The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship heads to the Spanish circuit of MotorLand Aragon (AragonWorldSBK) for the first European round of the season, and it is a circuit Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing Ducati) has dominated at in the past. Set in the stunning desert landscape of Alcañiz and just hours away from the city of Barcelona, the modern circuit is certainly one which can capture the imagination of many, and can produce some stunning racing to match. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) has dominated the field so far in 2017, but are we about to see another familiar face back on the top step?
Kawasaki Racing Team duo Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes head to Spain with an impressive opening record so far for 2017; one which will be tough to keep up heading into Europe. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) had a perfect start to his title defense, taking two pole positions and four victories in the opening rounds, and in very different circumstances. However, the Northern Irishman has only secured one victory around MotorLand in the past – in 2015’s Race One. Despite this, his pre-season testing times were impressive and he brings a strong feeling with his ZX-10RR to Spain. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) has a more notable record around the tight and twisty circuit, with four pole positions and the double race win in 2014 to his name. Sykes has made some changes to his riding style which is paying off so far for 2017, so it will be interesting to see how this has altered in Spain.
Undoubtedly the favourite heading into the Pirelli Aragon Round, Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) has a stunning record around the 5km circuit, taking the last three victories in dominant, track-day style as well as winning back on BMW machinery in 2013. MotorLand could be the chance for Davies to get his season well and truly underway, as he has been unable to secure that all important first win. Despite this, team-mate Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) could be the dark horse in Aragon – he took the first pole position and win at the circuit’s debut to the calendar in 2011 on a Yamaha, as well as returning to the top step in 2012. Making appearances on the podium already in 2017, this could be Melandri’s chance to be back on top.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team have had a steady start to their 2017 campaign, with some consistent results for the team who made big steps over the winter. Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) will be aiming to find that something extra to get him onto the podium in Aragon, but MotorLand is a circuit he has struggled at in the past, collecting only a few top ten finishes. With a stronger package behind him and his confidence growing, what steps can he make this weekend? Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) is continuing to gel with his new team and had some misfortune in Thailand Race Two, unable to make the restart. The Dutchman has a mixed record around Aragon; taking two second positions in WorldSSP but only two top eight finishes so far in his WorldSBK career. It will be intriguing to see how he takes on the YZF-R1 in Spain.
Continuing to develop the brand new CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team have another tough learning weekend ahead of them. Securing top ten finishes last time out in Buriram, Nicky Hayden (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) and Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) are working hard with their teams to get their machines competitive. Hayden had a tough weekend in 2016, finishing one race in the top six and the other 23rd; however the American has a strong record on a MotoGP™ machine. Bradl has a similar history around MotorLand, only finishing outside of the top ten on two occasions out of seven appearances, meaning he can take his experience forward to help develop his Honda.
Milwaukee Aprilia duo Lorenzo Savadori and Eugene Laverty will hope to put their tough opening rounds of 2017 behind them and get their season properly underway in Spain, as they both head to a track they know well. Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) and Markus Reiterberger (Althea BMW Racing Team) have had a steady start to the season but will be aiming to impress as the series heads into Europe, with the cooler conditions perhaps being kinder to the duo. Torres has a couple of top five finishes around Aragon to his name, and following his top five finish in Thailand Race two, he will hope to impress his home fans. Whilst Reiterberger had a steady debut around the circuit, meaning there will be some progress to be made for the pair.
MV Agusta Reparto Corse with lone rider Leon Camier are another team hoping to bounce back in Europe, with a tough 2017 so far. Mechanical problems have hampered the team this season, but Camier has shown his British resilience, fighting his way through the pack in both Superpole and the races this season. Struggling around the Spanish circuit in the past, it will be a tough test for Camier and his Italian outfit this weekend. Spanish fans will be treated to home fights as Roman Ramos (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) hopes to build on his solid start to the season, sitting in 13th position in the championship standings, but what impact will the boost from his home fans provide?
Action kicks off at 9:45am LT with Free Practice One for the first of three jam-packed days of racing action.