Friday, June 02, 2006

Weekend preview (it's Le Mans test weekend too)

After a relatively quiet weekend a week ago, there's a lot happening in the next few days...

Le Mans testing: Sunday will offer us the best indication yet of the form guide for the 24 Hours. All the entrants will be there, along with most of the drivers. Radio coverage at Globecast 0157, and live timing and scoring on the ACO website.

WRC: Ah, the legendary Acropolis rally. Rough rallies like this have always been Ford's forte, so perhaps we'll finally see Marcus Gronholm overcome his terrible run of bad luck. Red Bull Skoda are along for the party again, and notable non-manufacturer entries include Dani Sordo, Jussi Valimaki, Alex Bengue, Jan Kopecky, Francois Duval and (finally) Toni Gardemeister, who has a Citroen Xsara for the weekend.

MotoGP: Nestled in a beautiful Tuscan valley, Mugello is the only current MotoGP circuit with a configuration that is unchanged from the 70s. So as Bob on MotoGPod says, you can get a good idea of how current riders stack up against Sheene, Roberts Sr., Mamola and other legends. The widely held opinion about this weekend's race is that Rossi will finally get his title chase back on track.

Rally America: Pennsylvania hosts the 30th running of the Susquehannock Trail Rally, traditionally one of the "powerhouse" US rallies. It's also the scene of the biggest crash of my rallying career (see pic). The added "spice" this weekend is that the top two finishers who haven't yet been invited to the X-Games will get a place. I'm rooting for my good friend and fellow San Franciscan Lauchlin O'Sullivan.

AMA: Can Ben Spies extend his win streak this weekend? My money says no, I think Mat M'Lady will finally strike back. Look for Honda, Kawasaki and Ducati to continue to suck. If only Yamaha were in the game too - I really think Jamie Hacking and Jason DiSalvo could be up front in Superbike. They looked so fast when I was at the last round at Infineon. Oh well.

Touring cars: The Aussies are at Winton, the World Touring Cars are at Oschersleben and the British guys are at Thruxton. A busy weekend worldwide for anyone in the business of straightening bent panels. I have a sneaking suspicion that BMW may do well in the WTCC this weekend. The tight corners of Oschersleben may suit the Beemers' superb traction under power.

BSB: The British Superbike folks go into battle at the notoriously tricky Mallory Park. Practice has already seen a lot of accidents (nothing serious), which proves how challenging the track is. Greg Lavilla continues to lead the title race by a huge margin, but Ryuichi Kiyonari has shown well in practice and might be up for it in the two races. And of course you never discount the terrific Shakey Byrne...

Isle of Man TT: This is it - after a week of practice, it's "game on", with the Superbike race on Saturday. John McGuinness set a blistering time on Wednesday and has to come in as favourite. Should he have any problems though, there's a number of riders who can pull off consistent 125-126mph laps, which should keep them in contention.

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