Honda World Supersport

Sean Alexander
by Sean Alexander
*PRESS RELEASE* HONDA RACING INFORMATION World Supersport Championship 2003 - Round Two Phillip Island Race Preview 28 to 30 March 2003

Second Chance For Honda Supersport Riders

After taking 50% of the top ten positions in the first Supersport race of the new season, Honda's officially supported CBR600RR riders will have their second opportunity to strive for victory in this most closely contested of global racing classes, as the championship moves to the challenging Phillip Island circuit in Australia on March 30.

A record number of factory entries made the start-of-season Valencia race, on March 2, a contest which provided a desperate battle throughout the field, with many new bike and rider combinations battling for initial supremacy.

The top Honda rider in Spain proved to be Ten Kate entrant Chris Vermeulen, who scored second place in the 23-lap race, after leading for long periods. Moving to his home circuit of Phillip Island will be a major boost for Vermeulen, and his Ten Kate team-mate Karl Muggeridge, the second of a total of three Australian factory Honda riders.

Vermeulen equalled his best ever World Supersport Championship race result with his second place in Spain, but the 20-year-old knows that nothing but a win will satisfy his growing desire for success. "My second place was good, but I badly want a race win. We are confident we have a winning package and I think with the first race under our belt we'll be even more competitive."

Vermeulen will be particularly keen to make a good impression at home, especially as he has had some misfortune in recent World Supersport races on home tarmac. "Yeah it's hard to work out why I have bad luck at my home race, but the Ten Kate team is so well prepared - and the 2003 CBR600RR is brilliant - so everything points to a change of fortune," commented the rapidly developing Aussie.

Vermeulen's teammate, Karl Muggeridge was not a happy man following Valencia. "I was angry with the way the Valencia race turned out,because I had to settle for just getting some good points for the championship. As I've said before, I don't like the Valencia track that much anyway. I look forward to the next two rounds at Philip Island and Sugo, they are both good tracks for me. Riding at home in Australia is always enjoyable, especially as I am based in Europe so much."

In addition to the Ten Kate squad, Honda fully supports the van Zon, BKM and Klaffi Honda teams, and most of the eight factory-equipped riders have already enjoyed good results on the all-new CBR600RR, a machine which apes more than just the styling touches of Valentino Rossi's all-conquering RC211V MotoGP machine.

Unlucky to finish off the podium at Valencia was experienced Frenchman Christophe Cogan, riding for the Belgian BKM Honda team. Cogan has started a record 67 World Supersport races, including Valencia, and took his four-cylinder Honda to a battling fourth place, contesting third place almost throughout the race. His Valencia result was particularly satisfying, considering the disadvantage of his fourth row start after qualifying.

World Supersport rookie Broc Parkes (BKM Honda) acquitted himself well at the first attempt, finishing seventh, one place behind Muggeridge. Twenty-one year-old Parkes, a former World Superbike privateer, earned kudos for his
professional and adversarial approach to racing in such an aggressive class.

Parkes, the third Honda supported rider in the field, said of racing at Phillip Island. "After the Valencia race I couldn't lift my arm as the shoulder was really hurting, all due to my falls in practice. I made a couple of visits to the Clinica Mobile, so we should have it back to normal for Phillip Island, so we can get stuck in again! I know the circuit and I'm looking forward to the race and a home visit."

The imposing figure of Robert Ulm (Klaffi Honda CBR600RR) will be hoping to translate his brilliant front row start at Valencia into something more tenable than his eventual DNF. "Of course I'm disappointed about crashing at Valencia, but the positive aspect is that we are already with the fast guys so early in the season, and that gives us all great satisfaction. I have experience at Phillip Island and hopefully we can repeat our good practice performance from Valencia, then go on to challenge in the race itself." Commented Austrian Ulm.

The home-town entrant in the Austrian Klaffi team (run by Ulm's compatriotand 2001 World Sidecar Champion Klaus Klaffenbock) Ulm has been a front row World Superbike qualifier in the recent past, and finds in the CBR600RR a machine which may offer him season-long consistency.

The compact dimensions of the 2003 Honda Supersport offering have thus far suited the diminutive form of Belgium's Werner Daemen well, with the van on Honda rider proving to be a top ten finisher at Valencia. A tough and experienced competitor, Daemen is looking forward to his best ever season.

Daemen's van Zon team-mate Iain Macpherson came close to winning the 1999 World Supersport Championship, and hopes to post his first points score of the season at Phillip island, after suffering a peculiar lack of top end revs at Valencia.

"I was very disappointed to have ridden so hard at Valencia and yet come away with no points. In Australia the main thing will be to score as many points as possible, by qualifying in a good position and staying with any leading group that may develop." Said Scotsman MacPherson.

Another Honda rider, Gianluigi Scalvini (Klaffi Honda CBR600RR) will be aiming to replicate his 125cc Grand Prix winning form of recent years as he recovers from his big highside crash in the opening round of the year.

The Phillip Island action gets underway with two days of qualifying, on 28 and 29 March, before the race itself takes place on Sunday 30 March.

WSS points Valencia:
1 K. Fujiwara 25, 2 C. Vermeulen 20, 3 A. Corradi 16, 4 C. Cogan 13, 5 J. Teuchert 11, 6 K. Muggeridge 10, 7 B. Parkes 9, 8 C. Kellner 8, 9 J. Vd Goorbergh 7, 10 W. Daemen 6, 11 P. Riba 5, 12 S. Sanna 4, 13 M. Schulten 3, 14 F. Foret 2, 15 M. Lagrive 1

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Sean Alexander
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