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.
I’m not going to front, when it comes to jobs, I have a pretty good thing going here with Asphalt & Rubber. Of course, if you want to talk about guys who really have turned a passion into a dream, Jamie Robinson takes the cake. Traveling around the world on miscellaneous two-wheeled adventures, the moto-videographer gets to sit down with some of the most interesting personalities in motorcycling. This morning, Jamie sent us this video of an interview he did with probably one of the most mysterious persons in motorcycle racing: Max Biaggi.
The Roman Emperor as he has become called, Biaggi has an amazing life story, and has often been cast as the antagonist in pieces involving fellow Italians Loris Capirossi, Valentino Rossi, and more recently Marco Melandri. A four-time 250GP World Champion, Biaggi’s crowning achievement to-date was his 2010 World Superbike Championship victory on the Aprilia RSV4 Factory. Plagued with injuries during the 2011 season, Biaggi is back for 2012 and looking for his #1 plate again.
Despite what you probably already think of Max Biaggi, Jamie has really managed to show another side to the Italian rider in this video interview. Now a family man and in his 40′s, maybe what we are seeing is a new and improved Biaggi, or then again, maybe this is the same Max that the media just never wanted to portray. Good stuff, check it out after the jump.
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.
It seems a bit silly to be talking about the 2014 model year when we are only into our second month of 2012. However, such is the case today because a certain Max Biaggi let it slip during the Aprilia Racing Team’s World Superbike presentation that 2012 would be the penultimate season for the Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC. Adding that Aprilia would not be developing its race bike for the 2013 season, the signs would seemingly indicate that a new liter bike model from the Italian manufacturer is on the horizon for 2014.
Aprilia was in Milan today, unveiling its 2012 World Superbike team with Max Biaggi and Eugene Laverty. For this season, Aprilia Racing is outfitting its RSV4 race bikes with the company’s classic black & red livery, a break from the white Alitalia paint scheme from last year. Unable to defend his #1 plate, the 40-year-old Max Biaggi will return to racing with his “3″ on the front of his RSV4.
Eager to regain World Superbike’s top position, Biaggi’s toughest competition could come from his own teammate. His second season in World Superbike, Laverty has shown a great deal of promise already on the Aprilia. Keep your eye on the Irishman for some podiums in 2012. Technicals specifications and 14 hi-res photos of the WSBK-spec 2012 Aprilia RSV4 are after the jump.
Officially official now, Eugene Laverty will not only switch to riding the Aprilia RSV4 Factory in the next World Superbike season, but the Irishman will also be Max Biaggi’s teammate in the factory Aprilia squad. Now displacing Leon Camier, Laverty had been signed earlier this month by the Italian factory, but there was uncertainty regarding whether the former-Yamaha rider would enter the factory team or the satellite PATA Racing squad. That speculation of course has been ended by Aprilia’s announcement, though it raises some other worthy questions.
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.
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.