Photo: Expressive Motion
The World Superbike series ran its second race weekend of the season at Thailand’s Buriram Circuit on Saturday and Sunday, and once again, early results seem to indicate this season might be a bit more of a battle between manufacturers than previous years.
Saturday’s Race 1 saw Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki), Xavi Forres (Ducati) and Chaz Davies (Ducati) finish 1-2-3. The upside-down grid re-format saw these riders pushed back in the pack for the start of Race 2, where Davies finished first, followed by the Yamahas of Michael Van Der Mark and Alex Lowes.
As a result, Rea is still the series leader, with 69 points, just ahead of Ducati’s Marco Melandri in second (67 points). But while past years would have seen Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes in either second or third at this point, Sykes is all the way down at 7th (43 points). There are two Yamahas, a Honda, a BMW and three Ducatis in the top 10 (a Kwakka’s also in 10th overall). It’s still early days in the season, but it seems Team Green might not be as dominant this season. That’s no real surprise, seeing as the team’s budget has been cut while some of the opposition has seen investment.
John McGuinness making plans
For a while, we’ve known John McGuinness wasn’t returning to the Honda Pro Racing team at this year’s Isle of Man TT, and it’s no surprise—McGuinness and teammate Guy Martin both had a terrible time aboard the new Fireblade in last year’s street circuit racing season, suffering crashes that threatened their lives. In McGuinness’s crash, the bike’s electrics were implicated,
Martin’s plans for this year are still a mystery, but we know what McGuinness is up to. The fan favourite rider is coming back to the TT riding for Norton in the Superbike and Senior TT events. Word on the street has him back on the Mugen in the TT Zero electric bike race, although we haven’t seen official confirmation (since the Mugen team has always been rumoured to be a Honda skunk works project, we might see McGuinness part ways with them).
However, the most surprising news is that McGuinness is teaming up with longtime rival Michael Dunlop, who’s one of his fiercest competitors in the TT. McGuinness is riding a CBR600 for Dunlop’s team in the Supersport race. McPint is more of a superbike ace; he hasn’t won a supersport event at the TT since 2006, and hasn’t earned a supersport podium at the TT since 2013.
But after his crash last year on the Fireblade, McGuinness suggested that this sort of thing might be his future—a focus on smaller bikes, as his body’s still pretty banged up from that incident, and he wasn’t sure if he’d be up to the task of hooning around on the big-bore superbikes. Either way, we’ll know at this year’s TT.
Canadian to challenge Irish roadracing scene this spring
Mel Gantly of Victoria, BC (pictured above), is a man on a mission. This spring, he’s headed over to Northern Ireland to challenge two historic street circuit races, following in the footsteps of his hero, Joey Dunlop.
Gantly is riding the Cookstown 100 on April 27-28 and the Tandragee 100 May 4-5, aboard a CBR600 F2 lent to him by Aaron Mellish of AM Road Racing. It’s an ambitious venture for Gantly, who’s used to racing on North America’s purpose-built tracks, not public streets. Of course, traffic is halted for these events, but they’re still filled with all the other dangers you see lining public roads: traffic signals, utility poles, etc.
However, it’s an exciting change for Gantly to challenge both the Cookstown 100 (3.4-km circuit, founded in 1922) and the Tandragee 100 (8.6-km circuit, founded in 1958). This year, he’s in the Senior Support class. He has his FIM racing licence, and has booked his flights, but he’s hoping to raise more support to cover expenses. If you’re interested in a sponsorship opportunity, check out Mel Gantly Racing on Facebook.