From a press release issued by Honda Racing :
HONDA’S LITRE CLUB GOING FOR GLORY UNDER AUSTRALIA’S BIG SKY
A perfect start to the season after the first race at Losail saw James Toseland (Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) temporarily top the rider’s championship after scoring a deserved win in dramatic circumstances. Clawing his way up to the leading five riders, after a bad start from the outside of the front row, Toseland looked sure for third until the two leaders crashed out, allowing him to take his first win on a Honda in World Superbike. The 2004 World Champion now sits joint second overall, but he is only one of five supported Honda riders with realistic ambitions of something special at Phillip Island.
Karl Muggeridge (Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) is looking to match fast pre-season and Losail regulation qualifying performances with his race results, especially at his home event. Muggeridge is in his second World Superbike year, the second for Winston Ten Kate Honda, hoping to score not just his first podium, but his first career Superbike win on home soil.
Losail witnessed a wondrous display of assured riding from Superbike rookie Michel Fabrizio (DFX Honda CBR1000RR). He showed a complete lack of trepidation as he took giant strides all weekend, and at Phillip Island, another natural rider’s track, Fabrizio will have the chance to exercise his intuitive skills to the full.
Recovering from injury after a heavy race two fall last weekend, Pierfrancesco Chili (DFX Honda CBR1000RR) had a strong run in race one in Qatar. Despite suffering a broken left ring finger, and a welter of contusions and swellings, he is expected to line up for qualifying and the race itself.
Toseland, winner of the first race at Qatar and now joint second in the championship race, paid homage to those who had shown faith in him after a tough championship defence in 2005.
“At one stage I was looking at having no job in World Superbike this year,” said the Englishman, “so to be able to repay the faith Honda and the team showed in me with the first race win of the year was special. To win for them was all credit to them. Phillip Island is a fast track but I also have a fast bike, so I think we can go there in pretty good shape.”
Muggeridge is ready for another race, and knows that his machine will be back to full fitness, after an eventful Qatar weekend.
“I feel confident about Phillip Island,” said Muggeridge, “because I was competitive at Qatar until the crash, when my bike got damaged. It seems that the chassis was bent, although we couldn’t see how at the time, so with a new bike we should be right back in there. The lap speeds and race pace should be good this year, thanks to the power of the new bike and the advances made with the control tyres.”
Barros, who will still have a relatively early engine development specification on his Klaffi Honda for Phillip Island, knows that it will be another tough weekend, in terms of the track itself, as much as anything else.
“The Phillip Island track is always a real challenge,” said Barros, who knows the circuit well from his GP days. “It’s a fascinating combination of fast straights and sweeping corners. And the weather may also play a part, especially the high winds you get there frequently. I can’t wait for the race to line up with the Australian riders, all of whom will be very fast at their home track. But I always race to win!”
For Chili, injury at Qatar, in the form of a broken finger, should not inhibit his usual unquenchable desire to perform as well as possible.
“I am sure I can run well at Phillip Island,” said Chili. ”I like the track, it is a real challenge, and despite the fall in Qatar, I am hoping for a good result in each race. My broken finger should not hold me back too much.”
Fabrizio had an outstanding introduction to World Superbike at Qatar, and on another circuit he knows, he may be in for another pair of strong results.
“It was great to score results in Qatar,” said Michel. “The whole team has worked very hard over the winter months and we have already scored good race finishes in my first races. I expect the circuit at Phillip Island will feel very different on a Superbike than a Supersports bike.”
The first European round of the year will be at Valencia, on 23 April, with an official SBK test taking place shortly beforehand.