The bare, stark winter quiet will give way to the warm growl of superbikes as riders, fresh from their break, get ready for the 2013 World Superbike Championship this weekend. The arena is Phillip Island, a glorious, challenging track that is there to push riders and their superbikes to the limit.
The memory of the 2012 season is still fresh. And the riders and their teams bring with them new podium dreams and a determination to prove that they are the best of the lot. Prime among them is Kawasaki Racing Team’s Tom Sykes, who has gone down in history as the man who lost the 2012 championship by 0.5 points. He will be determined to fix that record and break Kawasaki’s 20-year-long championship drought. But the beginning hasn’t been too auspicious.
Sykes, the Mr Superpole 2012, begins the 22-lap races from the second row at 4th position, a result of the new Superpole qualifying rules. He was riding after suffering a nasty crash during the tests in Australia that left him with a cracked bone in his wrist. He later said, “I learned last year the qualifying is qualifying and racing is another story, so I am in a decent spot for tomorrow’s races. It will be two long races, in hot conditions from what I have heard, so let’s see.” You all know about my affinity for the Green team, so do forgive me if I wax eloquent this season! But here’s to the Sykesy and his quest for the 2013 championship. His teammate Loris Baz finished at 11th.
But he is not the only one seeking the crown. There are others who are looking at shaking off the 2012 dust. One of them is Carlos Checa, the 2011 WSBK Champion, who will be riding the new Ducati 1199 Panigale R World Superbike this season. A nasty crash during the free practice left him with a bruised shoulder and foot, but that did not stop him. He set an incredible time of 1.30.234mins on the new Borgo Panigale superbike. Checa later said in a press release, “Winning Superpole was a great surprise for me and is down to all the hard work put in by my mechanics, the physios and the rest of the Clinica Mobile medical staff. This morning, I felt pain in both my shoulder and foot and I really didn’t think I’d be competitive in qualifying and Superpole. The mechanics did a great job and made the bike easier for me to ride and by the time Superpole started this afternoon, I felt pretty good really – better than I thought I would!” His teammate Ayrton Badovini will not be competing as he has broken a bone in his right foot.
But Aprilia isn’t far behind as the team gets ready to repeat its 2012 glory, this time with Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli at the helm. Laverty took the 2nd position at the Superpole and Michel Fabrizio, riding for Red Devils Roma on the Aprilia factory bike, took the 3rd spot. Fabrizio stunned every one after he became the fastest man on the track on Friday during Qualifying practice clocking in 1.31.317mins.
Italian Marco Melandri is another man who is trying to shake off his 2012 mistakes that saw him go from crown contender to the 3rd position in the championship. He will start from the 5th position on the grid. Melandri’s partner this season is Chaz Davies, the 2011 Supersport world champion who made his smashing debut last year.
The championship this year however will miss John Hopkins who has taken a leave of absence to rest and recoup from a series of injuries that he suffered last year.
I will, of course, be following Mahi Racing Team, India’s one and only Supersports team as they make their way to their first complete season. Reigning Supersports world champion Kenan Sofuoglu and teammate Fabien Foret will be riding the Kawasaki for the team that saw its share of controversy in 2012. Dan Linfoot signed on for the team last year and brought glory after he secured a podium position at Magny-Cours. But he was left without a ride for the 2013 season, after being unceremoniously replaced by Sofuoglu and Foret. Linfoot will now ride in the BSB championship this season.
My highlight this season however is MV Agusta’s return to WSS. The Italian manufacturer that creates stunning machines dominated the racing world in the 1950s and 60s. They return this year in a partnership with Giuliano Rovelli’s ParkinGO Team. Roberto Rolfo and Christian Iddon will ride the 675cc MV Agusta F3 bike.
One thing’s for sure. There is much to prove and a lot to achieve this year. Excuse me as I let out a loud, excited shout. Let the season begin!
The 2013 Contenders
Tom Sykes – Kawasaki Racing Team (Kawasaki ZX-10R)
Loris Baz – Kawasaki Racing Team (Kawasaki ZX-10R)
Carlos Checa – Team Ducati Alstare (Ducati Panigale 1199)
Ayrton Badovini – Team Ducati Alstare (Ducati Panigale 1199)
Sylvain Guintoli – Aprilia Racing Team (Aprilia RSV4 Factory)
Eugene Laverty – Aprilia Racing Team (Aprilia RSV4 Factory)
Leon Haslam – Pata Honda World Superbike ((Honda CBR1000RR)
Jonathan Rea – Pata Honda World Superbike (Honda CBR1000RR)
Marco Melandri – BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK (BMW S1000RR)
Chaz Davies – BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK (BMW S1000RR)
Leon Camier – Fixi Crescent Suzuki (Suzuki GSX-R1000)
Jules Cluzel – Fixi Crescent Suzuki (Suzuki GSX-R1000)
Alexander Lundh – Team Pedercini (Kawasaki ZX-10R)
Federico Sandi – Team Pedercini (Kawasaki ZX-10R)
Michel Fabrizio – Red Devils Roma (Aprilia RSV4 Factory)
Davide Giugliano – Althea Racing (Aprilia RSV4 Factory)
Ivan Clementi – HTP (BMW S100RR)
Max Neukirchner – MR-Racing (Ducati Panigale 1199)
Vittorio Iannuzzo – Grillini Dentalmatic SBK (BMW S1000RR)