Jonathan Rea (1:37.490) won pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Magny-Cours, beating out fellow front-row starters Eugene Laverty, Carlos Checa, and Leon Camier to the position with a new lap record. Rea won his first pole in WSBK after his Race 1 win last weekend at Imola, holding off marginally struggling championship leader Checa. The Spaniard was fastest in both Friday sessions, but lost the provisional pole to title rival Marco Melandri (who starts eight) Saturday morning. Then, Checa struggled to get out of both Superpole 1 and Superpole 2 on Saturday, barely making the final session to fight for pole.
Only Melandri had a mathematical chance of beating Checa to the championship going into the Magny-Cours round, as reigning champion Max Biaggi’s season slumped. After focus issues at Donington, the Italian has been forced to sit out three races weekends in a row with a slowly healing injury sustained at the Nurburgring. Checa looked to wrap up the title last weekend, but a late race resurgence in Race 2 in Imola by Melandi kept that Italian in the hunt. With no wild card entries, Ruben Xaus out with a neck injury, and Chris Vermeulen still unable to race, the field is down to eighteen riders. Race 1 had plenty of action, leading in the crowning of a champion from the top step of the podium. In other news of the day, Melandri has signed to race with BMW Motorrad for 2012, alongside Haslam and without Corser.
Despite a massive highside in the first race, Aitchison did start the race, though Smrz, who lost the front end, did not. It was hotter still at Magny-Cours for the start of the second race, as Rea got a proper start, leading into the first turn. He was followed by Laverty, Camier, Sykes, and Checa as the top five. Checa picked off Sykes, holding off the British rider for fourth. Ending the lap, Sykes went in too deep and lost the front end whilst attempting to not hit Checa, and ended his own race. At the end of the first lap of twenty-three, Rea led Laverty by almost a second, with Camier, Checa, Haga, Guintoli, Haslam, Melandri, Corser, and Fabrizio the top ten. Checa next picked off Camier for second, at about the time Haslam took fourth from Guintoli.
In yet another consecutive race, Fabrizio also crashed out, causing a pack of riders to sit up to avoid him. Ahead, Checa looked to take second from Laverty, only to make a small mistake, run wide and drop down to fifth. He came back under Haga for fourth, only to lose the position again. Laverty had clawed back a couple of tenths on the leading Rea when five laps had gone, as Camier, Haga, Checa, Melandri, Haslam, Guintoli, Corser, and Badovini completed the top ten.
On the next lap, Rea had run wide and allowed the pack to catch him up. Laverty made great use of his sudden closeness, just dipping closely on the inside of Rea to take the lead from him. Haga and Checa also continued to trade position. Meanwhile, the injured Aitchison retired from the race. Laverty soon gained a tiny gap on Rea and the rest, as the top four got away from Haga and Melandri. Melandri managed to pass Haga, as Haslam followed him through on the next turn. The next to make a pass was Checa, taking third from Camier as the race approached halfway.
Soon, the top six had broken clearly into two groups, with Laverty, Rea, and Checa even spaced out, then Camier almost holding up Melandri, and Haslam barely trailing behind alone. However, Melandri was able to go under Camier for fourth. Ahead, Checa was taking some wider lines and appearing to take a look for a way through on Rea. He made the move on the inside a lap or two later, as Rea attempted to keep the speed up on the outside, but Checa was firmly into second. Once he got around, Checa was directly on Laverty’s back wheel with ten laps to go.
Rea, however, had to pull off for the second weekend in a row. That retirement moved Melandri up to third. Just a few turns later, Checa came from well back to dive up under Laverty to take the lead. Riders appeared to have settled in for the next couple of laps once Checa got to the front, as the Spaniard pulled out a few tenths gap. However, Haslam was soon on the move, sliding past Camier for fourth.
With five laps to go, Checa had nearly a second gap back to Laverty. Melandri was setting the same times as his teammate, but remained two second behind. He was pushing hard, looking to double up his second place finish from the first race. Further back, Rolfo ended his race in the gravel, though he appeared unhurt. With just one lap left, Melandri was all over the back of his teammate. Laverty was waving his leg about, but Melandri moved in late to take the position. He pushed through, leaving Laverty to sit up and allow Melandri the position or end both their races. Laverty chose the former. Checa kept his lead to double the win on his championship winning weekend, with Melandri and Laverty on the podium.
World Superbike Race Results from Race 2 at Magny-Cours:
|1||7||Carlos Checa||Althea Racing Ducati||-|
|2||33||Marco Melandri||Yamaha WSBK Team||1.267|
|3||58||Eugene Laverty||Yamaha WSBK Team||2.043|
|4||91||Leon Haslam||BMW Motorrad||6.506|
|5||50||Sylvain Guintoli||Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati||7.843|
|6||2||Leon Camier||Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team||8.360|
|7||17||Joan Lascorz||Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki||15.285|
|8||86||Aytron Badovini||BMW Motorrad Italia||15.549|
|9||11||Troy Corser||BMW Motorrad||16.278|
|10||41||Noriyuki Haga||PATA Racing Team Aprilia||22.996|
|11||112||Javier Fores||BMW Motorrad Italia||43.132|
|12||121||Maxime Berger||Supersonic Racing Ducati||47.846|
|44||Roberto Rolfo||Team Pedericini Kawaski||4 Laps|
|4||Jonathan Rea||Castrol Honda||10 Laps|
|8||Mark Aitchison||Team Pedericini Kawaski||19 Laps|
|84||Michel Fabrizio||Team Suzuki Alstare||21 Laps|
|66||Tom Sykes||Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki|
Source: WSBK; Photo: Pirelli (Facebook)