The battle for second is on as WorldSBK returns to Doha.
Sunday 18 October will mark the final two races in the eni FIM Superbike World Championship of 2015. All is decided in terms of Riders’ and Manufacturers’ titles, in favour of Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki, but the runner-up spot is yet to be sealed. Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team) edges out Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) by 16 points, with the gap having come down from the 22 it was before Magny-Cours.
This time, Welshman Davies is joined by Xavi Fores who is the last substitute of the season for the injured Davide Giugliano; Spaniard Fores raced earlier this season at MotorLand Aragon and Assen. Davies will be looking to cement second overall as quickly as possible, while Sykes has finished only first or second in the standings for the last three years.
With the title signed, sealed and delivered for Northern Ireland’s Johnathan Rea in Jerez last month, he and his team-mate were in Barcelona last week in order to help launch the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R for 2016. For now, however, Rea is looking to amass more points than any rider has even scored in a single season of World Superbike. One more race victory would be enough to beat Colin Edwards’ record of 2002.
The Losail International Circuit debuted on the calendar in 2005, running through to 2009 prior to a four-year break. It returned at the end of last year, with a scintillating finale in which Sylvain Guintoli picked up his first and so far only career double, seeing off the challenge of Sykes whose own weekend was marred by a team orders scandal with Loris Baz. Guintoli duly became France’s second World Champion after Raymond Roche in 1990.
In 2007, Max Biaggi stormed onto the WorldSBK scene by winning his first race in the series. He makes headlines again eight years on, returning for a third outing of the season after Misano and Sepang. He tested for four days at Losail last week; now fully fit - having raced to a podium last time out with an injured shoulder - he wants even more this time.
Guintoli’s single-year spell with Honda will end after this event. He is on the lookout for another positive two races at what is one of his favourite race tracks, having finally jumped up onto the podium at home in France two weekends ago. Alex Lowes in is a similar situation, looking to enjoy his last outing on a Suzuki before he joins the 2014 title winner as Crescent switches to Yamaha R1 machinery for the start of 2016.
Ahead of Qatar, WorldSBK Champion Rea has welcomed Nicky Hayden to the paddock. The 2006 MotoGP title winner will race alongside Michael van der Mark at Honda next year, making his World Superbike debut with an eventual plan of becoming the first rider in history to win titles in the premier classes of both WorldSBK and MotoGP. His future team, Ten Kate, finished on the podium in Qatar last year as Rea was second in Race 2.
As with every year that goes by, the final race meeting of the season marks a wonderful opportunity for those riders still seeking a placement for the following campaign. With the market wide open, numerous big names are yet to be allocated to seats…
The 2015 Pirelli Qatar Round will take place across the weekend of 17-18 October, with Sunday’s first World Superbike encounter starting at 7pm local time (GMT +3).