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What history will be written at Imola?

imola circuit
Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino FerrariCourtesy of WorldSBK

Imola is one of the oldest cities in Italy and while it was a key market town for most of its existence, in the last 50 years it has become synonymous with speed. This will be the 15th visit to the circuit for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship and it has seen some milestone events on the calendar.

With titles having been decided at the venue in the past - most notably in 2002 - the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari is one that oozes history and emotion. On race day the crowds swell to one of the biggest of the year and the atmosphere on the grid is one where the tension is exaggerated, wtih the grandstand being close enough to see the whites of the eyes from fans.

Unlike when Colin Edwards and Troy Bayliss went toe to toe at Imola in 2002, we won't see a title decider this weekend. We will however, see another instalment of an interesting WorldSBK year. We're now into the heart of the season and while Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) has opened a commanding championship lead, there are still many battles to be fought in the championship.

Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) has had to battle the ailments in recent weeks, while Rea and Chaz Davies ( Racing – Ducati) looked set to battle each other in Assen. The scene is set for the leading trio to once again be the men to beat this weekend, but Imola can throw up some surprises particularly if the weather throws a curveball onto the grid.

The last five years have seen double winners with Carlos Checa, Tom Sykes, Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies all completing the trick but this weekend we could see the real effects of the Race 2 grid shuffle.

Imola has been a track earmarked by riders as the most challenging to come through the pack. The circuit is one of contrasts with the open section of high speed left-right combinations eventually giving way to the middle of the lap, where the track is much tighter and technical. It's difficult to overtake at Imola so despite the recent run of form that has seen the big three share the wins since 2013, do not be surprised to see a shake-up of the order.

Who is in the best position to take advantage of the possible struggle through the pack for the Race 1 podium finishers? It could be the weekend where Yamaha come good on their promise. Last time out in Assen, Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) finished fourth and fifth after great rides through the midfield. If either rider can catch the right breaks this weekend they could be a factor, should one of the top riders struggle to get through the pack easily.

In Assen we saw Davies falter in Race 2 when he was unable to progress through the pack at the same pace as Rea. If anyone suffers a similar fate this weekend we could have the first non-Ducati, Kawasaki podium lockout of the season.

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