Set in the historic surroundings of Bologna which basks in racing history, the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship heads to the iconic Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola for Round Five. Fans are set to be treated to some stunning racing action with championship rivals already coming to blows, and fiery Italians ready to bring the fight.
It was Ducati vs Kawasaki at Assen, with Jonathan Rea (Kawasai Racing Team) and Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) coming to blows in Superpole Two and on track in Race One. As the drama from Assen rolls into Northern Italy, will we see a home hero or will Ducati’s domination continue? With the last Italian victor around the Imola circuit being Michele Fabrizo in 2009, it will be a big ask for the nation to hit 100 WorldSBK victories this May. However it could be the turn of any one of the five Italian riders taking to the track for the Motul Italian Round to have their names in the history books, or we could yet again see an Italian manufacturer on the top step.
On the brink of securing the 100th victory for an Italian rider, Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) heads for his homecoming for the first time since his return to the 2017 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, but Imola is a circuit he has struggled around in the past. The question on everyone’s lips is can he secure the victory and take the glory with his home crowd. Starting his season off on a consistent run, the Italian rider has secured five podiums – at least one at every round – but is just a small step too far from fighting for the victory. With the home support behind him and on a bike which is clearly strong around Imola, Melandri could be a rider to keep an eye on.
Team-mate Chaz Davies has had a rollercoaster start to his 2017 season and heads to a circuit at which he dominated at last year, which happens to be his teams home track. Securing two podiums and two DNFs over the last two rounds, the British rider will be hoping to recreate the form he found around Imola last season as he hunts down Rea in the championship standings.
One rider you can’t rule out of contention is the reigning world champion Jonathan Rea, who has had a near perfect record so far in 2017 and is a run that doesn’t look to be slowing down. With five victories to his name around Imola, Rea will be the man with the target on his back at the 4.9km circuit.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) is continuing to battle against an illness which is has hampered the 2013 World Champion since MotorLand Aragon. The British rider has secured two victories at Imola in the past, with four pole positions alongside them, proving he has fast pace around the circuit in the past. Missing out on podium finishes in just two races so far this season, Sykes will no doubt be a tough one to shake off around the Italian circuit.
In only his second race with his new WorldSBK team, Rafaelle De Rosa (Althea BMW Racing Team) will be hoping to build on his pace from Assen last time out as the Italian finished in the points on just one occasion in The Netherlands. Taking time to adjust to his BMW S 1000 RR, the reigning European Superstock 1000 Champion heads to Imola with a strong knowledge of the circuit behind him. Standing on the podium in the STK1000 2016 race here, De Rosa may take a few by surprise with his pace around the circuit.
Another Italian who will be looking to perform well in front of his home crowd is Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia), as he was able to secure a top four finish in his WorldSBK debut in Italy last season. Returning to Assen from injury, Savadori put in a strong performance along the weekend, but has had a mixed start to the season with two top ten finishes so far. Making strong steps in The Netherlands indicate he could be up and fighting for the win – with a fourth position in Superpole Two.
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) are both on the brink of securing a podium finish, with the pair continuing to make adjustments on their Yamaha YZF-R1 machines that are getting them ever closer to the podium fight. Home heartbreak for van der Mark will no doubt motivate the Dutchman, as Lowes will hope to bounce back from a tough weekend which saw the British rider crash out of Race One.
Riccardo Russo (Guandalini Racing) will be taking on his home circuit for the first time on a WorldSBK machine and with a varied history around the circuit; will be looking to build on his pace so far from 2017. Taking the victory back in the 2012 European Superstock 600 series, Russo has since secured a top eight finish in WorldSSP and it will be interesting to see how he can get his Yamaha to run around the Imola circuit.
Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) left Assen with his best WorldSBK finish so far, as the German took sixth position in Race One last time out. Adding to this a top ten finish in the second race, and it seems Bradl is making progress onboard his Fireblade 1000RR SP2. However this will be his first visit to the Imola circuit, and renowned for its technical nature may be a tough ask for Bradl who is still undergoing technical issues with his new machine.
Keep up with all the Italian action, and see who can bask in the glory in front of the passionate fans all online with the WorldSBK VideoPass.
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