evolved; the bike and rider have developed and it is now standing on the cusp. Since the start of 2016, Camier has finished inside the top six on 16 occasions - if something walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck. Camier has turned a lame duck into a regular top six contender, and he should be commended for it. That achievement should also see people stand up and take notice of his results.
The days of Camier being a plucky underdog are gone, and if he's not at the front of the second group in WorldSBK it should be viewed as a bad weekend for the former British champion. Confidence is one of the strongest forces in all sports; it's contagious within any successful organisation. MV Agusta has surpassed expectation over the last couple of years, and the confidence that comes from that has been clear to see. Any sight reliability problems they suffer with, they are able to overcome, because they know they have a good package and a top line rider.
The time is nigh for the rest of the world to view MV in a new light; that of a leading package.