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WSBK: Brno Preview: A return to an old battle ground

Credit: Yamaha Racing

The World Superbike championship makes a welcome return to Brno in the Czech Republic for round seven of the championship. Leading the series is Jonathan Rea, by a huge 64 points from arch-rival and Aruba.IT Ducati’s Chaz Davies, whilst in third is Michael van der Mark, after a mesmerising double saw the Dutchman elevate himself, making it three different manufacturers in the top three positions.

Jonathan Rea levelled with Carl Fogarty back at Imola in terms of race wins but he is yet to surpass the Blackburn ace’s record of 59 race wins. Rea, who was 2nd and 3rd at Donington Park, continued to extend his championship lead over the opposition at his home round and comes to Brno with a sizeable advantage. In 2010, Rea won race one and secured a 2nd place in race two but that was the last time he was inside the top ten at the track. Although we expect him to be right up the sharp end, there are riders who have a lot more experience at Brno in recent years, with the likes of Loris Baz, Eugene Laverty and Jordi Torres all looking to use their GP experience. It may not all be about Rea on Saturday and Sunday.

Chaz Davies needs to win. There is no other way of putting it. He can’t afford another bad weekend like he and the rest of the Ducati riders endured at Donington Park and if I’m honest, I don’t think that Chaz and Ducati will have another bad weekend. Davies has been to Brno before in the Superbike class, with a best result of 6th on an Aprilia back in 2012; he was 3rd at Brno in the Supersport class the year previous. Two wins may just bring the championship back into reach for Davies in 2018 but he will have to rely on other riders interfering with Jonathan Rea if he is to make large in-roads.

Magic Michael lived up to his name at Donington Park! van der Mark showed his true potential by taking two race wins at the British round and he is looking to become the first WSBK rider in history to achieve his first four wins all one after the other. The Yamaha ace is just 18 points shy of Davies and 81 points off Rea, so the championship may be a bit far off in 2018 – but that is if Rea has an easy run of things to the end of the season. I have a sneaky feeling that Michael van der Mark may be on the crest of a wave after his first race wins and all he needs to do now is stay on it for as long as possible. Two Rea DNFs and two Michael van der Mark podiums would see WSBK come alive, big time.

The exact same can be said for Tom Sykes, who was somewhat languishing down the field in race two at Donington Park. The Huddersfield ace slipped to fourth in the championship but is level on points with van der Mark so, like the Dutchman, a couple of mistakes from the leading two can bring Sykes right into play if he is near the front. Sykes has won at 14 circuits in World Superbikes but Brno isn’t one of them, with his best result being a pair of 2nd places back in 2012 in dodgy conditions. Can Sykes repeat that achievement to come back into the championship race?

The winner of the race in 2012 was Marco Melandri, who has looking rather subdued ever since his sensational double victory at the season opening round at Phillip Island. The Italian is 27 points behind van der Mark and Sykes and a huge 109 points behind the points leader, Rea. Ex-GP star Melandri has done thousands of miles at Brno but will need to use them to his advantage to get the Aruba.IT Ducati back at the front of the pack. Many people after round one may have fancied a bit of Melandri for the championship but I personally feel that 109 points is a completely insurmountable gap to overcome. The chances of Melandri winning the title are slim but again, a double for him and trouble for those ahead of him in the championship standings and there may well be a glimmer of hope.

Xavi Fores had his first double DNF since Jerez in 2016 at Donington Park, ending a great run of results this season. In all of the races he has finished, Fores has made it to the top five and will look to do the same at Brno, a circuit at which he has never raced a World Superbike at before. Fores’ best result at the venue is a 5th place, back in World Supersport in 2005 on a Suzuki. Fores is 12 points behind Aruba.IT Ducati’s Marco Melandri and will look to add the Italian to his list of big-name scalps of the 2018 season. Surely, a win is around the corner for Fores? I see no reason why he will not be – at some point – on the top step of the podium.
Other riders to keep an eye on at Brno include Yamaha’s Alex Lowes, who has finished in the points in every race since last race two at Losail last year. Lowes is one of just three riders to have finished every race this season in the points; the others are Jonny Rea and Loris Baz. Baz will be one to watch, having finished 4th at the Brno circuit back in 2016 in MotoGP.

Puccetti Kawasaki’s Toprak Razgatlioglu will look to continue his run of good form, having just finished one race outside of the points in 2018. With a new contract under his belt for 2019, expect the Turk to be on the pace. Leon Camier will be much fitter than his returning ride at Donington Park and has actually scored a GP point at Brno, in 2014. Expect the 2009 BSB champion to be knocking on the door of the top eight.

Spaniard Jordi Torres will look to use his GP experience at Brno to propel him to a good result on the MV Agusta, whilst a resurgent Lorenzo Savadori will be flying the flag for Aprilia after a good British round. Teammate Eugene Laverty was 6th at the 2016 Czech Grand Prix so the Irishman may also have the pace to challenge for the leading positions in both races.

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