WorldSBK commentator Steve English previews what will be a stunning Round Nine
Rimini is one of the most historic areas of Italy, with its close proximity to Rome it has played a crucial role in Italian history, from the Roman Empire to the Papal States to the battle of the second World War. It has also played a key role in the history of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship with only Phillip Island, Assen and Donington Park hosting more races.
Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli will host World Ducati Week later this month, but despite having notched up 29 victories in 50 races, it hasn't been a happy hunting ground in recent years for the Italian manufacturer. Last year's Race 2 success for Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was their first Misano victory since 2011, and with Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) having stood on the podium only once in WorldSBK, it could be an uphill task facing the Bologna crew this weekend.
Over the 25 years of racing at Misano there has been 15 doubles, with Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK duo Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea both boasting three wins in a row at the coastal circuit. The Kawasaki ZX-10RR has been the bike to beat in recent years, and the circuit plays perfectly to their strengths. It's unlikely to see that change this weekend, but with Sykes having been fired up by recent events within the team he'll be more motivated than ever to win again.
While it's easy to see green and red bikes dominating the field this weekend, there is also an expectation that the form book could be disrupted once again. Yamaha's form this year has been constantly improving and after a strong performance Laguna Seca - a traditional bogey track for the R1 - the team will feel that Misano should suit their bike. With Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team’s Lowes taking a podium here last year, and Michael van der Mark leading the way for the majority of Race One, they showed strong potential here last year and should be able to carry forward their momentum from this season.
With Aprilia having claimed their first rostrum finish since 2015, and Eugene Laverty his first since the previous year, the Milwuakee Aprilia squad will be confident of adding to their haul this weekend. Laverty's form throughout the American weekend was strong, and the team feel that the steps they've made with their bike this year should allow them to challenge again at their manufacturers home round.
With Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) continuing to recover his fitness, the Ten Kate squad will also feel this could be the weekend they prove their potential. The Dutch squad has made huge strides in 2018, but the injury to their lead rider robbed them of strong results. If Camier is closer to full fitness they could get in amongst the top five at Misano.
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