News 27 May 2010

WSBK: Australians look to improve, Haslam leads to Miller

Parkes will be looking to improve at Miller on Monday.

Parkes will be looking to improve at Miller on Monday.

The 2010 Superbike World Championship title makes its only appearance in America this weekend, with the Australian contingent looking to gain a strong haul of results at Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City.

This weekend’s round will see the circuit host WSBK for third third successive year, this time on Memorial Day Monday.

The stakes will be high at the 4.907km venue, with a number of riders including Australia’s Troy Corser, determined to prevent Briton Leon Haslam and Italian Max Biaggi from strengthening their positions at the head of the championship table.

Although this year’s racing has been fiercely competitive – four of the seven manufacturers have already won races – Haslam (Suzuki) and Biaggi (Aprilia) have been the masters of consistency, finishing on the podium in nine and seven races respectively.

Unsurprisingly, Haslam leads on 222 points from Biaggi on 207, and then there’s a big gulf back to Jonathan Rea (Honda) and privateer Carlos Checa (Ducati), who are level on 141.

Corser (BMW) is in seventh position on 105 points, just one behind the struggling Ducati of Noriyuki Haga and within sight of James Toseland (Yamaha) at just 20 points in arrears.

Last year’s round at Miller was a dismal one for Corser, who couldn’t keep pace with the top riders and teams, but the Wollongong-based former dual world champion knows what’s required to turn around his fortunes in 2010.

“Salt Lake City lies at a higher altitude than all the other circuits on the calendar, and that has an impact on engine output,” said Corser. “But that’s not our main problem. The area we need to work on most is the chassis.

“The key here is to be clever with our chassis settings to increase mechanical grip, so that the electronics have to cut in as little as possible. I’ve got a few ideas which I’m keen to put into action at Salt Lake City.”

Meanwhile, Corser’s countryman Chris Vermeulen is making his first appearance at Miller Motorsports Park, looking to continue development on the Kawasaki ZX-10R while regaining full fitness after an opening round knee injury,

“I am looking forward to going to Miller, a new circuit for me, but with the position we are in with the bike we should go well there,” the Queenslander commented. “I feel better all the time and getting stronger so I am looking forward to going to America.

“Last year’s results were good here for the team so this gives me confidence that we can take another step forward and make up some ground during qualifying, and then for the races. We also have some valuable data from last year, which will help us with our initial set-up. I’m gradually getting back to full fitness so my targets are set high for this weekend, for both myself and the team.”

Newcastle’s Broc Parkes is another who’s fighting to regain full fitness, the Echo CRS Honda rider working to make his privateer Fireblade competitive against the factory might.

“I have been trying as much as I can to prepare myself for the American races,” Parkes said. “I have been working hard on my fitness at home in Andorra and I think my injured leg should be 100 percent better by Miller. It is a big, fast, open track; it’s unreal. I qualified well at Miller last year and it was a good track for me, so hopefully I can restart my season there.”

Other circuit rookies to Miller will include British duo Toseland and Leon Camier (Aprilia). What they’ll all be presented with is a massive main straight just over a kilometre long, where the fastest Superbikes should hit speeds of around 330km/h.

That’s the speed Biaggi’s Aprilia reached at Monza’s round five, and the Italian will again be looking to take maximum advantage of that awesome top end at a circuit where his best finish is fourth.

One rider who took an instant liking to Miller in 2008 was the then Honda-backed Checa, who waltzed to a double win in his first year of WSBK competition. He then finished on the podium again last year, as did Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) and Rea.

A switch to Ducati at the start of this year has rejuvenated Checa, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see rack up another victory at Miller as he tries to remain in the same championship orbit as Haslam and Biaggi.

In World Supersport, Eugene Laverty (Honda) will be pushing for a fourth successive win, although last year’s Miller champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Honda) will be pulling out all stops to make sure it doesn’t happen. Sofuoglu is a one point leader in the championship over Laverty, with Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki) is a further four points behind in third.