Final European battle awaits WorldSBK at Jerez
With the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship title wrapped up last time out in France, the paddock now heads to Southern Spain and Circuito de Jerez for the final European round of the season, and there is still plenty to play for. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) sits in second position in the championship, but Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) has been slowly creeping up on his compatriot and the British fight is on. Davies dominated around Jerez last season, so can the green machines stop him in 2017?
Winning the last three races held around the Circuito de Jerez, Davies clearly feels comfortable with his Panigale’s pace around the Southern Spanish circuit, and will be a force to be reckoned with this weekend. Coming off the back of a dominant victory in race two at Magny-Cours under tricky conditions, when the Welsh rider has clear track ahead of him he’s practically unstoppable. Always pushing to get the most out of his Panigale R, Jerez holds the potential for him to take hold of the runner-up spot in the championship. Taking five podium finishes out of the last six races – three of which a victory – he will certainly be the man to catch.
Freshly crowned 2017 World Champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) is yet to win around the 4.4km circuit, meaning he will have a fresh challenge ahead of him this weekend. Just one more podium finish would see the Northern Irishman equal Carl Fogarty’s record; and despite being crowned champion he will be hoping to bounce back from a tough race two in France, which was only his second DNF of the season after he was caught up in Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia)’s second lap crash.
Fighting to hold onto his second position in the championship is Tom Sykes, who is continuing to recover from injury following his monster crash in Portugal which saw the British rider undergo surgery on his left hand and wrist. Taking two victories so far this season, Sykes holds the pole position record around Jerez and took the victory in race one back in 2015, so he is no stranger to success around the track. Putting in an impressive performance in race one last time out, tyres hindered the Yorkshire rider in race two, so he will be back and fighting this weekend.
Italian Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) is nearing the end of his first year back in the WorldSBK paddock, and was able to make history as he took Italy’s 100th WorldSBK victory. The penultimate round of the season holds a lot of potential for Melandri, as he took the double victory at Jerez in 2014 with Aprilia, and has 14 years of experience from his years in the MotoGP™ paddock. In all three of the races he has started in Southern Spain, he has never finished outside of the top two in WorldSBK. Once he has adapted the feeling of his Panigale R to the circuit, his consistent pace is hard to beat.
Sitting in fifth position and just 11 points ahead of his team-mate, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) heads to Jerez with a tough record behind him, his best result around the circuit being a top seven finish. Coming off the back of a second position around Magny-Cours two weeks ago, as well as a private test, Lowes will be bringing confidence in his R1 forward to the final European round of the season, and will hope to continue his strong pace to end the year on top.
One of just four riders on the current grid to have won a WorldSBK race around Jerez, Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) continues to search for that podium finish following his return to the series. Currently sitting in 10th position in the championship standings, he will hope to convert his strong Superpole pace into race pace, as himself and his British-based squad have been working on the rear grip of his RSV4 RF. Taking the double win in 2013 on an Aprilia, and another rider with experience around the circuit from MotoGP™, he will be one to watch this weekend.
Heading into his second home round of the season, Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) has been slowly progressing with his S 1000 R, and has had a varied range of results around Circuito de Jerez, but boasts a podium finish in 2015’s Race Two in his achievements. Taking some solid results towards the end of the 2017 season, the Spanish rider will hope to make some bold steps in the penultimate round of the season, and impress his home fans around the 4.4km circuit.
Joined by Takumi Takahashi once again, Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team are welcoming the support of the Honda factory, as they continue to build and improve the pace of the new Fireblade CBR1000RR SP2. Bolstered by the addition of Davide Giugliano, who continues to make appearances for the Red Bull team, they will be hoping to put in some solid final races of a tough 2017.
Making a name for himself as one of the most impressive riders of the season, Leon Camier (MV Agusto Reparto Corse) has a fairly solid record around Jerez to his name, only finishing outside of the top ten on one occasion out of six – the last race run around the circuit. Edging ever closer to that all important podium finish in WorldSBK since the summer break, the British rider is looking for that final push to get that taste for Prosecco DOC, and with the news announced last week that he will take a step over to Honda for 2018, he will be looking to leave MV Agusta with a bang.
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