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Jun 03, 2014 - 04:50 PM
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Preview World Superbike-Supersport, Sepang, Malaysia
Posted by: newsla on Jun 03, 2014 - 04:45 PM
Tidbits
Preview World Superbike-Supersport, Sepang, Malaysia


SEPANG A NEW SBK OPPORTUNITY FOR REA AND HASLAM

Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) and Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) face a new challenge as the FIM Superbike World Championship heads to Malaysia for the sixth round this coming weekend, in what will be the first ever visit of the championship to Sepang.

 

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The CBR1000RR SP has already taken three wins in the hands of Rea this year but last time out at Donington Park his winning streak ended, leaving Jonathan in second place in the championship after five of 13 rounds. He is now 26 points from Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) and tied with Loris Baz (Kawasaki). Rea is, however, ranked above him because of his superior win ratio.

A front row start was the high point of Leon’s home round at Donington as he now continues his quest to take his first podium of the year. Eighth in the overall rankings Haslam will bring all of his considerable experience to bear in Sepang as he aims for a season best finish.

Both Jonathan and Leon have previous experience of the Sepang layout. Jonathan took part in testing there on a MotoGP machine for Honda while Leon has raced there many years ago when he was a young GP rider. A high level of fitness and stamina is needed to deal with the heat and humidity that is an ever-present part of racing at the 5.548km long circuit, located close to Kuala Lumpur’s International airport.

The riders will have an extended first practice session of 75 minutes on Friday 6 June and following the qualifying Superpole on Saturday, will undertake two 16-lap races on Sunday 8 June.

The track at Sepang has been a regular on the MotoGP calendar, for both races and winter test sessions, thanks to its tropical climate and range of corners. It is very wide along its entire length and features two long straights, with heavy braking areas into slow corners.

A true test of man and machine in the heat and humidity that is omnipresent in Malaysia, Sepang will be a tough but welcome addition to the Superbike World Championship calendar and it forms the second long haul race weekend of the season.

This will not be the first visit of the Superbike World Championship to Malaysia as a country, as SBK races were held in the early days of the championship in Shah Alam and Johor Baru.

On completion of the Sepang weekend the championship heads back to Europe for the second Italian round of the season, at Misano, between 20 and 22 June.

NEW EXPERIENCE FOR HONDA’S SUPERSPORT RIDERS

After taking the outright lead in the FIM Supersport World Championship after his second race win of the season last time out at Donington Park Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Supersport Team) approaches the next round at Sepang in Malaysia full of confidence and excitement at the prospects of more success.

Lorenzo Zanetti (Pata Honda World Supersport Team) has also won a race in 2014 but after losing his podium possibilities with a technical DNF at Donington he is doubly determined to make his mark again at the Sepang International Circuit in the 14-lap race on Sunday 8 June.

Van der Mark has a lot of reasons to be happy to return to Asia after being part of the team that won the Suzuka 8-Hour in Japan last year but this will be his first ever visit to the 5.548km Sepang circuit, located close to Kuala Lumpur.

As the championship stands after round five van der Mark has posted one no score in the first race in Australia, but has followed that up with two wins and two second places, giving him a 14 point lead over Kawasaki rider Florian Marino. For Zanetti one win and two DNFs have contributed to keeping him in fifth place overall after five rounds. Lorenzo has been in Asia for some days now, to acclimatise to the conditions.

Raffaele De Rosa (CIA Insurance Honda) has also taken his Honda to the top three race finish, recording a third place in Australia. After a top ten finish at Donington in the previous round he finds himself sixth, and the third Honda rider in the top six places.

Team Lorini Honda team-mates Marco Bussolotti and Riccardo Russo are currently fighting it out for 12th place, with both riders tied on 21 points. Bussolotti is currently ranked 12th as his season best race finish of seventh, at Imola, is one better than Russo’s.

The fortunes of Jack Kennedy (CIA Insurance Honda) took an upswing at the previous round as he finished seventh, despite qualifying 18th, and he is now placed 15th in the pre-Sepang championship table. The Irish rider was affected by injury in the first few races but is now coming into good form in the middle of the season.

With no home race of his own in his native Thailand Ratthapark Wilairot (Core PTR Honda) sees Sepang as his local race, and is already preparing to make his best results of the year given his experience at this regularly used MotoGP race and testing venue.

Nacho Calero (CIA Insurance Honda) suffered a suspected cracked collarbone at the previous round but is out to score more points at the Sepang round, while Fraser Rogers (Com Plus SMS Racing Honda) is looking for his first point in WSS since the opening round in Australia.

After the end of the Sepang weekend the championship will pack its flight cases for a return to Europe and the Misano Circuit, an old favourite on the Superbike World Championship trail. Raceday will be Sunday 22 June.

HONDA RIDER COMMENTS:

Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike Team)
“I’m really excited about going to Malaysia because it’s a new race on the SBK calendar. I really like the circuit layout and I visited a few years ago when I did some testing for HRC’s MotoGP effort in the last season of the 800s. Donington was a tough round for us and we turned our attention to this next round immediately after the races there. I hope we can achieve better results than at Donington and I’m really looking forward to the challenge of taking the CBR to a new circuit. The humidity will be quite intense in Sepang and we’re expecting high temperatures but I’m in good physical condition to tackle the two races. The most important thing is that we are able to extract the full potential of the bike which we didn’t do at the last round.”

Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike Team)
“I’ve been to Sepang before. It was about 12 years ago but I remember which way it goes so I don’t see it being too much of a problem. A few of the other riders have ridden there, too, including Johnny, so I’m not sure anyone will have too much of an advantage. It’s quite a fast and flowing track with two long straights. The heat will be an issue, of course, and the conditions can make a big difference in lap times from the morning to the afternoon. We’ll hope for some consistent weather that will help us with setting up the bike for Sunday’s races.”

Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Supersport Team)
"This year has been not so bad and at Donington all weekend it was good because we had a positive feeling with everything. Our results have been better in 2014 because we worked hard in the winter and the team has improved the basic set-up of the bike to make it easier to ride. I have never been to Malaysia but some of my rivals have raced at Sepang with another championship. For me it is completely new. I think I can learn new tracks quite fast and that is what I showed last year in Turkey, when I finished third. I am really looking forward to this weekend in Malaysia and I think it will be a good track for me. I have done a lot of laps on the Playstation and we will get a longer first practice of 75 minutes to help us find a set-up.”

Lorenzo Zanetti (Pata Honda World Supersport Team)
“I stopped in Thailand for five days on my way to Malaysia so I have had time to relax and adjust to the conditions. I raced here in 125 GP in 2009, so I know the track and I think it will be good for the bike which has been working really well at other races. It was a shame to finish the way I did at Donington but I had a very good feeling with the bike there - like Imola before - so I am confident that we can get this feeling again quickly at Sepang. We need to find a good setting so the bike is not too difficult to ride in the conditions, but I’m really looking forward to riding again.”

Jack Kennedy (CIA Insurance Honda)
"I enjoyed racing at Donington and my lap times were close to the front runners. I know if I had qualified better I could have run with them and contested the podium – we have proved we have the package to do that now. At Sepang I will target a better qualification and then run at the front and see if we can challenge for the podium for CIA Insurance Honda.”

Ratthapark Wilairot (Core PTR Honda)
"I have ridden at Sepang before but missed last year. Sepang always feels like home. Many people from Thailand have gone to support me every year I have raced there. I want to make a present to them of a good result. The team and I have worked hard on the bike and put in many laps, so I feel better on it now. We need to continue to improve and the important thing is that I need to understand the tyres more. I was very happy with my bike at the last round and it is clear we have top six potential. I am looking forward to our best result of the season this weekend.”


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