It's not often we get to welcome a new track to a race series, but this year World Superbike gets to add the Moscow Raceway to the calendar. Nobody has raced motorbikes at this 3.9KM track before as it's only been open for six weeks. The track “goes left” or anti-clockwise and starts with a few twisty corners that, according to Marco Melandri, favour the Ducatis to the tune of four or five bike lengths. After a dozen corners, the riders then reach the 873 metre back straight where the long-legged Aprilias and BMWs can hit over 310kmh, negating there earlier advantage given to the Ducatis that can only get close to the 300kmh mark. At the end of the long straight is a sharp left hander that returns the riders to the start/finish straight, giving a fast Friday lap of 1'35 and probably Saturday laps in the 1'34 range.
In the morning, when the wind was blowing hard, the Ducatis suffered, but in the afternoon, they shone. Marco Melandri, still reeling from his written warning and €3000 fine from Silverstone for taking too long to sort his bike on the grid, was fastest in the morning session and was the fastest non-Ducati in the afternoon. He claimed to be suffering from chatter which has plagued the BMWs all year to some degree, but on Sundays he's always been formidable at the end of a race. If he's in touch with the leaders at the end, he will make the most of the long straight.
Carlos Checa was fastest on Wednesday when all the riders tested here, but today he had to give best to his bruised and battered team mate Davide Giugliano. The Althea pair used the softer tyres to get their fastest times, but they may not be able to use them to race with. Sylvain Guintoli, third fastest in the timed session, is lucky to be racing here as his old Liberty Racing team decided not to turn up. Undoubtedly, Jakub Smrz would have been very quick at this track, but his team's decision not to race has robbed him of the opportunity to prove it.
Max Biaggi and Eugene Laverty suffered from problems all afternoon, missing valuable track time with undisclosed problems that had both riders return to the garage without completing laps in the afternoon session. On the ParkinGO satellite Aprilia, Chaz Davies was demonstrating what the bike was capable of, posting the fifth fastest time ahead of Tom Sykes. In seventh and eight, the unusual names of Lorenzo Zanetti, fired up by having a race winning team-mate and the right bike for the job, and Hiroshi Aoyama showed up, Aoyama going faster than his fast team mate for once.
In Supersport, the familiar names of Kenan Sofuoglu, Sam Lowes, Broc Parkes and Jules Cluzel were joined in fifth place by Russian rider Vladimir Leonov, fired up to be racing close to home, and Hungarian 2007 125cc World Champion Gabor Talmasci in sixth.
As this is a new track, nobody has the advantage of having raced here before and track data is sorely lacking. With the slightest changes in conditions, the face of the weekend can drastically shift, especially in a country where almost all of the riders have never raced. It should be fun.