Adoring Italian fans prepare to see if Davies can dominate once more
Steeped in history, Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola is the setting for the fifth round of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship and there is no doubt we will see more history made this weekend. In front of the dedicated Ducatisti, 22 riders will battle it out to take victory around one of the most popular tracks on the calendar. Tight, twisty and technical, Imola offers challenges not found on any other circuit this season, and the passion will be unrivalled.
The man to beat in recent years, Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) is heading to Imola as the obvious favourite this weekend, standing on the top step on the last four occasions with his Panigale R machine. Holding the pole, race and circuit lap record, the British rider has been an unstoppable force over the past seasons as thousands of Ducati fans descend on Imola to show their support. However glory hasn’t always come easily to the 31 year old in Northern Italy, with six podiums out of 12 appearances in his WorldSBK career here. Sitting 30 points off the top of the championship standings, there is still plenty to play for on his number seven shod machine.
It can be easy to forget Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)’s history around Imola, but the British rider has certainly impressed around here in the past. Taking four victories from as many races in 2014 and 2015, the reigning world champion has tasted the special glory of victory in Italy with both Honda and Kawasaki. Taking his first win at Imola back in 2011, championship leader Rea is not short of success and he has his sights set on higher prizes. Just two victories shy of equaling the overall number of WorldSBK victories, he has his first chance of writing his name in even more history books this weekend.
Another victor around Imola, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) will be heading to Italy with a new feeling of confidence, after his stunning return to the top last time out in The Netherlands. Keeping one eye on the overall Superpole record, Sykes will be hunting down more success this weekend – and with the double win secured here in 2013 he will be poised to take on the tight and twisty circuit.
Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) will no doubt be heading south to Italy still beaming from a stunning double podium at his home round. The Dutch rider put on a show for his fans who ascended on TT Circuit Assen in their thousands, but van der Mark’s thoughts will now turn to Imola as he will hope to retain his top four position in the championship standings. However with a tough record in WorldSBK around the 4.9km track, it will be a challenging weekend with the aim of improving his best result of seventh. But with a spring in his step, it will be interesting to follow his progress.
As Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) prepares for a battle in front of his home fans, there will be plenty of eyes on the SMR squad as Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) hopes to make his return to the WorldSBK paddock following his horror crash in Thailand. Aiming to be passed fit by the medical team this week, the Irish rider is hopeful of swinging his leg back over his RSV4 just seven weeks after breaking his pelvis.
After a tough weekend in The Netherlands for the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team with both Leon Camier and Jake Gagne sitting out of the round due to injury, the duo will have their fitness assessed before the Pata Italian Round. But PJ Jacobsen (TripleM Honda World Superbike Team) is set to make his WorldSBK debut at the famous Imola track. With two podium finishes to his name in WorldSSP, the American will be hoping to make strong steps with the CBR1000R as he continues to develop the package with his Italian team.
Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team) sits in the top nine of the world championship standings, and will be aiming to improve his overall pace in round five this weekend. With four starts under his belt here, the Frenchman will be looking forward to returning to the tight and twisty track which has welcomed two top four finishes in the past. Baz has had a steady return to the WorldSBK championship so far, but with a string of consistent points scoring finishes, he will be looking to continue to break into the top 10.
Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) is continuing his development with his new team, and felt some big steps were made throughout the Dutch Round. Heading to a circuit where he was able to secure a podium in 2015, the Spanish rider has had a mixed history in Italy, but as his team took a strong top six finish here last season, the foundations have been built for a solid weekend.
Not forgetting home hero Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), who will be searching for his first victory in WorldSBK around Imola alongside team-mate Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team), as the adoring Italian fans will be out in force for the duo. With Valdimir Leonov (SPB Racing Team) making his second appearance of the season and Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) returning for the first time of 2018, you won’t want to miss any of the action with the WorldSBK VideoPass.