Starting on pole for the sixth weekend of the 2011 World Superbike season, Carlos Checa sat the front row for the second race at Imola alongside Jonathan Rea, Noriyuki Haga, and Tom Sykes. Checa set a new lap record (1:47.196) during the Superpole sessions on Saturday to take that pole, despite leading only S3 and the two free practices all weekend. Rea was the first to take provisional pole on Friday, with Sykes having the honor Saturday morning. Meanwhile, Eugene Laverty and Noriyuki Haga were fastest in each of the first two Superpole sessions, though it was Checa’s final time that counted to win pole.
Though Ruben Xaus has returned to the track, missing this weekend are Chris Vermeulen and the freshly-retired James Toseland. Paul Bird Motorsports did not replace the Australian, but Javier Flores is the new rider at BMW Motorrad Italia alongside Ayrton Badovini. Most importantly for the championship, Max Biaggi is still unable to ride due to his Nurburgring practice injury and has missed the second race weekend in a row. Haga was again quickest in the morning warm-up, Sunday before the race. He led Sykes, Rea, Haslam, and Checa as the fastest five. Race 1 at Imola was just as dicey as the rest of the leaderboard throughout the weekend.
The sun continued to shine for the second WSBK race of the day at Imola, as Haga wheelied away from his spot and Rea took the lead into the first turn. Laverty was right behind him, with Sykes up to third. Camier took fourth, and Checa was fifth. Within a few turns, Rea and Laverty had a gap on the rest of the field. Haga had gotten a bad start and had slipped back to seventh. Camier was next to move up, taking third from Camier and keeping it. At the end of L1, Rea led Laverty, Camier, Sykes, Checa, Haslam, Haga, Melandri, Fabrizio, and Guintoli as the top ten.
Meanwhile, Sykes continued to drop back, as Checa, then Haslam and Haga all took position from the Kawasaki rider. Smrz was the first rider to crash out as Rea’s lead increased to a second and a half over Laverty. The latter was beginning to fall into the clutches of Camier. Camier pushed through on Laverty three laps into the race, leaving some room for Checa to also go through, though the Spaniard could not capitalize. Five laps into the twenty-one lap race, Rea led Haga and Camier in the podium positions, while at least five riders fought over fourth. Checa was in fourth while Haslam, Laverty, Fabrizio, Sykes, Melandri, and Guintoli were the top ten, only as Sykes slide further back. He sat up with an apparent issue.
Rea, after barely keeping Haga behind him in the first race, had three seconds on the Japanese rider eight laps into the race. However, Haga was not letting him get too far away, clawing back some of the gap with continued race fast laps. The gap was down to 2.6s with ten laps to go, with Checa in third. Melandri had been in the upper mid-pack, but ran off and dropped down to twelfth. Fabrizio was the next to drop out of the race with an issue, driving into the garage, as Berger followed the next time around.
The riders seemed to have settled down with eight laps remaining, as Haga was back up to 2.8s behind leader Rea. Checa was catching up the Japanese rider, but could not quite pass. As they dueled, Rea managed to get back more of his previous gap. Checa got through on Haga for second, then Rea’s gap was gone with what appeared to be a throttle issue with five laps to go. Checa made his way around Rea, only for the latter to appear to fight back. As the lap progressed, Rea’s issue (which was later explained by the team as, “Battery connector. A classic 50¢ part.”) continued and he was forced out of the race he had led so dominantly.
With Checa’s lead, he would win the championship. However, Melandri made his way around a wild card to take eighth and an extra point. Checa had more than three seconds over Haga when two laps remained. Camier, Laverty, and Haslam completed the top five at that point. Polita, a wild card Ducati rider, was the next to end his race, as the Italian bike blew up dramatically in a gravel trap. Melandri was up two more positions, taking Lascorz and Guintoli on the penultimate lap. After a clear and easy final lap, Checa ended the race more than four seconds ahead of Haga, with Camier completing the podium. Melandri’s late-race resurgence to took him to sixth position and kept the championship fight going for another week.
World Superbike Race Results from Race 2 at Imola:
|1||7||Carlos Checa||Althea Racing Ducati||–|
|2||41||Noriyuki Haga||PATA Racing Team Aprilia||4.631|
|3||2||Leon Camier||Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team||15.159|
|4||58||Eugene Laverty||Yamaha WSBK Team||17.195|
|5||91||Leon Haslam||BMW Motorrad||17.388|
|6||33||Marco Melandri||Yamaha WSBK Team||18.533|
|7||50||Sylvain Guintoli||Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati||19.615|
|8||17||Joan Lascorz||Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki||20.063|
|9||8||Mark Aitchison||Team Pedericini Kawaski||24.194|
|10||86||Ayrton Badovini||BMW Motorrad Italia||28.485|
|11||86||Ruben Xaus||Castrol Honda||28.600|
|12||111||Federico Sandi||Althea Racing Ducati||41.802|
|13||23||Maxime Berger||Supersonic Racing Ducati||54.750|
|14||121||Javier Flores||BMW Motorrad||1:12.281|
|53||Alex Polita||Barni Ducati Racing Team S.N.C.||2 Laps|
|4||Jonathan Rea||Castrol Honda||4 Laps|
|84||Michel Fabrizio||Team Suzuki Alstare||11 Laps|
|15||Matteo Baiocco||Barni Racing Ducati||12 Laps|
|11||Troy Corser||BMW Motorrad||12 Laps|
|66||Tom Sykes||Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki||14 Laps|
|44||Roberto Rolfo||Team Pedericini Kawaski||19 Laps|
|96||Jakub Smrz||Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati||20 Laps|
Source: WSBK; Photo: Pirelli (Facebook)