Imola’s ‘Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari’ is hosting round five of the 2016 FIM Superbike World Championship this weekend, with Honda WorldSBK Team’s Michael van der Mark and Nicky Hayden ready for action around the 4.936km iconic Italian venue after a pair of top 3 finishes at Assen.
In front of his home crowd, two Saturdays ago van der Mark put up a spectacular show of riding skills and determination in race one, which unfortunately ended with a crash on the penultimate lap while he was running second. Race two saw the young Dutchman riding solidly in third for what turned out to be his fourth podium finish of the season in just four rounds.
Van der Mark has mixed memories of Imola: after a dominant win in 2014 on his way to the World Supersport title, last year ‘Magic Mike’ was unable to shine in front of the Italian crowd, with a ninth place in race one followed by a crash in the second encounter. Now with a full-year’s worth of experience in the series and a perfect synergy with his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP machine, van der Mark is confident of good results in Italy.
Nicky Hayden will ride for the first time at Imola on Friday morning, meaning that the experienced American from Owensboro, Kentucky, has several challenges to face at the same time on day one: learning the track while working with the team to find a good setup for the bike and being quick enough to qualify for Superpole 2. Last time out at Assen, Hayden claimed his first podium finish in race one at Assen and was able to show great speed on wet conditions in the second race.
Michael van der Mark 60
I’m really looking forward to Imola, a track that I really enjoy riding. With the big improvements made to the Fireblade over the winter and in the first four rounds, I’m pretty sure we will be much more competitive than last year. Given the many podiums we have collected so far, my goal for the Italian round is to be at least in the top 5. The team and I have some ideas to improve the bike setup and we will try some new things, which we didn’t have time to evaluate in Assen. I cannot wait to get back on track.
– Honda WorldSBK
Nicky Hayden 69
Racing in Italy is something I have always enjoyed in the past and I don’t think in Superbike it will be any different. For what I’ve seen on videos, the track looks epic but I will need to work hard with the team from Thursday, having a look at the data and understanding the gearing and the layout. It looks a very technical track with a lot of elevation changes and I know from experience that if you notice them on TV it means that when you see them live they are twice as steep and on a bike even more! It’s a track with a lot of history and I grew up watching my heroes racing there, so I’m looking forward to getting started.
Imola is a track where we’ve had good results over recent years and it is surely one that suits our bike well. We are planning a little bit further ahead for some more developments on chassis, suspension and electronics but for now we know we can be quick with the current package. It is a very technical and demanding track, with different layers of asphalt – with different grip – throughout the lap, many elevation changes, downhill braking areas and a good mix of fast corners and slow turns, which overall make it difficult to find the perfect setup. The 2016 version of the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP has proved to be competitive on basically every circuit we’ve raced on so far and we are expecting more of the same this time out as well.