Superbikes on the grid
Phillip Island is bracing for a big race weekend, writes CRAIG DUFF
THIRTY-TWO riders on seven brands take to Phillip Island today to launch what promises to be the most competitive world superbike championship.
The retirement of champion Troy Bayliss means there is no standout favourite.
BMW and Aprilia join the superbike ranks this season, headed by Australia’s Troy Corser and former MotoGP racer Max Biaggi respectively.
American superbike champ Ben Spies has graduated to the world ranks with Yamaha and Brit Johnny Rea has been consistently quick in practice.
Nori Haga on the factory Ducati and Shane Byrne on a privateer unit have also been in the leading bunch during preseason testing.
Corser has won at Phillip Island seven times on a superbike and believes the BMW has the speed and balance to be a threat in its first outing.
Joining Corser are fellow Australians Broc Parkes, Karl Muggeridge and Brendan Roberts.
Parkes has moved up from world supersport to world superbike with the factory Kawasaki team and should get good support given Team Green has pulled out of MotoGP.
Muggeridge will ride a satellite Suzuki and Roberts, the 2008 Superstock World Cup champion, will ride a privateer Ducati.
It’s a different story in the world supersport class, where Australia’s Andrew Pitt is the preseason favourite, courtesy of last year’s series victory.
Pitt’s greatest threat could come from teammate and 2007 champ Kenan Sofuoglu.
Pitt’s fellow Aussies in super- sport include the Honda-riding trio of Anthony West, Mark Aitchison and Russell Holland and Triumph racer Garry McCoy.
McCoy was equal-second fastest with Pitt in private practice at the Island last weekend and the Daytona 675 could be the dark horse this season.
Both classes will have practice and qualifying sessions today, ahead of final qualifying tomorrow and the races on Sunday. Saturday will be the first test of the new Superpole format, in which the top 20 qualifiers enter elimination bouts to decide grid positions. The six slowest in the first two sessions are eliminated.
Domestic support events include the national superbike and supersport races and the crowdpleasing historic bikes.
seven-time winner Troy Corser tries out his new BMW at Phillip Island.