All focus shifts to battle for second at Magny-Cours
With Rea already crowned World Champion, the series heads to France
Situated close to the towns of Magny-Cours and Nevers, the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours (to give it its full title) is found in the centre of France and some 250 kilometres from capital city Paris. On no less than 15 occasions has it hosted the historic Bol d’Or motorcycle race and was also a home of Formula 1 car racing until 2008.
The track made its WorldSBK debut back in 1991 for a one-off event, then returned on the calendar twelve years later with a slightly revised layout of 4.411km (140m longer than the original one). Since then, Magny-Cours has been a permanent fixture on the Superbike World Championship calendar. Laid on flat terrain and consisting of a highly technical mix of long turns and tight corners, the circuit often witnesses changeable weather and rain, which makes for an extra challenge for teams and riders.
The struggle for the runner-up spot
Last time out in Spain, Jonathan Rea became Great Britain’s fifth World Superbike Champion and the first from Northern Ireland, wrapping up the title in Race 1 at Jerez with five races still remaining in the 2015 season. Naturally, the attention now turns to the season-long struggle for runner-up spot between Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes.
There are just 22 points behind Davies (Aruba.it Racing-Ducati SBK Team) and Rea’s team-mate Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team). With 25 points available for race victory and a maximum of 100 still in play between now and the end of the season in Qatar, the pendulum could swing in either direction. Davies is the man with the momentum, having scored a highly impressive 140 of the last 150 points on offer from Laguna Seca, Sepang and Jerez, while Sykes has finished no lower than second in the championship for the past three years.
Things have settled down in the Manufactures’ race, too. Kawasaki needed to finish in the top eight in Jerez’s second race and it did, sealing the title for the all-green marque for the first time. What of the fight for second? One looks to Ducati, as its advantage of 78 points over last year’s Champions Aprilia is vast with only two rounds to go. Perhaps all will be looking over their shoulders for Yamaha, which will rejoin the paddock in 2016.
A notable question mark on the Magny-Cours line-up lingers over the second Aruba Ducati bike. Michele Pirro substituted for Davide Giugliano in Jerez, but Davies’ team-mate for the Fassi French Round is yet to be named. Elsewhere, Crescent and Suzuki head into their penultimate round of partnership as Markus Reiterberger returns as a One Event rider on the VanZon Remeha BMW. Also on the grid will be Polish representative Pawel Szkopek, riding a Yamaha YZF-R1 for the Szkopek POLand POSITION squad. Incidentally, this will not be 40-year-old Szkopek’s debut in World Superbike, as he rode four races in 2004 plus a further two in 2006; curiously, his best result to date came at Magny-Cours, where 11 years ago he rode a Suzuki to 13th position in Race 2.
After Free Practice and Tissot-Superpole across Friday and Saturday, Magny-Cours’ opening World Superbike race begins on Sunday at 10:30 local time (GMT +2).
2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship (11 of 13 rounds completed)
1 - Jonathan Rea Kawasaki Racing Team 478*
2 - Chaz Davies Aruba.it Racing - Ducati Superbike Team 353 (-125)
3 - Tom Sykes Kawasaki Racing Team 331 (-147)
4 - Leon Haslam Aprilia Racing Team - Red Devils 286 (-192)
5 - Jordi Torres Aprilia Racing Team - Red Devils 210 (-268)
*Already crowned the 2015 Champion
Yamaha confirms WSBK return, signs Guintoli and Lowes
Rea leads proceedings on opening day in France