Having dominated the final qualifying session under a cloudy sky and in cool temperatures, Carlos Checa won pole (1:35.292) for the World Superbike round at Assen. The Spaniard won pole for the third race weekend in a row, added by the fact that he was the only rider to have a fresh qualifying tire for the third Superpole session. He will be joined on the front row for Sunday’s races by Jakub Smrz, Eugene Laverty, and Noriyuki Haga. Though none could touch Checa at the end, the Superpole sessions were marked by very close lap times, with the twelve riders in Superpole 2 covered by a half second. Only Marco Melandri crashed during the Superpole sessions, on his last lap while attempting to fight for pole. He was unhurt and qualified eighth.
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.
Sunday dawned a damp Phillip Island for the opening round of World Superbike racing, after a clear week of testing and practices which were all dominated by Carlos Checa. The Spaniard won pole on Saturday, though reigning champion Max Biaggi’s improvement through the weekend brought his qualifying time to within .013s of Checa’s. Sylvain Guintoli and Leon Haslam were next to the veterans on the front row.
Both were also fast in the damp morning warm-up, though Australian Troy Corser was fastest in the changed conditions, with Checa was tenth fastest. It was dry and sunny by race time rolled around for Race 1, though the sky had turned grey for Sunday’s second race. To see how the riders adapted to the changed weather for Race 2, continue reading after the jump.
Carlos Checa started the season-opening round of World Superbike racing at Phillip Island on pole, having dominated testing and the weekend. Reigning champion Max Biaggi started alongside him, finally bearing his #1 championship plate, having posted a qualifying time just .013s slower than Checa’s. Completing the front row were Sylvain Guintoli and Leon Haslam, both quick in the dry times from Saturday’s qualifying.
Conditions on Sunday led to some shake-ups in the order for the morning warm-up, as overnight rain dampened the track. Australian Troy Corser led those times, followed by Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Haslam, and the injured Jonathan Rea. Chris Vermeulen was unable to race at Phillip Island after failing to pass the physical due to a slow recovery from knee surgery. To find out who dominated Phillip Island Race 1, continue reading after the jump.
Lapping by a very narrow margin over reigning World Champion Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa won the pole position for the 2011 World Superbike season opener at Phillip Island today. Though the Spaniard dominated the testing and practice sessions this week, Biaggi continued to improve his times, and was only .013s slower at the end of qualifying session. Also showing strong results were Sylvain Guintoli and Leon Haslam, who complete the front row for Sunday’s races.
Jonathan Rea rallied after a severe testing crash and his second crash of the day to qualify twelfth, while Leon Camier, suffering from glandular fever, qualified sixteenth and did not make Superpole, a blow for the Aprilia factory team even as teammate Biaggi unveiled his #1 plate.
Carlos Checa was fastest overall, with a lap time of 1:30.578, as the final World Superbike winter test ended Tuesday at Phillip Island. That time was also nearly a half second faster than the existing lap record set by Regis Laconi in 2009, and almost 1.3 sec faster than Troy Corser’s race lap record from 2007. In addition to Checa, Sylvain Guintoli, Jonathan Rea, Jakub Smrz, and Joan Lascorz completed the fastest five. Rea’s time from Tuesday morning kept him third fastest despite a crash at Turn 3 in the afternoon that resulted in an injured hand. No word is available yet on the specifics of his injury.
Carlos Checa was fastest overall during World Superbike testing Monday at Phillip Island, nearly a second faster than anyone else during the dry running in the afternoon. Monday was a quick day for Ducatis, as Sylvain Guintoli led the morning session and was second fastest overall, while Jakub Smrz was third fastest of the day. Reigning champion Max Biaggi was fourth fastest, with Michel Fabrizio fifth overall. Notably absent was Christopher Vermeulen who will not ride during the test or his home race this weekend, and has been replaced by Akira Yanagawa at the factory Kawasaki team.
Releasing its 2011 World Superbike livery today, Yamaha had to unveil its YZF-R1 with a profusion of the color blue, and total lack of a title sponsorship. Not renewing its contract after the 2010 season, Italian milk producer Sterilgarda is notably absent from the team livery. It might have been assumed that Sterilgarda would stay on to sponsor Italian rider Marco Melandri, but the once promising MotoGP rider obviously did not have the drawing power for the Italian brand.
This lack of corporate sponsorship is a worrying trend for the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer, as Yamaha has yet to announce a sponsor for its MotoGP team, after Fiat exited with its bags of money when Valentino Rossi left Yamaha for Ducati Corse (there’s considerable talk that when Yamaha debuts its MotoGP livery in Sepang later this month, it’ll be with corporate colors as well).
Yamaha’s factory-supported World Superbike team, Sterilgarda Yamaha, tipped part of it’s rider line-up last week when it announced that Marco Melandri would be making the move from MotoGP to WSBK. Now the Yamaha squad has released the name of its second rider, and we’ll give you a hint: it’s not James Toseland. Instead for the 2011 season, Sterilgarda Yamaha will be tapping into the young Irish rider Eugene Laverty, who is currently looking for a World Supersport Championship with the Parkalgar Honda squad.