Ban the boom
Taking on the Japanese in a power game many thought they had lost before they started was a ballsy thing to do, whether you agreed with it or not. The final verdict of whether or not it was successful seems to have been decided by a three-to-one vote, with Suzuki, Honda and Yamaha back in with a fair few 'factory' bikes. In the case of Yamaha and Honda, other private teams are now running with blessings from at least the European arms of the big H and the upstart Y's respective operations - traditionally the ones responsible for running their 'factory' race teams, even if the works gear was parachuted out over Europe after winging its way from Japan.
Suzuki, two in number, yet 1-2 in the championship, love the new SBK show so far. There is, however, a stunned realisation in the Honda and Yamaha camps that the Suzukis have had a proper jump on them. Especially Yamaha. Despite some true valour from Pitt, they are in a wee bit of bother, with work still to do on their Superbikes before they rejoin the elite. They are not alone, but they have squinted westward to the UK for a spark of solution, in the form of the improvements made in the Virgin R1s in BSB with the adoption of an altered firing order engine. A squint may well be as much as any SBK Yammy team gets at such tech trickery, as FGSport have come out and said they will not allow such mods to the SBK machines, keeping them as close to roadbike spec as possible.
Seems that when faced with the next threat to anything that detracts from the roadbike-based formula, the SBK bosses have throttled back - or simply throttled - the first idea that threatened to push the class into a more expensive, non-relevant area of technical development. Even if it means one major supplier to the series will have to wait for full competitiveness. As a group of red and yellow bedecked people, sticking close to SBK racing this season, said a few years ago; 'power is nothing without control'. FGSport are keen to keep costs, and genetic modifications to engines, very much under control.
Gross gut German
Always said the new kid had the mark of potential greatness on him. Running around (albeit reasonably quickly) in European Championship 250 two-strokes in 2003, 22-year-old Max Neukirchner was talent-spotted by Austrian impresario Klaus Klaffenbock and flourished to become 2004 Rookie of the Year in WSS. He went fast enough to earn an SBK berth alongside legend Frankie Chili, in both Max's and his team's rookie year. And in the first two rounds he even outperformed Frankie more than once.
A star is born, maybe borne out already as a potential champion of the future, and at very least a real talent from Germany who isn't languishing in domestic racing or - even worse - the token German rider on a less than fully competitive MotoGP bike. So why should we Brits care about this German connection? Well, there are 85 million reasons why. If Europe is to remain the centre of operations for SBK racing in the foreseeable future, it's not a bad idea to have the biggest (if troubled) economy in the region behind it. We will all benefit. There has never been a real Teutonic SBK possibility like Neukirchner, not at his age, and not in a German-speaking team which has had such justified belief in him.
To cap it all he comes from the old East Germany, where all the modern tracks are and the historic racing link is strongest. The fact that Max talks and looks like a trainee librarian who's just discovered the joys of girls simply adds to the charm. World Superbike, equal opportunities employer that it is, may just have closed a vacancy for a fast young German, to fill a vital gap in our common market.
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