The eleventh round of the 2012 World Superbike season will be run this weekend on the brand new Moscow Raceway at Volokolamsk, about 100km to the west of the Russian capital.
The spectacular 3.931km circuit, which cost about €130 million (R1.3 billion) to build, was inaugurated on July 15 with a World Series car event, and a supplementary test session was organised for Wednesday 22 August to give the Superbike riders the chance to get to know the new circuit.
And that's especially important for one rider - Cape Town's David 'McFlash' McFadden.
McFlash won the 2011 SA Supersport 600cc title in only his second full season, and stepped up to the litre-class SA Superbike series this year, where he has won more races than any other rider and is still second in the standings despite being unable to start one race due to a fuelling problem.
Then, in may, he was offered a one-off ride in the World Superstock 1000 series at Misano in Italy with the Pedercini Kawasaki team. So impressed were they with the young South African rider, that one ride became three, culminating in a superb fifth-place finish at Brno in the Czech Republic.
Then one of Team Pedercini's World Superbike riders, Argentinian Leandro Mercado, opted out and suddenly McFadden - who just three years ago was competing in the Western Cape Regional series (which he won!) was offered Mercado's bike for the World Superbike rounds at Moscow and the Nurburgring, with the option of the final two rounds at Portimao in Portugal and Magny Cours in France Estoril.
But therein lies the problem: money. To ride the rest of the season McFadden will have to come to the party with €40 000 (R400 000) and he hasn't got it. Friends and family rallied round to send him to Misano but that money has now dried up, and the first South African to be offered a World Superbike ride for several years needs your help.
(See contact details at the bottom of this article.)
McFlash got in only five laps in the first test session on Wednesday morning due to set-up problems, and was well off the pace. In the afternoon session, however, he was running consistently at under 1min40, about three second off the pace (Ducati works rider Carlos Checa was the only one under 1min36, with a sparkling 1min35.891) and, more crucial, he was half a second quicker than his team mate, Alex Lundh.
CHAMPIONSHIP ON A KNIFE-EDGE
The Russian races - the first World Superbike Round to be held in that country - will be the start of the decisive run-in for this year's title and the situation in the championship could not be any closer.
At the last round in Silverstone BMW's Marco Melandri narrowed the gap to Aprilia veteran Max Biaggi, who has led the standings since the opening round in Australia, to just 10.5 points. Two rounds ago Biaggi had a 55-point lead over his fellow Italian, but in World Superbike every race is unpredictable and surprises are the order of the day.
With 200 points still up for grabs in the final four rounds (Russia, Germany, Portugal and France), Tom Sykes (Kawasaki), Carlos Checa (Ducati) and Jonathan Rea (Honda) are also still in with a chance, with Rea only 70.5 points from the leader.