Previews of this weekend's upcoming World Superbike round at Sepang from the series organizers and the teams:
World Superbike heads to Malaysia for Round 10
Sepang International Circuit stages the Pirelli Malaysian Round.
For the second time in its history, the Sepang International Circuit is all-set to host a round of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship. Just a stone’s throw from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the venue first featured on the calendar last year. It now returns two months later in the year than it did in 2014.
The 2014 edition – held in June as opposed to August and Round 6 as opposed to Round 10 – featured a double for Aprilia, as Marco Melandri led home Sylvain Guintoli in both races. This proved to be a mighty important round for the latter, as the Frenchman collected a total of 40 points which proved crucial in his World Championship fight with Tom Sykes. The meeting is arguably best remembered the incident that took out Sykes at Turn 2 in Race 1, as both he and Alex Lowes were taken down by Sykes’ wayward team-mate Loris Baz.
In a very different set of circumstances, Sykes returns to Sepang second in the championship but a huge 125 points behind Kawasaki Racing Team partner Jonathan Rea. Last time out at Laguna Seca in California, it was Sykes who finished second in both race ahead of Rea, whose pair of third places ironically marked his worst weekend of the season so far. Although 200 points are still up for grabs between now and Qatar at the end of the season in October, Rea could wrap up the title in Malaysia, should he score 25 points more than Sykes. Other than that, the Northern Irishman is also looking to extend his run of consecutive podium finishes; he is currently on 19, meaning he would beat Colin Edwards’ run of 25 should he finish on the rostrum in every race up to and including Losail Race 1. Incidentally, if the title is clinched by Rea in Malaysia, the triumph could only occur in the second of the two races.
What about Ducati? The Italian marque collected its first double since Imola 2012 (with Carlos Checa) as Chaz Davies stunningly won both Laguna Seca races two weekends ago. This marked the Welshman’s own first double since Aragon 2013 and the first for the Ducati Panigale model, which debuted in World Superbike at the start of the 2013 campaign. Surely the Panigale has everything required to succeed at Sepang, with a twin-cylinder engine configuration and horsepower by the bucketful.
Davies will be the only factory Ducati rider on-track in Malaysia as team-mate Davide Giugliano has been ruled out of the remaining rounds of the season due to the spinal injury he sustained at Laguna Seca. The team has decided not to replace Giugliano for the upcoming event, while his seat at Jerez in September will be taken by Michele Pirro.
Also making headlines on the run-up to Sepang is Max Biaggi, as the WorldSBK Champion of 2010 and 2012 returns for his second wildcard outing of 2015, after Misano. This time, he has prepared for the event with four days of testing at the Malaysian venue, although three of the four are reported to have been affected by rain. Nevertheless, the Italian – who last raced at Sepang a decade ago in MotoGP – is looking to continue his good form following his pair of sixth places at the Riviera di Rimini Round.
Elsewhere, Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils riders Leon Haslam and Jordi Torres both left Laguna disappointed, while the likes of Pata Honda World Superbike Team’s Guintoli and Michael van der Mark are looking for that extra boost to carry them to podiums. The same could be said for BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team’s Ayrton Badovini and Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes, who each took one sixth place but one race retirement away from the last round. Both van der Mark and Lowes heads directly to Sepang from the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Spanish rookies Roman Ramos (Team Go Eleven Kawasaki) and the aforementioned Torres already know the Sepang International Circuit, albeit on different machinery, while the venue will be new for Barni Racing Team’s Leandro Mercado; he has finished in the points this year in every race bar one – and only Jonathan Rea beats that. Santiago Barragan will not take part in the Pirelli Malaysian Round as he opted for an early end to his partnership with Team Grillini Kawasaki.
World Supersport: Titanic title fight resumes
By the time the World Supersport riders take to the track in Free Practice 1 on Friday morning, it will have been almost six weeks since they last met at Misano. The 2015 Pirelli Malaysian Round promises to be hotter than ever as Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) continues to hunt down three-time World Champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing). The gap between them is 20 points - and PJ Jacobsen mustn’t be forgotten either…
Frenchman Cluzel has won the last two races, with the points lead of Sofuoglu plummeting from 40 to 20 points when the Turk made a rare error and slipped down the order on the final lap at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. The pair have four races left in their struggle for ultimate glory, but must not ignore American Jacobsen. The New Yorker will blast back into action on the CORE’’ Motorsport Thailand Honda, having had time to recover from arm pump surgery on both arms since the last race. He sits 40 points behind the championship leader, with a maximum 100 points still up for grabs between Malaysia and the Qatar finale.
Last year at Sepang, Cluzel missed out on the win by the tiny margin of 18 thousandths of a second. The victor was Michael van der Mark en route to the title, while Sofuoglu was required to work very hard for the final rostrum placing; he eventually clinched the desired third spot, fighting off the attentions of Roberto Rolfo. The top five was completed by Lorenzo Zanetti.
Mentioning top five finishes, precisely one of these was achieved by Ratthapong Wilairot as he made his World Supersport debut earlier this season in Thailand; he now returns to action for the Malaysian round, but on this occasion with CIA Landlords Insurance Honda as a replacement for Riccardo Russo. In the meantime, as he continues to recover from a track day crash, Kieran Clarke will miss the rest of the season and is covered for at Sepang by Aiden Wagner.
Malaysia the next SBK stop for Davies and the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati Superbike Team
Arezzo/Borgo Panigale (Italy), Monday 27 July 2015 - The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati Superbike Team is on its way to Malaysia and the Sepang International Circuit where round 10 of the 2015 Superbike World Championship is taking place this weekend. Chaz Davies will be the team’s sole representative this weekend, as Davide Giugliano is forced to take a three-month break after an accident at Laguna Seca left him with a fracture of the D3 vertebra.
Just ten days ago the Italian squad was on track at Laguna Seca in the United States. Davies demonstrated his determination right from session one, positioning himself among the frontrunners and earning the first pole position of his Superbike career in the Superpole. The following day, the Welshman put together two perfect races, dominating both from beginning to end to score the double win.
This weekend the Aruba Ducati rider will have to contend with the extreme Malaysian conditions with high temperatures and significant humidity. Last season Davies closed race one fourth and the second race in eighth place, results he hopes to be able to improve on this time around.
As the team sets out for the tenth of thirteen scheduled rounds, Chaz retains third position in the general standings with 263 points, while Ducati continues to hold second place in the manufacturer’s championship with 318 points.
Comments ahead of the event:
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati Superbike Team #7)
“All things considered I think we did a good job last year. The high temperatures were a big issue for us, especially in the races where grip worsened significantly after a few laps. We were quite fast for as long as we had tyre life but it wasn’t for long enough unfortunately. We are definitely in a better position now and so we should be more competitive, especially considering our recent results. The weather may also impact on the practices and races, with the likelihood of thunderstorms almost every day... We just have to wait and see but I think we have every reason to be confident.”
ALTHEA RACING PREVIEW: SEPANG
After just a few days’ break since the American round, the 2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship moves on to the Asian content, and Malaysia, for the tenth event of the season.
The Sepang International Circuit will host the production-derived series for the second time after appearing on the calendar for the first time last year and, as is usual at this track that also hosts F1 and MotoGP, it will be the atmospheric conditions that dictate the outcome, with particularly hot and humid weather, as well as thunderstorms that can always condition the show.
Climatic conditions that will really test the physical condition of all riders and the Team Althea men will have to adapt as quickly as possible to the Malaysian climate. As well as the riders, the bikes and particularly the tyres will be under extreme stress, at a track that, as well as being characterized by very flowing turns and two long straights, has never undergone any restructuring in the last sixsteen years, making for a very bumpy surface.
For Matteo Baiocco this is a first visit to Sepang and he will have to adapt quickly to the new track. He arrives from a weekend at Laguna Seca during which he had to fight with technical problems that prevented him from fully expressing himself and achieving his full potential. At Sepang he will try to make up for the points lost in America.
Niccolò Canepa is very comfortable on Team Althea’s Ducati Panigale, with which he was very fast during the qualifying sessions and races on the American track. He will now focus on taking further steps forward to bring home two results that could prove fundamental to the rider and the set-up of the bike.
Remember that you can watch the Superpole on Saturday 1 August from 9.00am CET and the races on Sunday 2 August from 7.30am CET.
Matteo Baiocco: “I cannot wait to get to Sepang which is another new track for me that I am impatient to learn. It won’t be easy but I want to put the unlucky Laguna Seca weekend behind me and work to make up points and positions in the standings. I would like to improve and plan to give it my all – we’ll be doing our best right from the first practices on Friday.”
Niccolò Canepa: “After just two races on board the Panigale R Superbike I was able to be very fast at Laguna Seca. I still have room for improvement and am sure that I’ll be able to take another step forward at Sepang. The racing will be tough for the riders, bike and tyres considering the extreme temperatures, but I’m prepared and well trained to face the weekend.”
Pata Honda returns to WSBK action in Asia
After a two-week break, the Pata Honda team and its riders Michael van der Mark and Sylvain Guintoli are preparing for this weekend’s (31 July – 2 August) tenth round of the 2015 World Superbike championship at Sepang in Malaysia.
Guintoli left the last round at Laguna Seca in the USA ruing a missed opportunity in race two following a collision with another rider that ruled him out of contention after posting seventh place in the first outing.
The French rider, 33, currently sits in sixth place in the overall points standings as he continues to work hard with his team to improve the performance of his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP machine.
After two top-eight finishes in California, Pata Honda team-mate Michael van der Mark has been riding a different specification CBR during the break between Laguna Seca and Japan, competing in the Suzuka 8 Hours race in Japan alongside Casey Stoner and Takumi Takahashi.
The 22-year-old WSBK rookie’s dreams of a third consecutive victory in the prestigious endurance race were ended, however, when Stoner crashed early in the race. Van der Mark will be looking to bounce back in Sepang where he won last year’s World Supersport race on his way to 2014 world championship glory.
Sepang first opened its doors in 1998, to audible gasps from motorsport fans the world over. Built over a period of 14 months, it boasts outstanding facilities and spectacular viewing. The 5.548km circuit can accommodate up to 130,000 raceday spectators in its stunning grandstands and features five left-handers and ten rights, with its main start-finish straight just short of 1km in length.
Michael van der Mark
Compared to the last two years, the Suzuka experience was really disappointing this year. I’ve never felt so bad after a race, so I’m looking forward to meeting up with the team again and to riding my WSBK-specification CBR. I’m not under any illusions because I know how tough the circuit is; it’ll be hard work but I really enjoy riding there, even though it can get quite hot. I had a really good battle in the heat last season with Jules Cluzel in Supersport which will bring back some happy memories for me. We’ll work as hard as we can from Friday morning to get the best out of the CBR and see where we are when Sunday comes.
Malaysia is a great event in the calendar with a very fast layout in Sepang and very challenging conditions during the race weekend with heat and humidity. We will continue to work on different fronts to improve our results.
Pieter Breddels - technical co-ordinator
Our results from Sepang last season were not spectacular but we’re hoping that a recent upgrade in the CBR’s engine software will improve the performance, both in corner entry in the heavy braking areas and in the bike’s ability to get off the turns. Of course, everything was crated up following Laguna Seca for transportation to Malaysia so we’ll be starting with what we finished with last time out, but working hard again to improve the overall package.
Tenth WorldSBK Round Coming Up For KRT’s Rea and Sykes
The number of 2015 FIM Superbike World Championship rounds will reach double digits in the next few days as KRT riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes head to the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia holding first and second places respectively in the overall championship standings.
Last season at Sepang Sykes was second on the grid but had a no score in race one, after a first lap incident caused by another rider. Tom rallied to take third place in race two at a circuit the 2013 World Champion rates as one of the most technical and enjoyable on the calendar.
While riding for another manufacturer Rea took two sixth places at Sepang in 2014 but hopes for much more after a stellar first season in Kawasaki’s official WorldSBK squad. In the past 18 races Jonathan has finished in the top three all of them, collecting 11 race wins to date. Sykes has taken three race wins in 2015, part of a total of ten podiums so far.
After nine WorldSBK rounds and 18 individual points scoring races Rea has a class-leading total of 407 points, with Sykes in second place on 282. Sykes and Rea have been shadowing each other in terms of their WorldSBK career landmarks for much of the 2015 season. Sykes has now taken 59 podium finishes, including 25 wins, while Rea has 26 wins and 60 podiums.
In terms of the coming weekend, in what will be the second time the series has visited Asia in 2015, the hot temperatures and high humidity of a Malaysian summer should add to the challenge of the long 5.548km Sepang International Circuit, located close to the country’s capital city Kuala Lumpur. The scheduling of the two WorldSBK races, at 13.30 and 16.30 local time on Sunday 2nd August, could also have an affect on the track and ambient conditions the riders may face.
After the completion of the Sepang race weekend a long summer break begins, with the next competitive action for the WorldSBK teams schedule for the Spanish round at Jerez, on September 20th.
Jonathan Rea stated: “I always enjoy the flyaway rounds. When I studied the Sepang races last year I struggled a little bit but it seems that the Ninja ZX-10R was quite a strong package. I expect it to be really hot at Sepang. With the timings of the races and at this time of year there is a possibility of thunderstorms in the afternoon so we have to be ready to react to the weather as well. At Laguna, with it not being such a high braking force track, quite twisty and with the temperature not being so high, I was not able to use my preferred front tyre. So I expect in Malaysia, with the temperature increase and the heavy braking zones then my preferred harder front option will be the tyre of choice. I hope to be able to get back to my normal riding style and set the bike up accordingly. Whilst we had a good pace at Laguna Seca, I was not entirely comfortable. It is important for me to have a strong weekend at Sepang before we start on the long summer break. I really enjoy the Sepang track and the fans in Asia are always incredible, so I think to should be a great weekend.”
Tom Sykes stated: “Sepang is an absolutely incredible venue, a great Grand Prix circuit and one that I enjoy. The Tom Sykes and Kawasaki fans are fantastic and they turn up in their numbers, which it is great to see. Sepang has a great layout and I enjoy the weather conditions. It is something completely different and quite challenging - but it is nice. We had a great feeling there last year and I think we can build on that. We are gradually getting a better feeling with the bike this year under the new regulations we have. I hope we can continue that momentum from Laguna forward. Sepang is really wide, open and your references are not as clear as they would on most tracks. Because you have so much circuit to play with you have a lot of tarmac to use and that is when you get the lap times. Sometimes all of that tarmac sucks you in and you feel you need to use it all. In some areas you are best of keeping to tight and not using all of the track. It is really quite technical.”
David Salom (Kawasaki Team Pedercini) approaches the Sepang round with a total of 43 championship points, while his Spanish countryman Roman Ramos (Team Go Eleven Kawasaki) has 59, putting him in 13h place overall.
From Suzuka to Sepang for Lowes and Voltcom Crescent Suzuki
Fresh from competing with Yoshimura Suzuki for the Suzuka 8Hour endurance race, Alex Lowes is heading to the Sepang International Circuit, in Malaysia, this week to meet Voltcom Crescent Suzuki teammate Randy de Puniet in preparation for round 10 of the Superbike World Championship on Sunday 2nd August.
A top-six finish at Laguna despite a challenging weekend, followed by a stand-out performance and fifth place in his debut endurance race, leaves a confident Lowes ready to return to the World Championship. The British racer is hoping to reacquaint himself quickly with the Malaysian layout aboard his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R this weekend – last year’s opening action having concluded before it had really begun after the collision on turn two of his debut race – with a goal of running strongly in the front group for the final two races before the long summer break.
De Puniet is looking to continue the impressive pace, found with his Suzuki Superbike during Friday’s practice sessions at the Californian track, over to the Sepang circuit. Having raced in the tropics throughout the majority of his GP career – with fourth place finishes on both MotoGP™ and 250cc machinery, alongside Suzuki GP testing duties as recently as February of this year – the Frenchman is assured he can improve further on the recent positive developments to secure a consistent and strong showing in Sunday’s two 16-lap races.
Located approximately 60kms from Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia’s central-western coast, the 5,543m Sepang International Circuit was opened in March 1999, after a record 14 month completion. The Herman Tilke designed layout features 15 corners and eight straights, with the two consecutive main straights joined by a first-gear hairpin and measuring almost one kilometre apiece. Overtaking is commonplace at the high-speed circuit due to its wide nature, but the weather conditions remain one of the most complex features to navigate, with high temperatures, intense humidity levels and frequent rain storms affecting both rider and machine preparation and performance.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki will be on track slightly earlier than normal for round 10’s opening free practice session on Friday 31st July – at 10:00hrs local time (03:00BST) – with the second practice at its usual 15:00 (08:00BST). Saturday 1st August sees a normal schedule of two free practices – at 09:45 and 12:30 (02:45 and 05:30BST) – ahead of the afternoon’s Superpole at 15:00 (08:00BST), while Sunday’s races will run at 13:30 and 16:30 (06:30 and 09:30BST).
“It’s been a busy few weeks with Laguna, Suzuka 8H and Sepang back-to-back but I’m still looking forward to getting back to Malaysia. It’s a track I feel I don’t really know to be honest, missing out on race one last year after getting knocked off on turn two. It’s a really long track so I need to re-learn the layout and then try to work hard for a solid weekend. We’ve been making some good progress on the GSX-R in recent races, so hopefully the extra experience gained during the 8Hour and working alongside Yoshimura will allow that development to continue. I’m looking to keep as close to the top six as possible and challenge for two solid races this weekend before we stop for the summer break!”
Randy de Puniet:
“I like Malaysia; I have raced maybe 15 GP’s there. I had a couple of good races in 250cc and I have tested many times with the Suzuki GP team over the winter so I know the track very well. I think we can be more competitive there as we have already shown the improvements made to the GSX-R during the Laguna weekend and I think we can keep getting better. I’m excited to race at Sepang, it will be challenging with the heat, especially as I have never raced twice in the one day there so this will be a little different for me. If we can start Sepang with the same feeling we had at Laguna on Friday and Saturday and improver further from this, it will be an interesting weekend for us.”
APRILIA TO HAVE THREE BIKES ON THE TRACK AT SEPANG
LEON HASLAM KEEN TO GET BACK TO WINNING, JORDI TORRES AIMING TO CONFIRM HIS EXPLOITS FROM LAGUNA SECA
SECOND WILD CARD OF THE SEASON FOR SIX-TIME WORLD CHAMPION MAX BIAGGI
Noale, 29 July 2015 – For the second time this season, Aprilia will come into the race weekend with a three-pronged attack formation. Six-time world champion Max Biaggi will be on the track with the Noale Test Team, riding his number 3 RSV4 RF alongside the “twin” bikes ridden by Leon Haslam and Jordi Torres.
The Laguna Seca round held contrasting sensations for the Team Aprilia Racing – Red Devils riders. Leon Haslam wants to take advantage of the Malaysian track's characteristics to get back to the positions he deserves and he is making no bones about wanting to win. His first Superbike podium, achieved in the last round in the USA, could be the turning point in the season for rookie Jordi Torres. The objective on the horizon is clear: to prove that he is the best rookie in the category.
Romano Albesiano, Aprilia Racing Manager: “We are coming to Sepang after the Laguna Seca round which resulted in contrasting indications: a difficult weekend for Leon with a decidedly good performance on the other hand for Jordi. For Aprilia Sepang is a traditionally friendly circuit. We aim to do well with both our official riders. They seem to be ready and motivated. Don't forget that in Malaysia we will also have three bikes on the grid for the second time this year. In fact, Haslam and Torres will have Max Biaggi riding alongside them after his magnificent weekend at Misano. The good results we saw at Misano mustn't make us forget that Max has been out of racing for almost three years and certain mechanisms need to be recovered, especially on a track where he is riding the RSV4 RF for the first time. The tests here did not do much good, given the rain, so it will be important to continue working during the race weekend.”
Leon Haslam: “I have been anxiously awaiting the Malaysia round. Laguna Seca was the most difficult weekend of the season for me. I want to get back to winning and I think that the Sepang track is the right place to do it. This is traditionally a good circuit for Aprilia and I'm sure that Max's contribution will also be helpful. Now all that's left is to start working with our best efforts from the first laps and to managing our setup well will also be fundamental given the extreme conditions.”
Jordi Torres: “Sepang is a long and very diverse circuit. Finding a good braking setup will be essential because there are a lot of braking sections and so will working on grip in the particular temperature and humidity conditions. I like the circuit and the atmosphere of the locals. I think that Malaysia is really a beautiful country. After Laguna Seca I've raised the bar for myself. I'm ready to hunker down behind my top fairing on the two long straight stretches!”
After the extraordinary sport and press event at Misano, where Max Biaggi surprised fans and staff by dominating the Friday sessions and riding two outstanding races, on the Malaysian track the Corsair will be taking on a new challenge. It will be a decidedly demanding one, given the equatorial weather conditions combined with his less than perfect knowledge of a track where he has never raced with a Superbike. During the tests conducted last week Max and his team had to deal with rain on three of the four days available to them, collecting little information and increasing the difficulty of returning to the track.
Max Biaggi: “After the dream come true at Misano, where I rediscovered the warmth of my fans and the adrenaline of racing, in the second wild card at Sepang a demanding weekend awaits. During the tests I discovered the difficulties of a complex track with extreme weather conditions, and losing precious time didn't help. We'll need to stay 100% focused to take advantage of every practice session. The guys on my team will be under a lot of pressure and I'll have to dig deep to give my best. Improving on the Misano results will be no walk in the park, but it isn't the first time I've faced an impossible challenge. I hope to have fun and to give Superbike fans a good show.”
Kawasaki And Sofuoglu Preparing For Sepang
Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) leads the Kawasaki entry in the 2015 FIM Supersport World Championship round at Sepang in Malaysia, with the three-time champion holding a 20 point series lead over his nearest rival.
After a long break since the most recent round the WSS series at Misano on June 21st, the Kawasaki riders are ready to get back into action at the 5.543km long and beautifully appointed Sepang circuit.
With four race wins in 2015 so far, taking his career total to 31, Sofuoglu is clearly the most successful Ninja ZX-6R rider in the field but others will also have an opportunity to perform well at Sepang this weekend.
Marco Faccani (San Carlo Puccetti Racing Kawasaki) is a first time visitor to Sepang but is still looking for a strong result on Sunday to move forward from his current tenth place overall.
Christian Gamarino (Go Eleven Kawasaki) is not a Sepang novice as he raced here in WSS last season. He is only three points behind Faccani in the title chase.
Dominic Schmitter (Go Eleven Kawasaki) is 15th in the current rankings, after scoring points in all but one of the eight races held so far in 2015.
Kenan Sofuoglu stated: “Last year Sepang was not so easy but my Puccetti team has made a completely different gearbox choice and I think our new direction could be good for the whole race at Sepang. We have made a big improvement from last year and if we manage to have good sessions in practice and qualifying we will fight for the win. And one thing is for sure - I did not come here to be in second place.”
Marco Faccani stated: “This is my first time at Sepang although I have seen the track many times on TV. It is important for me to see the braking points, the racing lines and then I think it will be OK. It looks like a difficult track because it is maybe the longest one in the championship, so we will have to see how it goes. If all goes well in practice my target is a top five finish but I have to work hard with my team to have a good feeling with the bike so that we can go fast.”
Smith raring to go again in Asia
After a six-week break, the 2015 World Supersport championship resumes with the ninth round this weekend (31 July – 2 August) at the Sepang International Circuit near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
Pata Honda rider Kyle Smith is looking forward to climbing back on board his Honda CBR600RR machine and challenging once again for WSS honours in this, his debut season of world championship competition.
Smith scored two podium finishes earlier in the season but the British rider’s campaign has also been affected by three non-finishes and a 15th at Imola in Italy, resulting in only one championship point, meaning he currently sits in seventh place in the points table.
Despite never having visited the 5.543km Sepang circuit, the 23-year-old Smith is determined to get his championship back on track, inspired as he is by standing on the Suzuka 8 Hours podium in Japan last weekend where he was part of the FCC TSR Honda team that finished second in the prestigious endurance race on a CBR1000RR Fireblade.
Smith has also been fired up for the Sepang event by becoming a father for the first time. His partner Sandra gave birth to baby Julia while he was on 8 Hours duty last weekend; however, having flown directly to Malaysia from Japan, Smith has not yet met his new daughter.
I’ve had quite an eventful week, really! I had an amazing weekend at Suzuka, even though I didn’t get to ride on Sunday – P2 was really good for the team and for Honda and it was all topped off with a new baby, so a weekend to remember. Of course, I’m really looking forward to getting home and meeting her! But for now I’m in Sepang where it’s quite hot, but it’s not so different from Spain, where I live, or Japan, where I’ve been for the last week and more. It doesn’t matter how accustomed you are to it though, it’s still really hot! Now I’ve got a new track to learn, so we’ll do a walk round with the team this afternoon to get a good look at it. I’ve seen it on TV of course but my team-mate, Mikey van der Mark, says it’s nothing like you see on TV, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow!
Pieter Breddels - technical co-ordinator
Kyle enjoyed a really good weekend in Suzuka, becoming a dad for the first time and standing on the podium – probably a weekend he’ll never forget! We’re hoping he won’t have too much trouble switching back to his CBR600RR after riding the Fireblade in Japan because it will be tough for him to adapt to another new circuit and the hot conditions that he will encounter in Sepang this weekend. The entire team will be focused on working with Kyle to send him home with a good result here.
Malaysia in WorldSBK History
In the past it was Shah Alam and Johor. Nowadays it’s Sepang.
The first World Superbike round to be staged in Malaysia was at the Shah Alam circuit in 1990, the third year of the championship. Taking place in November ahead of only the Phillip Island and Manfeild races, it played a crucial role in deciding that year’s world title in favour of Raymond Roche – the first and only World Champion from France until Sylvain Guintoli clinched his title last year.
This weekend Alex Phillis will make his debut in the premier category, but it was his father Rob who took the first pole position in Malaysia back in 1990. However, double race wins would be clinched by the crafty Fabrizio Pirovano, with Roche fourth in Race 1 despite having to nurse a problem with his brake lever. Roche would go on to maintain his World Championship lead, while Pirovano would move ahead of Stephane Mertens to finish runner-up that season.
Shah Alam enjoyed a second year on the calendar in 1991: a season remembered for the sheer dominance of Doug Polen. Indeed, the American arrived there with 12 victories under his belt from the first 14 races, including the last seven consecutively. He was 79 points ahead heading into the weekend, but the event would prove challenging for Polen. He may have taken pole position, but the wins went to reigning World Champion Roche, doing the double as Pirovano had done a year earlier. Ironically, Polen still managed to increase the championship lead to 92 points – and this proved to be the only weekend in 1991 on which he failed to win at least one race!
For the next two years, the Malaysian Round switched to Johor. Roche, one of the main title contenders along with Phillis and eventual victor Polen, won the first race after beating Pirovano. In Race 2, normal service was resumed as Polen won to keep Roche at bay in the championship standings by the slim margin of five points.
In 1993, the Johor protagonists were the two men fighting for the world crown: Carl Fogarty and Scott Russell dominated both races. Fogarty had the last laugh in both encounters but, such was the pace of the leading duo, third-placed Pirovano was more than half a minute behind by the end of Race 2. Completing the double, Fogarty reduced eventual title winner Russell’s points lead to five points.
WorldSBK would then witness a two-decade hiatus for Malaysia. The country returned in 2014 with the Sepang International Circuit, designed by renowned German architect Hermann Tilke and completed in 1999. The 2014 weekend was dominated by Aprilia, with Marco Melandri winning both races but kept honest by team-mate Guintoli, with the champion-to-be having clinched pole position.
However, the real drama of the weekend came at the second corner of Race 1, as reigning World Champion Tom Sykes was unintentionally taken down by Kawasaki team-mate Loris Baz. Suzuki’s Alex Lowes was also caught up in the melee. In Race 2, Sykes ran second in the early stages, but would finish third behind the Aprilias.