With good weather under British skies, World Superbike is making one of its few breaks from the European mainland, and racing at Donington Park this weekend. With a slew of local boys comprising the top spots of the WSBK grid, race fans at Donington had more than a few favorites for Sunday’s races, though pole-setter Tom Sykes seemed to be the favorite per usual, as the Brit looked for his first fair-weather win.
The hoopla surrounding the Effenbert Liberty Racing team and last weekend’s World Superbike race at Monza continues, though the Czech-based racing squad is present and accounted for at Donington Park this race-weekend. Traveling without its hospitality suite, the largest in the WSBK paddock, Liberty Racing is essentially sans its title sponsor this weekend, and the teams says Effenbert may withdraw its participation in World Superbike after the events at Monza, though the team is committed to completing the 2012 World Superbike Championship.
Saying that its ire in the press was improperly casted towards Infront Motorsport, the team in another statement has clarified that it blames a small number teams and riders, who helped shape the cancellation of Race 1 at Monza, and the shortened distance of Race 2. With Effenbert Liberty Racing rider Sylvain Guintoli on the pole position in Italy, the team is understandably upset about not being able to capitalize on the weekend, especially after securing two podiums at Assen, one of which was a race win. The broken English press release after the jump, while Liberty rider Jakub Smrz currently sits on WSBK’s provisional pole.
If John Hopkins didn’t have his bad luck, the Anglo-American would have no luck at all. Crashing in the questionable conditions at Monza, the Crescent Fixi Suzuki rider injured himself at the Italian World Superbike round. Highsiding during the race, Hopper has broken his right foot and torn muscles in his left hip. Though the team hoped he would be able to ride at the British WSBK round at Donington Park, further tests and scans have shown his injuries to be far worse than originally thought.
The FIM and TTXGP have issued a joint statement today, declaring that the two rival electric racing series would collaborate on three races this season, plus the possibility of a season-capping championship race in October. As we broke the news a couple months ago, the two series have begun to patch-up their relationship, and are slowly working their way back into a merger.
Today’s announcement sees TTXGP adding its name to perhaps the FIM e-Power Championship’s crown jewel event: the Laguna Seca round, which will count towards the TTXGP’s North American Championship.
Other event collaborations include stops on the FIM e-Power calendar as well, as both Donington Park and Le Mans have been named in the press release. e-Power races to be held at those venues were to be run during the FIM Endurance World Championship, and now will include TTXGP riders as well, who will be receiving points towards their European Championship standings.
The announcement should mean the bolstering of riders at all the events, but we imagine it will affect the FIM’s European rounds the most, as the American race was well-attended last year.
In what seems like a rash of rider injuries that are worse than originally thought, Sylvain Guintoli rode this past weekend at Donington Park with broken bones in his hand and ankle. The injuries were sustained when he crashed heavily in the World Superbike season-opening first race at Phillip Island, forcing him to sit out the second. At the time, doctors informed the Frenchman that he had broken no bones, though the crash injured his hand, ankle, and shoulder. After the season-opener, Guintoli returned home and began preparing for the second round of WSBK racing at Donington.
Donington Park remained cold for the second race of the second round of the World Superbike Championship, though there was plenty of drama both on and off the track to keep things heated up. Race 1 featured a thrilling charge through the field by one protagonist, while Superpole had drama all its own. Though Checa won pole convincingly for the second time in a row this season, it was Max Biaggi who garnered the most attention after Saturday’s qualifying. Reigning champion Max Biaggi had some traffic issues during Superpole, first holding up, and then being held up by rival and WSBK rookie Marco Melandri.
Neither James Toseland nor Chris Vermeulen participated in either race. Toseland was home recovering from a fractured wrist, injured in a testing crash last week, while Vermeulen was at Donington and participated in Fridays practice sessions, only to sit out qualifying and the races with his knee still recovering from a 2010 crash and surgery.
Carlos Checa started the race on pole during a cold and dreary morning, after a tension-filled Superp0le at Donington Park. He was joined on the front row by Leon Haslam, Tom Sykes, and Jakub Smrz, with an especially surprising quick time from Sykes bringing the Kawasaki to the front of the field. Eugene Laverty might have been near the front, but for a nasty crash through Craner that tore up his bike.
Four Brits started their first home race of the World Superbike season in the first two rows, though James Toseland did not participate at Donington, having suffered a fractured wrist after a testing crash. Chris Vermeulen also sat out the race, as was expected after skipping Phillip Island and the final qualifying practice in England.
Though Checa won pole in a dramatic fashion on Saturday, with a record lap on the revised circuit, the higher drama was between Biaggi and nearly everyone else. He and Melandri traded quickest times through the early qualifying practices, but it was Saturday that added to the Max Biaggi YouTube collection. He and Michel Fabrizio came together in a practice, with the reigning champion continuing on but Fabrizio and Alstare Suzuki left with bits of bike strewn across the circuit.
Then Biaggi balked Melandri during Superpole 2, leading the WSBK rookie to purposefully throw Biaggi off his own fast lap. Melandri was knocked out in Superpole 2, and Biaggi was off to complain to the younger Italian after the session. In the garage, he confronted a calm Melandri, leading to what has been called a slap, but would more likely be a tap of admonition on the cheek (see the incident in this video). Both riders were called to race direction, reprimanded, and Biaggi was fined €3,000.
Slap! And that’s what happened when Max Biaggi stopped by Marco Melandri’s pit box after qualifying, after the two riders traded moments stuffing each other during the Superpole sessions. While out on his fastest lap in Superpole 2, Marco Melandri came onto the slower lapping Max Biaggi, and according to Melandri, Biaggi blocked his fellow Italians fast lap.
Subsequently, Melandri returned the favor on Biaggi’s fast lap attempt, while Biaggi would go on to do the same to Noriyuki Haga (and others reportedly) as well. After Superpole concluded however, it was Melandri that got The Emperor’s wroth in the paddock, as the reigning World Superbike Champion stopped by the Yamaha pit, and gave Melandri a couple of light slaps on the face during a worded exchange. Video after the jump.
Carlos Checa won his second straight pole of the World Superbike season Saturday at Donington Park, setting a new circuit record in the process (1:28.099), and he will be joined by Leon Haslam, Tom Sykes, and Jakub Smrz on the front row. The testing last week at Aragon must have done wonders for the factory Kawasaki team as Sykes posted his fastest lap on a race tire, not a qualifier. Dropping back during qualifying, early weekend frontrunners Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri qualified only sixth and ninth, respectively. Melandri’s teammate Eugene Laverty crashed in Superpole 1, destroying his Yamaha, but continued on a backup bike to qualify thirteenth.