If you haven’t seen World Superbike’s Race 2 at Assen yet, you will want to stop reading now. Battling for the last spot on the podium, Eugene Laverty, Marco Melandri, and Leon Haslam put on a great charge to the finish line. With Laverty getting some distant away from the two factory BMW Motorrad riders, Melandri and Haslam were left fighting for fourth and the bragging rights of beating the other.
As had been the case all week, World Superbike had to look to the skies before Race 1 at Assen to determine what the weather gods had in store for the Dutch track. Expecting fair conditions for Race 1, and rain expected for Race 2, teams again would have continue to have to juggle two different setups for their riders.
With the grid on slicks for the start of Race 1, things would come to crashing halt just nine laps later, as the rain made an early appearance. Red-flagged and restarted, Race 1 ended up being a very wet affair. Click past the jump for spoilers and results.
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.
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.
Marco Melandri will join Leon Haslam at BMW Motorrad for the 2012 World Superbike season, leaving Troy Corser presumably out of the factory team. The Italian’s maiden season this year at Yamaha proved to be an excellent one, as he his Championship battle with Carlos Checa come down to this penultimate race weekend. Over the 2011 season, Melandri won one pole out the twenty-three races run so far this season, and has three race wins to his credit. Earlier in his career, Melandri won the 2002 250GP Championship, and seemed to find a home in WSBK this season. However, he and fellow WSBK rookie rider Eugene Laverty were left in the cold when Yamaha announced that they were shelving their WSBK effort in 2012.
“We are really looking forward to working with Leon and Marco. I am convinced we will have arguably the strongest rider’s line up in the Superbike World Championship field,” said Bernhard Gobmeier, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director. He continued, “We are delighted to have two riders who are both hungry and experienced for the coming season. That is the next important step for our team.” There is no word yet on where current BWM rider Troy Corser will land, nor Laverty.
Jonathan Rea (1:37.490) started the penultimate race weekend of the 2011 season on pole at Magny-Cours with a new lap record time. Completing the front row after Saturday’s Superpole sessions are Eugene Laverty, Carlos Checa, and Leon Camier. The championship leader had something of a fraught Saturday, with challenger Marco Melandri (who will start the races on the second row in eighth) taking provisional pole that morning. In the Superpole sessions, Checa was regularly near the bottom and managed only to move on with a couple of very late flying laps. He was also unable to best Rea’s time at the end of S3 and will start sandwiched between the teammates of current and former title rivals.
Max Biaggi, Camier’s Aprilia teammate and Checa’s recent title rival, again sits out this race weekend after his practice injury from the Nurburgring continues to heal slowly. Also missing in Ruben Xaus, Rea’s Castrol Honda teammate, whose neck continues to prove difficult after a practice injury at Magny-Cours on Friday. With Chirs Vermeulen still out and not replaced at Kawasaki and no wild card entries, the WSBK grid is down to eighteen riders this weekend. For the morning warm-up, Checa was back in charge, leading a fastest five including Corser, Guintoli, Rea, and Smrz.
Jonathan Rea won pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Magny-Cours with a new circuit record (1:37.490), beating out fellow front-row starters Eugene Laverty, Carlos Checa, and Leon Camier. The latter’s teammate, Max Biaggi, is again missing this weekend. It is his third missed race weekend in a row, as a practice injury sustained at the Nurburgring continues to heal slowly. Though championship leader Checa starts on the front row for both of Sunday’s races, his Superpole sessions were touch and go. He was in the knockout zone in S1 until a post-flag flying lap put him fastest. He remained on the bubble for most of S2, only barely making it to the fight for pole. The championship hunt continues this weekend, after Melandri’s late race resurgence in Race 2 in Imola kept Checa from winning then. The Spaniard needs only finish three points ahead of Melandri to clinch the title this weekend.
Checa (1:39.013) started off the weekend quickest in the first practice session on Friday, leading Sykes, Corser, Haslam, and Smrz as the fastest five. Both Fabrizio and Xaus has minor crashes, with the former finishing the session. Xaus complained of neck pain and feeling dizzy, leaving him in the medical center and eventually declared unfit to race. In the first qualifying practice, it was again Checa fastest, with a near record lap to take the provisional pole. Close behind were Laverty, Guintoli, Sykes as the provisional front row.
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 (1:54.144) started on pole after dominating both the Superpole and practices for the 2011 World Superbike round at Nurburgring. No other rider could catch him but Max Biaggi, who led the Friday qualifying practice. However, he sustained injuries to his foot including a possible broken bone and nerve damage, leaving the Italian rider in pain and with a foot too swollen to fit in his normal boot. Still, Biaggi qualified on the front row between Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri, alongside Checa. He did not start Race 1, leaving Checa some measure of comfort in the championship fight.
Other than Biaggi’s foot injuries, no other rider had a major incident during the practice and qualifying sessions. Michel Fabrizio had a crash in Superpole 1, but continued on to qualify twelfth. Nurburgring marked the return of Jonathan Rea to Castrol Honda, though teammate Ruben Xaus was still out and replaced by Makoto Tamada. Perennially injured Chris Vermeulen, despite his protestations that he is fit and ready to sign for 2012, did not participate and was not replaced by Paul Bird Motorsports Kawasaki for this round. In the Sunday morning warm-up, Haslam led Guintoli, Corser, Sykes, and Berger as the fastest five. Checa was thirteenth fastest and Biaggi, who would not race, did not participate.
In a shocking statement made today, Yamaha has announced that it will be withdrawing its official presence from FIM Superbike World Championship at the conclusion of the 2011 season. After reviewing its marketing operations within Europe, Yamaha Motor Europe (the driving force behind the company’s WSBK effort) has decided its euros would be better spent on other events that directly engage potential Yamaha customers.
Yamaha says it remains committed to seeing Marco Melandri (3rd) and Eugene Laverty (4th) win the 2011 World Superbike Championship, though with four rounds remaining that would seem a tall order as Carlos Checa leads both Yamaha riders by 71 & 135 points respectively. Checa, of course, is on the “satellite” Althea Ducati team, which is rumored to have more links to Bologna than a sausage cook-off held in Ducati’s factory parking lot.