It’s time to return to Portugal
WorldSBK heads to southern Europe and the stunning circuit of Autodromo Internacional do Algarve for the 10th round of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, and the return to Portugal is one which is generating a lot of interest within the WorldSBK paddock. Four different riders on the WorldSBK grid have won around the 4.5km circuit, and five have finished on the podium since the series first visited the track back in 2008. Historically a strong circuit for the British riders, as well as Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia), we are set for a hotly contested weekend as the riders battle it out for returning honours on the hillside.
Continuing to lead the way in the world championship standings, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) first stood on the Portimao podium in 2009’s Race one, behind Ben Spies. Since then the reigning champion has taken 10 trophies away with him - three of them as the race winner. With just four rounds of the championship remaining, it’s clear Rea is now beginning to keep a cool head and think of the title challenge before him. Putting on a mature performance in the last round at the Lausitzring – a circuit he knew he wouldn’t be strong around – the Northern Irishman will have the title on his mind, so it will be interesting to see how he tackles Portugal.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) is another rider with a strong record in Portugal, as the British rider is now becoming a veteran in the series. His performances so far this season have continued to improve and impress, but with the championship points deficit increasing he will have to keep his eye on the ball. With two wins to his name in Portugal, he will be looking to improve on his pace from Germany, and be back up and fighting to search for his third race win of 2017.
Fresh off the back of a double victory in Germany, Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) is looking to continue his run into the final third of the title fight, with the points deficit now at 105 points from Rea. The British rider has a mixed history around Portimao, never taking a victory in the WorldSBK class but he stood on the WorldSSP top step in 2011, whilst the 30 year old has only secured two podiums in WorldSBK; third in both 2014 and 2015. But we have seen in the past once Davies is able to get into his stride, he is a strong force to be reckoned with so he will be heading to Southern Portugal with a strong battle in mind.
Italian Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) makes his return to a circuit which has brought him glory in the past; taking the wins in 2011’s race two and 2013’s race one on a Yamaha and the second with BMW. These are Melandri’s only two podium finishes around the 4.5km circuit, but following his consistent form so far in 2017 it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 35 year old celebrating a top three finish this weekend. With seven podium finishes to his name in 2017, and fresh off the back of re-signing with the Italian team for next season, Melandri will be one to watch in the Algarve.
Another rider making a notable return to Autodromo Internacional do Algarve is Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia), named as the round ambassador back in May, there will be a lot of attention on the Irishman. With a strong record around Portimao in both WorldSSP and WorldSBK, as well as a strong winter test, Laverty will no doubt be out to secure his first podium finish since making his return to the series. With 2012’s race two and 2013’s dominant race two wins to his name – both with Aprilia – on top of a dominating WorldSSP victory back in 2009, Laverty’s experience with the 4.5km circuit goes back nine seasons and it’s clear his riding style suits the undulating track.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team duo Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark are continuing to search for their first victory of the season, with both riders coming close on some occasions so far in 2017. British rider Lowes has secured two podium finishes, but is struggling to make up the gap to the front runners. Narrowly missing out on a podium finish in Portimao back in 2014, he has finished inside the top ten in all four appearances so far, and will be hoping to make that all important step onto the podium. As for Dutch team-mate van der Mark, he has fond memories of Portugal following his victory back in 2014 on his Honda in the World Supersport class, and similar to his team-mate he has never finished outside of the top nine in the Algarve.
Continuing to impress on his 1000 F4, Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) heads back to Portimao which the British rider has a long history around. His strongest weekend came in 2010, where he secured two top five positions. Over the last five rounds held along the Algarve coast the 31 year old has suffered four retirements, but with some other solid results and his impressive performances so far this season, his experience around Portimao will no doubt play to his advantage for Round 10.
Spanish top ten finisher Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) is continuing to search for solid results throughout the 2017 season, as he struggles with his S 1000 RR’s consistency, despite leading the way in Misano. With two top 11 finishes to his name around Portimao back in 2015; Torres will be striving to improve on his best finish of fourth position in 2017. With the 30 year old putting in the hours in the gym over the summer, he is determined to make a strong impression in the final third of the season.
Hoping to be back and fighting fit following the disappointment of his home round, Sefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) is set to make his debut around Portimao this weekend, adding another track for him to learn. However he won’t go into Round 10 totally blind, following a winter test along the Algarve coast back in January. It will be a weekend to regain his confidence onboard his CBR1000RR SP2, as the German rider will hope to be back to full fitness.
WorldSBK action gets underway on Friday 15th September for free practise, before Race one kicks off at 15.00LT on Saturday 14th, followed by Race Two on Sunday at 15.00LT which can all be followed with the WorldSBK VideoPass.