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Nurburgring Preview

World Superbike 2013

maddix park mx

www.motorcycle-usa.com  By Byron Wilson

The 2013 eni FIM Superbike World Championship returns from summer break for Round 10 at Nurburgring. It will have been four weeks since the previous round at Silverstone when riders line up to race in Germany and most are eager to return to competition, perhaps none more so than Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes.

Sykes took a small hit in championship points thanks to the turn in conditions at his home round the last time out. Rain showers of varying intensity descended mid-way through both races and forced him to slow his pace, resulting in an uncharacteristic 11-7 result, which cost him a shot at gaining the overall championship lead. What’s more, Sykes was unquestionably strong during the opening dry laps of both contests, gaining the front early in Race 1 and challenging for it again during the initial stages of Race 2. No doubt a frustrating scenario for the British rider, but rather than risk injury or the possibility of earning zero points Sykes decided to mitigate loss and wait for more amenable race days. At Nurburgring, Sykes returns to the site of his first career SBK victory, in the rain two years ago. Since that win the Yorkshire rider has vaulted to title contender.

Sykes’ unlucky choice at Silverstone proved a boon to Aprilia Racing’s Sylvian Guintoli, who retained the overall lead after finishing 4-6 at the British circuit. The French rider gained nine points on Sykes and enters the German round with a total advantage of 13. Guintoli has finished inside the top-10 in all six races he’s run at Nurburgring, with a career best result of second-place in 2011. Last year he went 6-10 at the circuit. Guintoli continues to heal from a shoulder injury sustained during training and which made the races at Silverstone especially difficult. The long break should help the Aprilia rider recover.

Guintoli’s teammate, Eugene Laverty, is third in the standings with a 36-point deficit on the current leader. The Irishman has raced the ‘Ring four times in his professional Superbike career, and in each contest he’s finished fifth or better. Laverty proved he still has plenty of fight left in the battle for this year’s title at Silverstone, clawing his way back from seventh in Race 1 after the track began to dry to finish second. He staged another commendable ride in Race 2, where he managed the tricky conditions for a second podium in third-place. Besides lessening his dearth of points in relation to the series leader, Laverty’s performance at Silverstone was redemptive for the fact that it came after two consecutive DNFs; one at the ill-fated Moscow round which was shortened to one race after Andrea Antonelli’s untimely death, the other in Race 2 at Imola where he crashed out.

Sitting fourth in the championship tally is BMW Motorrad GoldBet’s Marco Melandri. The Italian desperately needs a change in fortune if he’s to retain hope of challenging for top-honors in 2013. While he does have three wins to his credit and a number of podiums, he also has outliers such as double ninth-place finishes at Silverstone, a 12th in Race 2 at Portimao (after winning Race 1 no less) and an eighth in Race 2 at Assen, which have significantly hindered his SBK campaign. There would be poetic justice if Melandri generates some positive momentum at Nurburgring this year because it was the site where he lost his short-lived championship lead in 2012. His double offs in Germany were followed by a round-ending crash prior to Race 1 at Portimao. He made the season finale at Magny-Cours, taking second-place in Race 1, but it wasn’t enough to shake the bad luck and he notched a DNF in Race 2 to end the year.

Melandri’s teammate, Chaz Davies, is first among the highly-unlikely-but-mathematically-still-able-to-win-the-title group of riders, sitting fifth overall. He enters the German round 82 points behind Guintoli, but has been more consistent in finishing outside the top-five than not this year. He burned bright at Aragon, sweeping the round, but since has been on the podium just once, taking second-place in the Moscow anomaly. He was challenging hard for a top-three spot in Race 2 at Silverstone, but just prior to the red flag his S1000RR started smoking like a chimney and he was forced to pull out of competition. Davies earned his first career Superbike win at Nurburgring in 2012 in Race 2 following a third-place result in Race 1.

Sykes’ teammate, Loris Baz, is sixth overall and is tied with Davies at 180 total points. Baz has only retired from one race this year and has otherwise been inside the top-10, earning his first race win of the season at Silverstone in Race 2. The French rider went down in Race 1 at Nurburgring in 2012 but came back to finish eighth in Race 2.

Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea sits four points behind Davies and Baz in seventh overall, his season suffering from inconsistent performances throughout. Red Devils Roma’s Michel Fabrizio trails Rea in eighth followed by FIXI Crescent Suzuki duo Leon Camier and Jules Cluzel in ninth and 10th respectively.

Silverstone proved to be the best round yet for FIXI Crescent Suzuki, with both Camier and Cluzel earning their first podiums of the year. Camier took third in Race 1 and Cluzel finished second in Race 2. Both will be keen to maintain that momentum in Germany.
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