News 8 Jul 2010

WSBK: Biaggi still the man to beat heading into Brno round

Biaggi has been dominant in World Superbike with Aprilia this season. Image: Graeme Brown/GeeBee Images.

Biaggi has been dominant in World Superbike with Aprilia this season. Image: Graeme Brown/GeeBee Images.

The World Superbike title resumes at the classic Brno circuit in the Czech Republic this weekend, with all the focus centred on whether anyone can snap Max Biaggi’s recent domination.

Biaggi and his Aprilia are currently on the best winning stretch in four years of WSBK competition, which is already a worrying enough proposition for his rivals. Then add in the fact that he’s already a race winner and lap record holder at the Czech Republic circuit, it’s obvious he’s going to be the rider to beat in the two 21-lap races.

Perhaps one of only a few personnel who will be able to wear down the Italian is Australia’s Troy Corser (BMW), who led most of race one in the last round at Misano before Biaggi eventually clawed his way to the front.

And like Biaggi, Corser is also a Brno winner, the last of his three victories coming in his world championship-winning year of 2005. Last year, riding the all-new BMW in its first year of WSBK competition, Corser stormed to his best result of the season with a fifth in race one.

Now armed with a vastly improved machine, Corser is expecting big things at Brno, which is a temple to racing with its constant elevation changes and magnificent, sweeping bends.

“I’m confident going into Brno, and the bike has come a long way since this time a year ago,” said Corser. “I like the track itself a lot, as it suits my riding style. The set-up you run here is quite unusual. There are corners which you brake into going downhill and others which you brake into travelling uphill. That means you have to find a compromise.”

Corser joined all the World Superbike regulars in a test session at Imola last week, which included his fellow Aussies Chris Vermeulen (Kawasaki) and Broc Parkes (Honda).

For Vermeulen, it was his first real chance to go testing since he hurt his knee way back in February, but he was happy to have found new Pirelli tyres that seem to suit the ZX-10R in race trim.

“The new tyres that Pirelli has brought have been good,” said Vermeulen. “We have gone through some of the parts that have been introduced through the year and this is the first chance I have been able to do something on the bike without being under the pressure of race weekend since my accident. Consistently we are a lot closer to the front, so that is very positive.”

Meanwhile, Parkes continues to push despite riding a privateer CBR1000RR for the ECHO CRS Honda team.

“We had a good test at Imola recently, and made progress with the chatter we had been having on the bike,” Parkes explained. “It is still there, but reduced. There are not really an awful lot of things we need to get our two bikes a bit closer to each other in configuration and set-up. It’s just making the strategy work in the same direction. I have had some good results at Brno in Supersport so I am hoping we can go there and be a lot stronger.”

After such an underwhelming season, top 10 finishes at Brno would amount to a positive outing for Vermeulen, while at the sharp end of the pack Biaggi and Corser will be on duty with the regular guard: Leon Haslam (Suzuki), Carlos Checa (Ducati), Jonathan Rea (Honda), Noriyuki Haga (Ducati), Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) and Yamaha pair James Toseland and Cal Crutchlow.

Crutchlow was fastest at the Imola test ahead of Haslam and Fabrizio, with Biaggi back in ninth.

At Brno, Biaggi will be out to extend his winning streak to six, which would only leave him only three behind the all-time record jointly held by Briton Neil Hodgson and American Colin Edwards.

Biaggi leads the championship on 307 points, with a comfortable 37 point buffer back to Haslam (270), followed by Checa (172), Rea (158), Haga (151) and Corser (149). There are a maximum of 250pts up for grabs in the final five rounds.

In World Supersport, Eugene Laverty (Honda) will attempt to maintain the championship lead in what is a see-sawing battle against Kenan Sofuoglu (Honda) and Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki). Lascorz was the best of the trio at Brno last year, finishing third.