They say it changes when the sun goes down, and this is certainly the case as the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) heads to the Losail International Circuit for the final round of the season. Set under the stunning floodlights, the 5.3km circuit won’t let anything hide in the shadows, and stunning on track battles are guaranteed around the circuit. With second position in the championship still to play for, and another opportunity to make history for Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team), it won’t be a round to forget.
2017 world champion Jonathan Rea heads to Qatar off the back of a stunning performance in Southern Spain, taking his first every victory around the Jerez circuit, which then became a double victory. Losail International Circuit is now the only track on the 2017 calendar the Northern Irishman is yet to win around, but if his pace in Jerez is anything to go by, this won’t the case for long. Holding the race, pole and circuit record around Qatar, the Kawasaki rider has a good feeling with his ZX-10RR and will be out with a point to prove this weekend. He will also be chasing down the record of the most points scored in one season – currently held by Colin Edwards taking 552 in 2002.
Sitting in joint second position in the world championship standings is Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), who is the man to beat around Losail. Dominating the last two races in the desert, the Welsh rider will be hoping to increase his win tally in 2017 following a difficult few rounds. Hunting down second position in the championship, Davies’ mind will be focused on taking the runner up position as he will be locked in a battle with Sykes. Only finishing outside the top five in one occasion out of six around Losail, he will be a tough man to beat on the Panigale.
On the other side of the battle, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) heads to a track which has welcomed some consistent results for the Brit, with five podiums and seven top five finishes to his name. Fighting back from a tough weekend in Portugal which saw Sykes forced to sit out of two races with a broken wrist, he has been able to nurse his hand back and secure two podium finishes, keeping his runner up spot in the championship battle within arm’s reach. Ready for the battle this weekend, he won’t go down without a fight.
Continuing to improve his pace on the YZF-R1, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) heads to Qatar searching for a final podium spot of the season, but has a tough record around the 5.3km circuit. With four top ten finishes out of six appearances, Lowes has been steadily improving his pace with the Yamaha, and will be looking for find some extra tenths under the floodlights. On the other side of the garage, Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK) heads to Qatar off the back of his MotoGP™ debut in Malaysia. In a similar situation to Lowes, he has been improving the pace of his Yamaha and will hope to end the season on a high at Losail, a circuit which he has taken a top five finish in WorldSBK and the victory in WorldSSP in 2014.
Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) will prepare for his final race with the Italian factory, and Sunday’s race will mark his 80th with the manufacturer. Securing some stunning results with the team this season despite some early season set-backs, the British rider will be looking to go out on a high. But at a circuit he has struggled around over his four appearances – with two retirements, an 18th and a 13th – the 31 year old has a big challenge ahead of him to brighten up the Qatari skies.
Irish rider Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) heads to Losail International Circuit with a wealth of knowledge behind him, following two appearances with MotoGP™ and two with WorldSBK. Facing a tough round back in 2014 in the class, Laverty is nearing the end of his comeback to the series and has had some hard battles to face so far. Hoping to put these behind him, the 31 year old has one round remaining to get back onto the podium in 2017.
Heading back to the scene of his debut and only WorldSBK victory, Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) has a lot of confidence around the Losail International Circuit and will be looking to end the season on a high after some testing rounds in 2017. Sitting in the top nine in the world championship standings, the Spanish rider will look to build on his two top eight finishes from 2016 with the German bike.
Taking on the final round after a tough season for the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team, Davide Guigliano and Jake Gagne will both make their return to the Dutch-based Ten Kate squad for the final time in 2017. American Gagne will be debuting around Qatar, whilst Guigliano’s previous results in the desert show two top eight finishes. Still working on improving the Honda Fireblade CRB1000RR SP2, the pair will be giving it their all to make some progress under the floodlights.
Follow all the WorldSBK action for the final time of 2017, all from the Acerbis Qatar Round from 2nd November to 4th November, with FP1 beginning at 17:45LT before Race One gets underway at 21:00LT on Friday 3rd November.