Friday, April 28, 2006

Coming up on the May Day weekend

Okay, so May Day might not be a holiday for those in the US, but it is in England, where British Superbike will hold its Oulton Park races on Monday. Greg Lavilla has to be favourite to extend his 36 point lead in the championship, but his team-mate Leon Haslam is desperate to get on his pace. Naturally all the top teams will be looking to beat Greg, none more so than Rizla Suzuki, who have had an absolutely disastrous start to the season. James Haydon has fallen more times than a 3-year-old on a bicycle without training wheels, and Shakey Byrne's rule-breaking at Thruxton got him placed way down the grid for both races. This only compounded the team's woes after Shakey's bike was burned to a crisp at Donington. Talk about a bad day at the office...

Over on the loose stuff, both the WRC and the US Rally Championship are in action this weekend. The WRC heads to Argentina, albeit with a slightly light entry. Apart from the six manufacturer teams, there are only three other WRC cars entered for Gigi Galli, Gareth MacHale and Dani Sordo. Still, it will be interesting to see the gravel specialists back in the limelight in the second true gravel event of the year.

Here in the US, it's California's turn to host a top-level rally, with the legendary Rim of the World Rally, held in the Angeles National Forest. Travis Pastrana and Ken Block take time out from their Rally America schedule to learn the roads that will be used in the X-Games later this year. Up against the Vermont Sportscar stars will be California Rally Series regulars Leon Styles, George Plsek, Blake Yoon, Brian Scott, Randy Dowell and Wolfgang Hoeck. Co-driving for Wolfie is my good friend and former team-mate Piers O'Hanlon. Smart money would be on one of the locals to win, since they know the car-breaking nature of Rim roads.

Turning to two-wheeled series in action this weekend, Southern California is also hosting the AMA Superbike championship at the soulless, awful California Speedway. I've been there once to see the Japanese GT All-Star race in 2004, and found that the cars were definitely the stars, not the track. Ben Spies will be hoping to put one over on Mat Mladin again, whilst filling the role that Rizla Suzuki plays in Britain (e.g. underperformer of the year) is Ducati. However, Neil Hodgson nearly won here last year...

MotoGP is in Turkey for round 3, and Friday practice times are already indicating another "young Honda" race with Nicky Hayden, Casey Stoner, Marco Melandri, Dani Pedrosa and Toni Elias leading the way. All are on Hondas and all are under 24. Rossi finished the day in 11th, whilst his team-mate Colin Edwards was sat in sixth.

Finally, two touring car series run this weekend, the World Touring Car Championship at Magny Cours and the DTM at the Eurospeedway in Lausitz. Due to technical problems I didn't see the first WTCC round from Monza, but the opening round of the DTM was very interesting indeed. Can Bernd Schneider continue his renaissance, or will Mattias Ekstrom challenge for the win? I'll continue to cheer for Heinz-Harald Frentzen, simply because he's so under-rated (look for an upcoming blog post about the world's most under-rated AND over-rated drivers and riders....) An interesting side-note: this blog has gotten a number of hits from people doing Google searches for new DTM driver Susie Stoddart. The fact that she's a fit blonde has nothing to do with it of course LOL!

Oh yes, one more thing - we'll be watching Aussie Marcos Ambrose compete in the NASCAR truck series again this weekend. After a pummelling at Martinsville, hopefully he can stretch his legs a bit at the longer Gateway track.

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