Biaggi Nearing Second Superbike Title

Max Biaggi leads the World Superbike standings going into the season finale this weekend. (World Superbike Photo)
Max Biaggi leads the World Superbike standings going into the season finale this weekend. (World Superbike Photo)

ROME – Three riders and three different manufacturers will be facing off on Sunday in the final showdown at Magny-Cours for the 2012 eni FIM Superbike World Championship.

This won’t be the first time the French circuit will play host to the championship’s grand finale, which this time features two Italians, Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing Team) and Marco Melandri (BMW Motorad Motorsport) and a British rider, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team), currently second in the standings, mathematically still eligible for the crown.

The last round in Portugal, which produced a number of surprises and upsets, saw Max Biaggi gain ground on his rivals and the 41-year-old from Rome now has 347 points, against 316.5 for Sykes and 308.5 for Melandri.

The 30 year-old from Ravenna was involved in a crash that eliminated him from race one and he cracked a couple of ribs in the process, but since then he has embarked on an intensive recovery program in order not to miss out on the final encounter.

The current standings show that Biaggi can easily win the sixth world title of his career, his second in Superbike, with just two sixth places.

Even if Sykes takes a double win (50 points), Biaggi just needs 20 to take the title. Judging from his previous form there, the title is within easy reach. He has raced eight times at Magny-Cours and has always finished in the top six, with four podiums to his name and a win in 2010 when he got the better of Cal Crutchlow in a ferocious duel after he had already clinched the title.

Sykes on the other hand has never finished higher than eighth, with three crashes to his name. The Kawasaki has improved massively throughout the season however and Sykes has taken three of his four race victories in 2012. Marco Melandri only raced at Magny-Cours last season, twice finishing runner-up after two terrific recoveries.

In 25 editions of the Superbike World Championship this will be the 15th time the title is assigned at the final round. Magny-Cours has been decisive race on three occasions: in 1991 Texan Doug Polen took his first title with three rounds remaining, while in both 2004 and 2007 the championship went right down to the wire, with Britain’s James Toseland getting the nod on both occasions – the first when he beat home favourite Règis Laconi, the second against Noriyuki Haga.

The Manufacturers’ battle is also at stake. Aprilia leads the way with 422.5 points, against BMW with 394 and reigning champions Ducati with 375.

Along with Max Biaggi, the Italian manufacturer can count on excellent support from Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) and Chaz Davies (ParkinGo MTC Racing Aprilia), two youngsters who have already celebrated their first win on the RSV4 in the last two rounds this year, respectively at Portimao and Nurburgring. If they manage to win this title for Aprilia it would mean a 50th title conquered in Superbike, Grand Prix Road Racing and Off-Road.

At the final round of the 25th edition of the FIM Superbike World Championship, numerous other riders will be aiming to finish off the season with a podium place or a result that may modify the outcome of the title.

These will undoubtedly include the outgoing champion Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) who began testing with Ducati’s new 1199, which will be fielded in 2013, after the Portimao round. Teammate Davide Giugliano, at 22 years of age one of the revelations of this year, also took part in the testing.

All eyes will also be on Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team) following his double experience in MotoGP with Honda HRC. The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland has never really had much luck at Magny-Cours but one year ago he did manage to score the Tissot-Superpole.

Expectations are high for the FIXI Crescent Suzuki team following some great recent performances. The Japanese manufacturer has never won on this track, but it does have six second places to its name, so maybe Leon Camier, who went well at Portimao, will manage to buck this trend.