World Superbike racing has not been held at Jerez since 1990, favouring the MotoGP men for experience, much like Istanbul. However, many teams used the track last winter for testing, so none of the title contenders arrived blind.
Of all the tracks to favour a particular motorcycle, the fates gave this one, the last race weekend of the year, to Aprilia, throwing a lifeline of tantalising hope to Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli. Aprilia use Jerez as their test track and, as is evidenced by all four Aprilias occupying four out of the top five positions in both sessions, it looks like the results are in.
The data that Aprilia garnered from the Jerez tests also assisted Davide Giugliano and Toni Elias, with the latter never having ridden an Aprilia at the track before while the former rode the Alstare bike at Jerez last winter, as his first track time on his new bike. Elias, of course has GP experience at the track as well as a bike that suits it.
Marco Melandri is another GP man with experience, and it shows with his provisional second place. This being the last race BMW will have a team, they have given Chaz Davies and melandri an extra teammate, Sylvain Barrier. As a reward for winning the Superstock 1000 cup in Magny-Cours, he has been given a Superbike to race for the weekend. With no pressure, the team won’t exist next week, he can just enjoy his debut and leave Niccolo Canepa and Jeremy Guarnoni to fight out the last Superstock round. If Barrier can qualify for Superpole, he can consider qualifying a job well done.
Other newcomers are Broc Parkes on a Yamaha R1 and Xavi Fores on the retired Carlos Checa’s Ducati. Lorenzo Lanzi returns on his old Ducati 1098R, like a reminder to Ducati that their old bike was easier to race. Gigi Dall'Igna could be looking across at the Ducati garage with the fear that they may get him to try and help out with the Panigale next year, along with the struggling GP bike.
Tom Sykes hasn’t been to Jerez since last winter, and struggling in qualifying doesn’t help his cause. While he may snatch another Superpole, being the master of spending tyres over as single lap, the races will be a lot harder. As he only needs a single podium place, or two finishes just behind all the Aprilias and Melandri, to clinch the championship, it’s not looking desperate. His teammate Loris Baz retuns as well, allowing the team to end the year as they finished it, only with a title trophy, most likely.
Suzuki also have their injured rider returning, Leon Camier putting in a sixth-place performance as a demonstration that he’s fit. Jules Cluzel, a man with experience here from Moto2, took provisional tenth place.
Honda have little to celebrate, though. Leon Haslam managed only fifteenth place while Michel Fabrizio was even further behind in seventeenth, both riders struggling behind even the Ducatis. On Sunday, both Fireblades will be packed away for the last time. One doubts they will be missed, especially with a replacement bike in the wings.
World Supersport, with the title decided, will be no less hard fought. Even though Sam Lowes is the champion, Kenan Sofuoglu, Fabien Foret and Michael Van Der Mark still have a few scores to settle, and the rise of the MV Agusta may have a role to play.