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WSBK: Ultimate test before season's opener at Phillip Island


by Luc Fradette

The Australian circuit of Phillip Island will host this week both the final session of pre-season testing and the opening round of the World Superbike Series Championship, a tradition since 1990.

Following his 2010 title victory, all eyes will be, of course, on the world champion Max Biaggi (Aprilia) who managed to solve his early season problems with his RSV4 to earn the title, the first one won by an Italian rider on an Italian bike, backed by an Italian sponsor.

Following December testing Biaggi should now be quick straight out of the box. Britain's Leon Camier lines up for his second full year with the team and will be looking to produce the results.

Leon Haslam, Biaggi's main rival last year, has now changed team and manufacturer and during the recent tests he was able to put his new BMW S 1000RR through its paces. Last year Haslam won one of the Australian races will run alongside seven-time Phillip Island winner Troy Corser.

Carlos Checa (Ducati Althea Racing) now spearheads Ducati's attack in a championship where it is no longer officially present. Checa was right on the pace in Portimao and Aragon testing, while Jakub Smrz on the factory-assisted Effenbert-Liberty Racing Ducati was quickest in Portugal. The Czech Republic rider will be flanked by Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli.

The Big 4 Japanese manufacturers will again be at the forefront, with their various levels of factory involvement. At the moment the leading candidate is Jonathan Rea, who together with Ruben Xaus, brings the legendary Castrol Honda back to life on the Ten Kate-run CBR 1000RR.

All change this year for Yamaha, who after a world title for Ben Spies in 2009 and a transition year in 2010, line up for the new season with Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty.

A real surprise could come from Kawasaki. Tom Sykes, Joan Lascorz and Chris Vermeulen have all looked convincing and the team has carried out a lot of development work on the new ZX-10R.

Alstare are campaigning with only one GSX-R1000 machine for one rider, Michel Fabrizio.

A further boost for BMW's hopes for glory could come from the satellite BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team which will make its Superbike debut with Ayrton Badovini and two-time world champion James Toseland.