The demanding 4.060km circuit layout features some of the most tortuous twists, turns and chicanes imaginable, yet is also host to the awesome Curvone corner, where riders accelerate through the gearbox around three increasing velocity left hand corners, ending up at top speed on the back straight. The almost entirely flat layout of the Santamonica circuit nonetheless features a mix of cambers on the asphalt itself, making set-up a sometimes-tricky affair.
Off track Misano and its surrounding holiday resorts offer a sun-kissed playground for the locals, but with the championship entering the critical middle section, riders and teams will have little chance to relax and cool off until their tasks are completed on Sunday evening.
Honda CBR600RR riders may be largely dominating the standings in World
Supersport, but nothing can be taken for granted at a circuit that has thrown up some peculiarities in years gone by. Even allowing for this, the strong favourites to continue their monopoly of the top step of the podium are Sebastien Charpentier (Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) and Katsuaki Fujiwara (Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR), currently first and second in the rankings, having taken three and two race wins respectively.
A sometimes-dramatic season for 2002 Honda-mounted World Champion Fabien
Foret (Team Italia Megabike Honda CBR600RR) sees him in fourth position overall, on 54 points, as he endeavours to make his particular machinery package fully competitive. Twice a winner at Misano, once in breathtaking fashion on a previously uncompetitive machine, Foret is always a committed competitor.
Michel Fabrizio (Team Italia Megabike Honda CBR600RR) had a superb start to his first full rookie season in World Supersport, but bad luck and a relative lack of experience have dropped him down the rankings to seventh, on 42 points. On one of his home circuits, however, he will be nothing short of a podium favourite.
Finnish pilot Tatu Lauslehto (Klaffi Honda CBR600RR) is even less experienced than Fabrizio, but the latest rider to be talent spotted by former World Sidecar Champion Klaus Klaffenbock has already shown his burgeoning pace. Racing with, and often beating, big names in this most overheated of championship classes; he is currently ninth, on 30 points.
Charpentier, the class act of the year, with three wins and two second places so far, is out to build on his momentum for another weekend, at a place he knows well. A recent test at Magny Cours has given him another reason to be cheerful, as have his personal pre-race preparations.
“I just want to continue with more of the same this weekend, because the start to the season has been a dream,” said Charpentier in the run-up to Misano. “Three wins and two second places is fantastic for me, and with
Kats second in the championship, that’s also great for the team. There is a fantastic atmosphere in the garage. Everyone is very relaxed and after our test at Magny-Cours, we are confident that we can continue with our good performances. The last round at Silverstone was perfect for me, with pole position, the fastest lap and a win. I would like to repeat that at Misano this weekend, so I have been doing some cycling in the hot weather in France, to prepare the conditions this weekend.”
Fujiwara, riding a Honda for the first time in World Supersport, has been an immediate hit, only giving ground to Charpentier, who is a more experienced CBR600RR pilot. ‘Kats’ had a tough last round in England, making him more determined than ever to overhaul his team-mate, and tie the win count at 3-3.
“Silverstone was not so good for me because I had a crash during practice and a bit of a cold as well,” said a rueful Fujiwara. “In the race I experienced some gear selection problems and that allowed Sebastien to have a bigger lead in the championship. I have to try very hard for another win this weekend to close the gap and after the test in France I think I have a good chance. I am feeling fit now and the shoulder that I injured at Silverstone is much better. I’m looking forward to Misano, where I have been on the podium before. Now I would like to win there.”
Foret, a rider of outright Supersport genius on occasion, harks back to previous Misano glories for additional inspiration.
“Misano is always a lucky track for me,” said a clearly motivated Foret. “Two years ago I won my first and last race with the Kawasaki and I hope that on Sunday I can repeat the performance. After the bad experience at Monza I want to continue the positive moment, which started with the podium position at Silverstone. At the Santamonica circuit I want to take more important points for the championship. My target is to secure one of the first three positions.”
Fabrizio, another charging rider and one learning more of his craft with every passing weekend, was reserved in his pre-race comments. Despite his caution, and some recent bad luck, he is sure to fly on home tarmac.
“I don’t know what I must hope for, as it has not been a positive period for me,” said a reflective Fabrizio. “I hope that the unlucky run will stop soon. In Silverstone I ran a good race but a technical problem stopped me before the end. Now I want to take important points and get back into the top three by the end of the season. I hope that on my home circuit I can make a fantastic result. My team and I both need this, as we have all worked so hard to reach the same level as the first two bikes in the series.”
Lauslehto will be in learning-while-racing mode once more, something he has grown used to this year. The confidence of his youth shines through, and beyond, his pre-race comments.
“It will be my first race at Misano and I’m very eager to do my first laps,” said the Finn. “Last week we were testing at Brno and I’m very content. The Klaffi Honda CBR600RR is super-fast, and our set-up and suspension feel perfect. I really like my bike!”