It's the biggest new element this season. We're talking about the Superpole Race, or rather the sprint race that Dorna has introduced to increase the on-track show. It will take place on Sunday, prior to Race 2. A new feature that has been welcomed by team managers, but less so by the riders themselves, who have their doubts.
SUPERPOLE RACE - GREATER SHOW, GREATER STRESS
We've been asking around the paddock to see what people think about the new format. In the Aruba camp, Serafino Foti chooses his words carefully: “We've already planned our weekend's work of course, rather than think about whether it's right or wrong, we need to focus on achieving the best possible result. We only have limited time, and this means a third race start, with different stress levels compared to practice, but we are ready. At the end of the season, we'll know how useful it's been”.
Genesio Bevilacqua, who takes on the role of Honda Moriwaki Althea team manager this season, is of a similar opinion: "It will make for a slightly more stressful Sunday for the team, but I think it's an intelligent format. Those who are used to the old Superbike format, will see a sprint race and a classic 22-lap race. I thnk this can also be useful for the rookies, like our Alessandro Delbianco, as passion may win out over experience in a ten-lap race”.
INCREASED SPECTACLE AND RISKS
Pere Riba speaks on behalf of Kawasaki: “If this third race helps to increase the show, then bring it on. We are ready to fall in with the Dorna party line. We've already dealt with the inverted grid in the past and we didn't raise any complaints. There is one aspect that shouldn't be overlooked though: “This Superpole Race is ok but if we're talking about safety, let's not forget that this means one more race start, and that's the most dangerous moment of the weekend”.
In addition to the factory teams, we also talked to some of the privateers, including Lucio Pedercini: “There is a lot of curiosity surrounding the new race, of course there is also a little hesitation, but I think it's an opportunity to stand out. Perhaps a rider who can make a good start from further back can be stronger over ten laps compared to the traditional race”. For an independent team, how much does this impact on preparation times? “It's true that we're a private team, but we've now reached a level of organisation that is in line with that of the factory teams, also because the bar has been raised and so we need to align ourselves with them”.
THE RIDERS - FROM DOUBTS TO A RETURN TO THE PAST
While team managers are more or less in favour, the riders are not of the same opinion. We spoke to current champion Johnny Rea: “To tell the truth, I preferred two races on Sunday – commented the Cannibal – I say that because that was the traditional Superbike format. In recent years, Dorna has been planning new features to introduce and, in this case, I think they've got the timing right. The sprint race will see riders push to the max, without making calculations. We're here to race and the fans will be happier”.
In recent months, Marco Melandri also spoke on this subject: “I don't think it makes sense, it's a strange choice and this third race means more stress for the mechanics and riders, as well as some extra risk”. Chaz Davies is in agreement: “I've already voiced my opinion, I've always maintained that the schedule shouldn't be turned upside down. There should be one race on Sunday, with qualifying before that”.
Michael Rinaldi comments: “It will be very difficult to manage, on the one hand the riders who struggle over long races may have an advantage but on the other hand, you have to be careful not to compromise race 2”.