Jonathan Rea (1:37.490) started the penultimate race weekend of the 2011 season on pole at Magny-Cours with a new lap record time. Completing the front row after Saturday’s Superpole sessions are Eugene Laverty, Carlos Checa, and Leon Camier. The championship leader had something of a fraught Saturday, with challenger Marco Melandri (who will start the races on the second row in eighth) taking provisional pole that morning. In the Superpole sessions, Checa was regularly near the bottom and managed only to move on with a couple of very late flying laps. He was also unable to best Rea’s time at the end of S3 and will start sandwiched between the teammates of current and former title rivals.
Max Biaggi, Camier’s Aprilia teammate and Checa’s recent title rival, again sits out this race weekend after his practice injury from the Nurburgring continues to heal slowly. Also missing in Ruben Xaus, Rea’s Castrol Honda teammate, whose neck continues to prove difficult after a practice injury at Magny-Cours on Friday. With Chirs Vermeulen still out and not replaced at Kawasaki and no wild card entries, the WSBK grid is down to eighteen riders this weekend. For the morning warm-up, Checa was back in charge, leading a fastest five including Corser, Guintoli, Rea, and Smrz.
It was a gorgeously sunny day at Magny-Cours for Race 1, as Rea got a shaky start, looking almost as though he had jumped the start, then stopping and getting off the line late. Laverty led while further back Aitchison had an absolutely massive highside, crashing out of the race. Soon Laverty and Camier had a gap back to Checa in third, as he had gotten around Sykes. Camier then had a moment in second, which slowed him enough that Checa bumped into him. Soon Checa passed Camier for second. At the end of L2, Laverty led Camier, Checa, Sykes, Guintoli, Melandri, Rea, Haslam, Haga, and Corser.
Smrz was the next to crash out, possibly touching a Kawasaki on his way down. Further back, Melandri was sliding backwards as Rea, Haslam, and Haga all made their way through on the Italian. Coming out of the final turn, Rea lost the front and slid out of the race, with attrition coming heavily in the first five laps. Laverty and Checa were running away at the front, two and a half seconds ahead of Camier. Meanwhile, Sykes gave up two positions to Haga and Melandri by running wide, then taking a turn straight on.
At the front, Laverty had only bike lengths on Checa, though they both had a comfortable three seconds on Camier. Checa had a taste of the lead underneath Laverty’s waving leg, but Laverty retook the position. At the next opportunity, Checa was in the lead just before L10 ended. Camier, Guintoli, Haslam, Haga, Melandri, Sykes, Corser, and Fabrizio completed the top ten, though Haslam was quickly up the inside of Guintoli. Just two laps after the pass for the lead, Checa had over a second and a half on Laverty. Into the Adelaide hairpin, Haslam took the final podium position from Camier.
A bit later, Melandri moved back up a position to fifth around Guintoli in the middle of the pack essentially fighting for third. Haslam led that group, with Camier and Melandri close behind. Camier took third from Haslam but couldn’t hold it. In the shuffle, Melandri was later able to take fourth from Camier. Meanwhile, Fabrizio crashed after running into the rear wheel of Sykes with six laps to go. The Italian managed to continue on, though.
Checa’s lead was up to over three seconds on Laverty with five laps remaining, as Haslam, Melandri, Camier, Guintoli, Haga, Lascorz, Corser, and Sykes completed the top ten. Meanwhile, the pack had caught Laverty. Haslam looked to take Laveryt, but ran wide and allowed Melandri through to take the final podium position. Next up on the Italian’s list was Laverty, whom he passed neatly to take second. As the final lap began, Checa had three seconds of clear track behind him to Melandri, then Haslam and Camier as Laverty’s tires continued to wear. Checa took the checkered flag to win the race and the 2011 WSBK championship, ahead of the current second-place points finisher Melandri.
World Superbike Race Results from Race 1 at Magny-Cours:
|1||7||Carlos Checa||Althea Racing Ducati||–|
|2||33||Marco Melandri||Yamaha WSBK Team||2.201|
|3||91||Leon Haslam||BMW Motorrad||3.218|
|4||2||Leon Camier||Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team||3.796|
|5||58||Eugene Laverty||Yamaha WSBK Team||5.602|
|6||50||Sylvain Guintoli||Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati||9.634|
|7||41||Noriyuki Haga||PATA Racing Team Aprilia||9.814|
|8||17||Joan Lascorz||Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki||11.387|
|9||11||Troy Corser||BMW Motorrad||17.143|
|10||66||Tom Sykes||Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki||24.523|
|11||112||Javier Fores||BMW Motorrad Italia||34.532|
|12||84||Michel Fabrizio||Team Suzuki Alstare||1:19.724|
|13||44||Roberto Rolfo||Team Pedericini Kawaski||1 Lap|
|121||Maxime Berger||Supersonic Racing Ducati||13 Laps|
|4||Jonathan Rea||Castrol Honda||19 Laps|
|86||Ayrton Badovini||BMW Motorrad Italia||19 Laps|
|96||Jakub Smrz||Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati||21 Laps|
|8||Mark Aitchison||Team Pedericini Kawaski|
Source: WSBK; Photo: Pirelli (Facebook)