2012 Portimao WSBK Saturday Round Up: Forget Next Year, This One Isn't Over Yet

As teams announce new lineups and new tracks are added to the 2013 calendar this weekend, one could easily be forgiven for thinking the 2012 season has finished. With two races to go, and one hundred points still up for grabs, nothing could be further than the truth.

Kawasaki will be able to look back on 2012 as a year of success, with Jeremy Guarnoni and Bryan Staring doing well in Superstock 1000, Loris Baz and the sensational Tom Sykes both winning races in World Superbike and Kenan Sofuoglu dominating World Supersport, we must not forget Joan Lascorz. Kawasaki will have a lot to celebrate, but it must be done in the shadow of Lascorz's career-ending accident. With that in the back of our minds, we will likely see Kenan Sofuoglu take the World Supersport title tomorrow; an amazing performance from a rider many wrote off after a tumultuous year in Moto2. The Turkish rider has been a controversial figure in the sport, with his positively baffling actions on-track in contrast with his devout demeanour off-track, but nobody denies he can ride a 600cc motorbike. His qualification in seventh place today will likely not stop him from claiming his third title.

In World Superbike, it is highly unlikely that we will see a victor crowned tomorrow. With Marco Melandri and Max Biaggi separated by one place on the grid and only nine and a half points in the title chase, Biaggi would need to end the weekend fifty points clear of his rivals. A double victory tomorrow could still leave Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes in with a chance of the title. Biaggi does have one advantage, apart from just points, that the other two don't, and that's a fast team mate. Leon Haslam and Loris Baz are both fast, but they won't be fast enough to play a supporting role in the same way Aprilia's optimistic Eugene Laverty, third on the grid, can for Biaggi.

Tom Sykes once again showed that he is the most improved racer of the year. With two wins, eight pole positions and ten podiums, he has helped turn a lumpy, fat bike into a winning machine. Sykes when he puts it all on the line is the fastest man on the track, even if it's just for one lap on Saturday. Today's Superpole performances were of the quality we're used to, skipping and bouncing on one wheel one lap to sliding across the rumble strip on another. Sykes put on a show and was rewarded with another watch and another pole position.

Carlos Checa won here last year and his qualifying today shows that when the conditions are right, he's still in the fight. The long straight may well play the same as it did in Moscow, but there are more overtaking spots for him to recover places lost at speed. As he needed a qualifying tyre to get to the sharp end, tyre choice will be paramount. For his team mate Davide Giugliano, two finishes would be considered better than usual for him, and if he's hoping to get a seat next year, he needs to finish the remaining races.

Leon Haslam and Jonathan Rea have both sighed up for Ten Kate Honda for 2013, riding Honda Fireblades for the last year. Haslam being back on a Honda seems like a good fit, but the CBR1000RR is a bike at the absolute tail end of development so both riders must have been made a very good offer from Honda, especially considering Rea was tipped for a MotoGP ride at Gresini.

Chaz Davies, another man with a seat for 2013, has shown great form as a rookie at this end of the season. The reigning World Supersport champion may well see his title finally taken off him, but as his future is bright, he won't mind at all. Leon Camier is also resurgent at the tail of his year, putting in great qualifying and showing last week that his Suzuki isn't as bad as it was. His team mate John Hopkins has been unable to get close to him, unfortunately, and must be asking himself a lot of questions.

In World Supersport, while the focus will be on Kenan Sofuoglu, Broc Parkes, who has not been signed to Ten Kate next year, will be trying from pole position to keep the PTR Hondas of Sam Lowes and Jules Cluzel behind him. Going by this year's form, this could be too much of an ask. Fabien Foret starting from second place, needs to beat Jules Cluzel. This could be an exciting race, especially with the aggressive Sofuoglu starting from seventh.

Round Number: 
13
2012
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