The WSBK break is over. FINALLY! And we now head to the Green Hell, one of the most beautiful and scariest circuits on the calendar. The stakes are now high and the Aprilias and Kawasakis are getting ready to battle. But it was Ayrton Badovini who stole everyone’s thunder by grabbing pole during Superpole at Nurburgring.
Say hello to the Green Hell. Finally! Isn’t it a fine way to end the summer hiatus? While I love the subtle nuances of a MotoGP race, there cant be anything more wild and free than the World Superbike Championship. There is a definite promise of a brilliant race then, if we combine the Green Hell with the folks over at SBK.
The season has been playing hide-and-seek with most fans. There was heartbreak at Moscow with the death of Andrea Antonelli. It is very difficult to jump back into the racing game when a rider has a debilitating injury. A death is far, far worse: It’s but a constant reminder of the risks these men we so love, take, every weekend.
But often, there can be no greater tribute than to continue racing. That’s exactly what SBK did, in Silverstone. There were a lot of surprises at the historic British circuit, and in so many ways, it played an important role in the larger scheme of things – or the championship standings, as we love to call it.
Remember the .5-point difference from last year? It does look like we are heading down a similar path. The races are full of surprises. Take Silverstone: Jonathan Rea took the win in the first race even as Aprilia heavy-weight and championship contender Eugene Laverty took a forced backseat coming 2nd, followed closely by Leon Camier. Yup! You read right. Kawasaki had a chance to breathe a sigh of relief with Loriz Baz taking the win in the second race. Jules Cluzel took 2nd place and Laverty the 3rd. I for one was heartbroken. Tom Sykes had a terrible time at his home race. But he is all set to set the record straight at Nurburgring.
Not that it is going to be easy. The WSBK championship is determined to give us an exciting season. It will be hell for me. I suck at maths. There’s no way in hell that I will be able to calculate the point difference. But then, give me an awesome season over maths any day! The points so far have good ole Sylvain Guintoli leading the number game at 262 points. But Sykes isn’t too far behind. He is 13 points behind. Eugene Laverty, who was leading the championship at one point, is now 36 points behind the leader. Meanwhile Marco Melandri, who has been very quiet lately except on occasion during a race, is 41 points behind the leader.
It’s obvious then that the latest battleground will be Nurburgring. Race weekend opened with a stunning performance by Chaz Davies. The Welshman is brimming with talent. This is one guy, after Sykes, whom I would like to see on the podium. Him, and Laverty. Now, now, don’t go around saying I have a thing for riders from the British Isles. Anyway, Davies put in a brilliant qualifying and took the provisional pole. Until, Superpole came around. There was surprise in store for everyone. Ayrton Badovini of Ducati Alstare took pole position in the wet Tissot-Superpole. Yes, it has been a long-awaited one. But he had to work hard for his position. Marco Melandri was right behind and took 2nd place on the grid. Sykes had a tough time in the final minutes after he crashed, but took 3rd place while Loris Baz took 4th. Davis took 7th after a crash in the second session. Guintoli took 8th while Laverty had to be content with 12th. The wet weather conditions and set-up, an Aprilia release indicates, proved to be most challenging. Laverty said in the release, “It wasn’t exactly an ideal Superpole. It was definitely the worst qualifier of the season, and that doesn’t make things easy for the races tomorrow. It’s a shame because in the free practice sessions, the bike was really going fast on the used tyres. I’m certain that we’ll be able to be competitive in the second part of the race, but the problem will be the first few laps since we are starting from the fourth row. In Superpole, the bike settings were still oriented too much to dry conditions since the sudden rain didn’t give us time to change it over completely. These things happen. Even one more lap would have been enough to gain enough confidence and maybe move up a few positions on the grid.”
But as someone once told me, it ain’t over till the chequered flag drops on race day. Guintoli is determined to extend his lead, but Sykes is just as determined to take his rightful place as champion. The technically challenging Green Hell is pretty suited to the Aprilia, but the Kawas have had good luck at this gorgeous German circuit.
All we need to do though is kick back and wait for the red lights to go down. It’s race day at the Green Hell. There is no way that we can miss even a second.
There has to be a special mention of the Indian, Kawasaki-backed Mahi Racing Team. The wet-weather conditions threw the team for a loop, and Sam Lowes took pole position. But it was Mahi Racing all the way, as Kenan Sofuoglu took 2nd place on the grid while teammate Fabien Foret took 3rd. The championship standings has the Kawas’ arch-nemesis, Lowes at 160 points. Sofuoglu is 39 points behind, and Foret is 59 points behind the leader.