The Ricardo Tormo Circuit will once more host the first European round of the World Superbike Championship season, with the Spanish track now boasting an unbroken run of nine years on the calendar.
The circuit can quite rightly claim to be unique as it is the first true motorcycle racing ‘stadium’ of modern times in Europe, having been built on a remarkably small patch of land close to the Valencia/Madrid motorway. The 65,000 grandstand seats provide the spectators with unbroken views of the entire 4.005km circuit, as it repeatedly twists and turns in on itself. There is one significant straight on the track, and one almost never-ending left-hand corner, which leads onto the gently downhill start/finish straight.
Valencia is a favourite test track for Motorsport categories of all kinds, and its heavy use leads to unpredictable surfaces and an ever-changing level of grip. It is a well-known venue for all the top contenders in the Superbike and Supersport classes, and thus neither the official Yamaha Motor Italia WSB Team nor the Yamaha World Supersport Team elected to take part in the most recent official FGSport tests, on 13 and 14 March.
Last year Noriyuki Haga scored two podiums at Valencia, with a second and a third, while Corser just missed out on third place in race one. This year Corser has had the brighter start to his overall campaign, in his second season as a Yamaha rider. With two rounds down, he now sits fourth overall in the championship, having earned two podium finishes. For Haga, bad luck has been an unwelcome companion so far, as he holds ninth position in the championship rankings, with 12 rounds to go.
Said Haga of the forthcoming weekend, “It feels like the first two races this year have just been an exercise for me. We have not had the chance to build our performance on the bike so it feels like our season will start in the European races.” Haga also acknowledges that he needed some time to prepare himself for the Valencia race. “The break between the race in Australia and Valencia has been useful, it allowed me to recover after some bruising crashes,” said Haga. “It would have been good to test at Valencia maybe, but I feel very positive going into this race anyway. Everybody in the team knows the bike and Valencia very well. Last year I got two podiums there, this year I think we will be able to challenge hard again.”
Troy Corser said, “I felt much more confident on the bike in the second race at Phillip Island so we can go to Spain with a setting that worked well there. We have learned a few things in the first two races.” Corser is a highly adept rider at the tight Valencia circuit, having raced there every year but once since the track held its first WSB race in 2000. “Valencia should be good, even though we didn’t go there to test like most other people this year. The set-up that we found in race two in Australia should work well is Spain also. I think we have really found something to help the tyre and the chassis.”
Corser is a five-time race winner at Valencia, while Haga has won two WSB contests at the intense Spanish circuit.
Joining Corser and Haga as usual in Valencia will Shinichi Nakatomi from the Yamaha YZF Team, while the Yamaha GMT94 team, featuring Sebastien Gimbert and Davide Checa, will also be running in what is a home race for Checa.
The Yamaha World Supersport Team has experienced some ups and downs already in the new season, running the new YZF-R6 at a fully competitive pace at all times, winning the first race of the year, but also experiencing an uneven share of bad luck in terms of some final raceday results.
In the most open championship of recent years, team riders Broc Parkes and Fabien Foret each know that everything is still to play for, as no one single rider has shown any degree of real dominance. The time between the Phillip Island race and the Valencia race has been spent productively, in the workshops and test benches, as the team has made many small improvements to the all-new machine in readiness for the first batch of European based races. Starting from an already highly competitive base, small adjustments to the suspension and engine enhancements should provide each rider with more exact individual set-up. At this moment in time, Parkes is part of a three-way tie for third in the championship, while Foret is eighth.
For Parkes the move to Europe offers him an opportunity to improve even more in the championship table. “Despite our no score on raceday in Australia, we are still only a few points from the championship lead,” said the Qatar race winner. “Valencia is always a good track for us. On Friday we may have to play catch-up to the riders who tested there a couple of weeks ago, but I’m sure we will be right there on Sunday. Normally Valencia is a close race and it’s one of those tracks where you never know what the surface is going to be like from one test to another.”
Said 2002 World Champion Fabien Foret, “The season will be a long one and I don’t see anybody running away with it. I’m not worried about not testing at Valencia because I know the bike is competitive. I am looking forward to the race and I think we won’t need so much time to set the machine up. Everybody in the team is very experienced. We showed we could fight for the win in both the previous races, so I want to be in that position again. It seems the bike is able to win each time so why not go for the win in Valencia, why not every time we race?”
Yamaha Team Italia Lorenzini by Leoni once more fields talented Italian rider Massimo Roccoli at Valencia, and he has every reason to be confident of his potential at the Valencia race, having been equal first at the recent FGSport tests. The Yamaha Spain World Supersport Team will approach their home round at full strength, with David Salom now joined by David De Gea, recovering from injury but ready to battle hard at his home race.
With Valencia back to its traditional position of third WSB round of the season it becomes the first race of the year for the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup competitors. Yamaha’s official entries this year include Claudio Corti (Yamaha Motor Italia Junior Team) who recently had the opportunity to test the Yamaha Motor Italia WSB Team’s YZF-R1 at Varano track. Corti, who competes in the Italian Superbike Championship alongside his Superstock 1000 Cup commitments, provided much useful information for the team after completing 70 laps at the Italian track. French rider Sylvain Barrier (YZF Yamaha Junior Team) makes a step up from the 600cc Superstock class for 2008, having scored two second places last year on a YZF-R6, placing him sixth overall.
Track length: 4005m
Tracked opened: 1999
2007 winner: Ruben Xaus (Ducati) and James Toseland (Honda)
2007 fastest lap: 1’35.746 (Noriyuki Haga, Yamaha)
WSB lap record: 1’35.007 (Neil Hodgson, 2003)