Round 2 of the 2012 World Superbike Championship comes from Imola today, and features six manufacturers in the top seven qualifying positions. With weather conditions favorable for racing, Italian motorcycle fans were treated to a great competition between the WSBK riders. Favored to win was the man on the local machine, Carlos Checa, but he would have to contest with pole-sitter Tom Sykes and his Kawasaki ZX-10R. Also always a crowd favorite in Italy is former-WSBK Champion Max Biaggi, who qualified a disappointing fifth, but still could not be counted out from a good result. Continue reading for spoilers and race results from World Superbike Race 1 at Imola.
After a month-long hiatus from the Phillip Island season-opener (Race 1 & Race 2), World Superbike action is back again this weekend and taking place in Imola, Italy. Though Max Biaggi leads the Championship with 45 points (ahead of Marco Melandri who has 30 points), much of the talk in the past month has been about the surprise resurgence of Kawasaki, with factory rider Tom Sykes taking a podium finish in Race 2 and showing potential to run against the likes of The Emperor, Carlos Checa, and Marco Melandri.
Now with Sykes third in the Championship going into Imola, the season that seemed preordained to be really between only two riders (Biaggi & Checa), has shown itself to be full of surprises. Continue reading for spoilers and results from the World Superbike Superpole qualifying event at Imola.
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.
Carlos Checa started Race 1 of the 2011 World Superbike round at Imola on pole. He beat out fellow front row starters Jonathan Rea, Noriyuki Haga, and Tom Sykes with a new track record lap (1:47.196) during the three Superpole qualifying sessions Saturday. Though Checa looked unbeatable early in the weekend, Rea and his newly implemented ride-by-wire throttle control took provisional pole in the first qualifying session on Saturday. Sykes was the next rider looking to keep Checa from winning the championship, as he took provisional pole during Saturday’s qualifying practice, but Checa was again on top of the timesheets during the final free practice minutes before Superpole began.
Checa did not dominate the Superpole sessions, but his lap time early in S3 was enough to hold the others at bay and maintain his qualifying domination of the season. Though Ruben Xaus has returned to his Castrol Honda for the weekend, Max Biaggi was forced to sit out this round, his second in a row, after his Nurburgring injury. Also missing from the field is Chris Vermeulen and the newly-retired James Toseland, who has been replaced by Javier Fores at BMW Motorrad Italia. In the final session Sunday morning, Haga led Sykes, Rea, Haslam, and Checa as the fastest five in the warm-up.
Carlos Checa (1:47.196) won pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Imola on a sunny and clear day, after dueling his way through Superpole with second place starter Jonathan Rea. Checa set a new track record early in the final session and looked confident in the garage until Rea came within hundredths of his lap time. Checa returned to the track, though Rea was unable to best his time and had to settle for second on the starting grid for Sunday. Noriyuki Haga, who led S2, will start third while Tom Sykes will complete the front row of the grid.
Before the on-track action even got underway, the championship hunt was shaken up as Biaggi, with his injury from the Nurburgring weekend not healing as quickly as required, is sitting out the entire Imola weekend, “It is a bad split fracture which – fortunately – is progressing well. But it has not healed and the X-ray today shows that,” said Dr. Claudio Costa. He continued, “Max – summoning up reason – was forced to acknowledge the situation.” This is the second race weekend in a row Biaggi has been forced to miss due to the injury, which occurred during practice three weeks ago. Also missing from the field is Chris Vermeulen and the newly-retired James Toseland, who has been replaced by Javier Fores at BMW Motorrad Italia.
In an effort to get out ahead of rumors suggesting Marco Simoncelli would be participating in World Superbike racing in 2011, his Gresini Honda MotoGP team has definitively stated that he will not be doing so. Though he appeared at the WSBK Monza round just this past weekend, Simoncelli will not be repeating his 2009 wild card performance at Imola or any other rounds this season. There, he placed third in the second race on an Aprilia, after not finishing the first race.
Simply put, there will be no extra racing for Simoncelli in a MotoGP field already marred by riders suffering health problems from extracurricular racing. However, Gresini Honda will be providing their star rider with a Honda CBR1000RR that he may test at his and the FIM’s discretion.
After dipping a toe into the waters at Monza last season, Yoshimura Suzuki will race a wild card entry at Phillip Island for the opening round of WSBK racing in 2011. Riding for the team is 2009 Australian Superbike Champion Josh Waters, who will get to compete in front of a home crowd. There is no word yet as to the team’s entrance in other rounds, despite attempts to do so last season, which saw a lack of funding keeping the team from their previously scheduled racing at Imola and Magny-Cours.
Without giving too much away about this weekend’s WSBK race, Max Biaggi clinched the World Superbike Championship at Imola this weekend. For fans in Italy, this moment is being celebrated heavily, as an Italian rider, on an Italian bike, during an Italian race, has clinched a major championship title. For Biaggi fans, this title has been a long-time in the making, as The Emperor hasn’t won a championship title since his 250GP days.
Cal Crutchlow was the fastest overall rider at World Superbike’s two-day testing session at Imola this week. Showing marked improvements over the course of the testing sessions, Crutchlow has his best times during Wednesday’s sessions, as did many of the riders.
Leading the pack on Tuesday was Leon Haslam. Haslam crashed twice on Wednesday though, with his last crash involving Shane Byrne. Bryne ended up cutting his hand during the incident, and it is expected that he broke his second metacarpal bone.
Noriyuki Haga looked to have regained his form, and finished fifth from the testing, while his teammate Michel Fabrizio showed impressive times, finishing second. Absent from the leader board tussle was Max Biaggi, who finished in just 9th place after the two days of testing. Full results after the jump.
Nearly two years after the Australian threw in the towel on motorcycle racing, Troy Bayliss has found a way to return to motorcycling headlines by his rumored intention to re-enter the World Superbike racing series. After recently testing for Ducati at Mugello (Bayliss is still on the Italian payroll as a test rider), Troy made it clear that he missed racing, and would like to return to the sport. While many sites are pegging a 2011 season for the Australian rider, we could see him as a wild card entry as early as Misano…if Bayliss goes through on his desires to race again.