The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola hosts the third race of the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship, a tricky test for the riders of the action-packed feeder series. A massive 56 challengers – many of whom have never stepped foot on the Italian track – will attempt to find fame at the iconic venue, one renowned for separating championship contenders from the pretenders.
Back in 2017, Marc García (DS Junior Team) scored a vital maiden win at Imola, one which immediately propelled him into the fight for the gold. Twelve months later, Ana Carrasco (Kawasaki Provec WorldSSP300) opened her account for the season with an utterly dominant performance on the Italian tarmac. Both riders, champions of the class, know better than most the huge value of a win at the Italian Round – and conversely, both need a boost after a slow start to the season.
The fact that both previous winners of the Italian Round have later gone on to clinch the world title will not be lost on many competitors, particularly those who have begun the 2019 season intent on setting the world alight. The rider who best fits that description is of course championship leader Manuel González (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team). Few would have predicted such a remarkable start from the 16-year-old – yet the signs were there at the tail-end of last season. ‘Manugas’ finished third in each one of the last three races of 2018 and his pace has only improved since then, adding two last-gasp wins to the books.
Can lightning strike thrice? No one has taken three on the trot in WorldSSP300, but on current form the Spaniard, whose sharp and tactical riding belies his young age, is the rider to beat.
Gonzalez’s feverish start shares some parallels with Scott Deroue’s (Kawasaki MOTOPORT) early 2017 run, when the Dutchman also claimed victory in the first two races of the year. A ‘veteran’ of the class, Deroue remains second in the standings after making it onto the Aragon and Assen rostrums for a third year in a row, but in previous seasons the 23-year-old hit a major stumbling block at Imola. Will it be third time the charm for Deroue?
Several more names also fit the bill: Hugo De Cancellis (Team Trasimeno) and Jan-Ole Jahnig (Freudenberg KTM Junior Team) have both taken maiden podiums this season and have shown huge promise on the Yamaha and KTM, respectively. But they will be far from the only contenders, with other starlets including Nick Kalinin (Nutec – RT Motorsports by SKM – Kawasaki) – third at Imola in 2017 – Andy Verdoia (BCD Yamaha MS Racing) or home riders Omar Bonoli (Team Trasimeno) and Bruno Ieraci (Kawasaki GP Project) – 28th to 1st in four laps at Assen – keen on adding their names into the mix.