All focus shifts to battle for second in FranceSituated close to the towns of Magny-Cours and Nevers, the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours (to give it its full title) is found in the centre of France and some 250 kilometres from capital city Paris. On no less than 15 occasions has it hosted the historic Bol d’Or motorcycle race and was also a home of Formula 1 car racing until 2008. Last time out in Spain, Jonathan Rea became Great Britain’s fifth World Superbike Champion and the first from Northern Ireland, wrapping up the title in Race 1 at Jerez with five races still remaining in the 2015 season. Naturally, the attention now turns to the season-long struggle for runner-up spot between Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes.
There are just 22 points behind Davies (Aruba.it Racing-Ducati SBK Team) and Rea’s team-mate Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team). With 25 points available for race victory and a maximum of 100 still in play between now and the end of the season in Qatar, the pendulum could swing in either direction. Davies is the man with the momentum, having scored a highly impressive 140 of the last 150 points on offer from Laguna Seca, Sepang and Jerez, while Sykes has finished no lower than second in the championship for the past three years.
Things have settled down in the Manufactures’ race, too. Kawasaki needed to finish in the top eight in Jerez’s second race and it did, sealing the title for the all-green marque for the first time. What of the fight for second? One looks to Ducati, as its advantage of 78 points over last year’s Champions Aprilia is vast with only two rounds to go. Perhaps all will be looking over their shoulders for Yamaha, which will rejoin the paddock in 2016.
A notable question mark on the Magny-Cours line-up lingers over the second Aruba Ducati bike. Michele Pirro substituted for Davide Giugliano in Jerez, but Davies’ team-mate for the Fassi French Round is yet to be named. Elsewhere, Crescent and Suzuki head into their penultimate round of partnership as Markus Reiterberger returns as a One Event rider on the VanZon Remeha BMW. Also on the grid will be Polish representative Pawel Szkopek, notably riding the new Yamaha YZF R1 for the Szkopek POLand POSITION squad. Incidentally, this will not be 40-year-old Szkopek’s debut in World Superbike, as he rode four races in 2004 plus a further two in 2006; curiously, his best result to date came at Magny-Cours, where 11 years ago he rode a Suzuki to 13th position in Race 2.
After Free Practice and Tissot-Superpole across Friday and Saturday, Magny-Cours’ opening World Superbike race begins on Sunday at 10:30 local time (GMT +2). As ever, all of the coverage can be followed on WorldSBK.com with live streaming and timing.