WorldSBK commentator Steve English previews a pivotal Acerbis Czech Round
The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship makes its long awaited return to Brno this weekend, and up and down pitlane riders are rejoicing about this fast and flowing circuit returning to the calendar. Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) are the only riders in the SBK® class to have won around the Czech circuit in the past, and while past form is not a guide, going into this weekend both riders will be excited to return to a former stomping ground.
Triple world champion Rea claimed his first international victory at Brno, in the 2008 WorldSSP race, but has also added WorldSBK success to his resume with a victory in 2010, which was followed up by a podium in Race 2. The Northern Irishman will be keen to reassert himself following a difficult race weekend at Donington Park – as arm pump was the cause of the Kawasaki rider's problems. He'll be hopeful that Brno will prove an easier circuit for him, where there is more time to rest and riders can adapt their styles easier.
For Melandri this weekend is pivotal. His double victory at Phillip Island was now six rounds ago, and he has struggled to replicate this in the opening half of the season. But having won at Brno in three different classes – 125cc, 250cc and WorldSBK - the Italian will be using his past experience to tighten his ship. Ducati were all at sea during the UK round of WorldSBK, but Brno should see a very different set of circumstances.
Losing the opening sessions to bad weather at Donington cost Ducati dearly, and when you factor in Chaz Davies' (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) crash in FP3 they lost lots of information. Not having his feedback on settings and electronics hurt Ducati considerably, and Donington showed the importance of the 29 times race winner to the team.
While Ducati will be trying to regain their form, Yamaha will be looking forward to building on their British momentum. With Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) claiming the victory in both races, the team are confident that Brno will suit their bike again and allow them to continue to challenge at the front.
Taking three victories at Brno in the past with Nori Haga, Ben Spies and Melandri doing the honours, the Japanese manufacturer will feel ready to win again. The flowing nature of the track, not to mention a test last month, should leave Yamaha able to hit the ground running and van der Mark is certainly ready for action.
"After Donington, I'm even more motivated to arrive in Brno!” Beamed van der Mark. “I am so happy with the wins there and the performance of the R1. I'm pretty sure that the bike has improved even more after the test we did in Brno, so I am excited to see what we can do there. I am looking forward to riding on this great track and I will be fighting as hard as I can to get back on the podium again!"
The team will also be keen to get to the bottom of the issues that have been affecting Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) in the second half of races this year. The British rider has traditionally been strong in the closing laps, but has been struggling this year.
Aprilia has had this problem in recent years too, but with Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) returning to full fitness the SMR squad will feel that these next three races are crucial. Brno, Laguna Seca and Misano will offer team manager Shaun Muir the chance to showcase his team for 2019, as well as the crucial second half of the current season.
Round Seven of the 2018 WorldSBK season will be full of intrigue, and the field will be out to ensure that they can build their momentum for the final three rounds before the summer break. Working efficiently throughout the weekend will be the only way to get to Czech mate.