Despite a tragic beginning to the first race of the season, World Superbike racing returned to our lives today with the season-opener at Phillip Island. With cloudy skies and strong winds, Tom Sykes and the factory Kawasaki WSBK team took their place on the starting line at the pole position. Showing a marked improvement over last year’s measure, Kawasaki would still have to contend with the Ducati of Carlos Checa, the Aprilia of Max Biaggi, and the ever improving Honda of Johnny Rea.
It is our displeasure to report that Saturday’s World Superbike Superpole qualifying event at Phillip Island was cancelled after a fatality occurred during the Australian Superstock 600 support race. In an incident very similar to the one that took Marco Simoncelli’s life last year, 17-year-old Oscar McIntyre collided with fellow ASTK racers Luke Burgess and Michael Lockhart on the second lap of Saturday’s support race. Though McIntyre received immediate medical attention, he succumbed to his injuries, and event organizers eventually cancelled the Superpole sessions. The last time a World Superbike sessions was cancelled was at Donington in 1998 and due to the snow.
Accordingly, this means that Sunday’s racing grid will be determined by the best lap times from the Qualifying Practice 2 session, which puts Tom Sykes at the pole position, followed by Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa. Look for a strong showing from the Kawasaki contingency on Sunday, but the smart bets are still on the Aprilia of Biaggi and the Ducati of Checa, which have been consistently fast all week. Get excited race fans, the first race of the 2012 World Superbike Championship is about to be underway.
With Carlos Checa dominating Phillip Island during the private tests and the first day of official testing, Tom Sykes displaced the reigning World Superbikes Champion early on in the second day of official testing at Phillip Island. In WSBK’s final test before the season’s racing kicks off this weekend, the Kawasaki rider set the day’s fastest time with a 1:31.648, holding off Checa by just 0.004 seconds. Also setting their best times on Tuesday, Jakub Smrz, Jonathan Rea, and Max Biaggi rounded out the fastest five overall. Marco Melandri was sixth fastest overall, with his best time being set on Monday.
There were a number of crashes that tested both riders and available machinery, of which Leon Haslam was the most notable. The Englishman fractured his right tibia in a high side at the final turn on Monday, leaving the BMW rider to scramble for an available surgery. He tweeted Tuesday, “I’ve finally found a guy to sort things out booked in for a Op on Thursday morning there might be a chance to ride on Sunday,” adding, “fingerscrossed.” Rea also crashed heavily, but did more damage to his bike than himself, and was able to continue throughout the test sessions.
In Spain right now, an assembly of Ducati Corse technicians, mechanics, and riders are tucking into bed after completing the first of three days of MotoGP testing at the Spanish track. After failing to debut its new Ducati Desmosedici GP12 at the 2012 Wrooom media event, Ducati Corse is holding some very private tests at Jerez to sort out the GP12 before Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden ride the 1,000cc format machine at the Sepang test at the end of the month. Details about the Desmosedici GP12 have been sparse, though Ducati Corse General Manager Filippo Preziosi did let it be known that the 2012 Desmo was 90% new in its design.
Last year, Nicky Hayden helped Ducati spread some Christmas cheer, as the American MotoGP rider snuck into the Borgo Panigale office and made some “vrrroommm!” noises on a Ducati Diavel that was on display. For the 2011 Christmas season, Ducati has enlisted a more recent champion to help with its holiday wishes: a certain reigning-World Superbike Champion Carlos Checa.
Playing Santa Claus (note the twinkle in his eye) on his Ducati Multistrada 1200, Checa’s list of the “good Ducatistas” in Bologna certainly seems a bit short when judged from this video, but then again it’s not like the MTS1200 has the unlimited payload like Santa’s sled, but we digress. Merry Christmas, Ducati style.
It’s only a matter of time before Ducati releases some race replica paint jobs for the recently unveiled Ducati 1199 Panigale. It almost certainly won’t be during the 2012 model year, but in 2013 don’t be surprised to see some race-inspired colors adorning Bologna’s flagship superbike. Seemingly beating Ducati to the punch, the guys over at MotorBikeTV have put together some fine photoshops of what the Ducati 1199 Panigale race replicas would look like. Hayden, Bayliss, Checa…the only thing missing is perhaps the most important race replica of all: Valentino Rossi’s.
With The Doctor signing onto the Italian MotoGP squad for two seasons, the match was a marketing director’s dream come true. And while the Rossi yellow might clash with the Rosso Corsa, you can beat anything stamped with a 46 and the Ducati Corse logo will sell like hot cakes…it did for the Ducati Monster at least. A Rossi-branded Ducati 1199 Panigale? The sound you just heard was Ducatisti worldwide having spasms of joy, of the change-your-pants variety. Thanks for the tip Sergio!
Good news for Carlos Checa, as the Althea Ducati race team has finally extended the reigning-World Superbike Champion a contract for the 2012 season. Recently, Checa was in the precarious position of having clinched the 2011 World Superbike Championship, and yet had no contract for the 2012 season. Stuck in the tug-of-war between Althea Racing and Ducati Corse, as well as the scandal currently gripping Althea Ceramics, Checa’s future with the Ducati squad was in question to such an extent that the BMW Italia team offered the Spaniard €800,000 to ride one of its BMW S1000RRs in 2012.
Jonathan Rea (1:41.712) won his second pole of the 2011 World Superbike season to start the season finale at Portimao on pole. He beat newly minted champion Carlos Checa to pole by more than two tenths in Saturday’s Superpole session, despite the riders having traded fast laps in Friday’s sessions. Joining them on the front row are soon-to-be-former Yamaha teammates Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri. Sylvain Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Joan Lascorz, and Noriyuki Haga complete the second row. 2010 champion Max Biaggi returned for the final race weekend after missing three race meetings due to a foot injury sustained at Nurburgring. Though he was quick on Friday and in the practice session, Biaggi managed only to qualify seventeenth.
Chris Vermeulen and Roberto Rolfo, along with Ruben Xaus did not participate on the weekend, all suffering from injuries that kept them home. Vermeulen was not replaced, though Rolfo was by his satellite Kawasaki team. The Italian had broken his left kneecap in a bicycle accident near his home earlier in the week, leaving room for Santiago Barragan to fill in for him. Karl Muggerridge again filled in for Xaus, as the Spainiard’s earlier neck and back injuries also kept him from racing. Though Rea and Checa each held a fat lap on Friday, it was Rea who held provisional pole going into the Superpole sessions. He would not relinquish pole, winning his second of the season. Race 1 was a sunny and bright affair, with a surprising early leader, decisive battles, and a a bit of icing on the cake of the 2011 season.
Jonathan Rea (1:41.712) won pole during Saturday’s Superpole sessions at Portimao with a new lap record time. He held off second place starter Carlos Checa with that fast lap set early in the final S3 session. The two riders had dominated the times on Friday, with Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri completing the front row of Starters for Sunday’s races. Though Rea’s fast lap came early in S3, there was plenty of nail biting for riders further back the pack. Multiple riders hauled themselves out of the knockout zone on final flying laps after the flag. Sylvain Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Joan Lascorz, and Noriyuki Haga complete the second row.
Max Biaggi returned for this final round of the 2011 World Superbike season after injury kept him from contesting the championship. Fellow Italian Roberto Rolfo did not compete, having broken his left kneecap in a bicycle accident near his home earlier in the week. Santiago Barragan replaced him at Pedericini Kawasaki. Fellow Kawasaki rider Chris Vermeulen ended this season as he began it, attempting to recover fully from a knee injury sustained in 2010. He did not participate in the weekend. However, Portimao saw Josh Waters and Yoshimura Suzuki again at a WSBK round, though the Australian was knocked out in the final qualifying practice and started only 21st. Finally, word came from Troy Corser that he would not be returning to WSBK racing after this final weekend of the season.
Jonathan Rea (1:41.712) took the final pole of the 2011 World Superbike season at Portimao, beating off championship winner Carlos Checa with a lap set early in the final Superpole session. Rea and Checa had traded session fast times on Friday, with the younger rider coming out on top and leading a starting front row also including current Yamaha teammates Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri. Superpole was relatively uneventful, with leading fast laps coming early in the three sessions and only riders pulling themselves out of the knockout zone in the final seconds after the flag. Sylvain Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Joan Lascorz, and Noriyuki Haga complete the second row for tomorrow’s two races.
There was plenty of news before the racing began on Friday, with word that Biaggi would return for the season finale, as would Josh Waters and Yoshimura Suzuki. Meanwhile, Roberto Rolfo had to be replaced at Pedercini Kawasaki by Santiago Barragan, as the Italian rider had broken his left kneecap earlier in the week in a bicycle accident near his home. Chris Vermeulen was again out, missing the final race weekend of a season that saw him compete in only seven races. On Friday morning, recent pole winner and recipient of bad luck, Rea (1:43.945) led the timesheets over Checa, Badovini, Sykes, and Guintoli as the fastest five. Meanwhile, Leon Camier tweeted, “just had front row seat to max an Marco having another punch up but on the slow down lap after first sess! Shoving each other all sorts.”Checa (1:43.579) was not one to relinquish control after winning the championship, taking provisional pole in the afternoon qualifying session under sunny Portuguese skies. Laverty, Guintoli, and Rea were also on the provisional front starting row.