The confusion surrounding the Indian round of World Superbikes looks close to being resolved. According to reports on the ever well-informed GPOne, the race at the Buddh International Circuit is to be rescheduled from 10th of March to the 17th of November, moving it from being the second race of the season to being the season finale.
The race had been facing a number of problems, including logistical and customs issues, casting doubt over whether the race could go ahead as scheduled in March. The customs issues – both the 15-day inspection period for technical equipment, and the temporary import duty charged – are not so much of a problem, according to GPOne.
The real issue, the site reports, is that the race organizers are not yet ready to put on the event. They do not have the organization in place to manage an event of this magnitude, and need a number of months to get everything arranged. The problem lies not with Buddh International Circuit itself, located not far from New Delhi, as the circuit has successfully organized two Formula One races already.
Taking the pole position at the final World Superbike round at Portimao, Jonathan Rea not only put his Castrol Honda on the front of the grid, but also broke set the fastest lap ever for a motorcycle at the Portuguese track. Fortuitously, the factory Honda WSBK team fitted one of its mechanics with a GoPro camera to capture the Superpole from the team’s point-of-view. At 6’10” tall (2.1 meters), the view provided by Daniel Postmus is not only one that few get to witness in side the team garage, but also comes from an altitude slightly higher than many are accustomed.
Lagging all season, the Castrol Honda team found some momentum in the latter races of the season, more specifically when the team was allowed to outfit its WSBK-spec Honda CBR1000RR with ride-by-wire throttle control. Hopefully the team can keep that momentum going forward, as it will have to contend with another season on an only mildly updated racing platform, the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR. Video after the jump.
Good news for Carlos Checa, as the Althea Ducati race team has finally extended the reigning-World Superbike Champion a contract for the 2012 season. Recently, Checa was in the precarious position of having clinched the 2011 World Superbike Championship, and yet had no contract for the 2012 season. Stuck in the tug-of-war between Althea Racing and Ducati Corse, as well as the scandal currently gripping Althea Ceramics, Checa’s future with the Ducati squad was in question to such an extent that the BMW Italia team offered the Spaniard €800,000 to ride one of its BMW S1000RRs in 2012.
Jonathan Rea (1:41.712) won his second pole of the 2011 World Superbike season to start the season finale at Portimao on pole. He beat newly minted champion Carlos Checa to pole by more than two tenths in Saturday’s Superpole session, despite the riders having traded fast laps in Friday’s sessions. Joining them on the front row are soon-to-be-former Yamaha teammates Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri. Sylvain Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Joan Lascorz, and Noriyuki Haga complete the second row. 2010 champion Max Biaggi returned for the final race weekend after missing three race meetings due to a foot injury sustained at Nurburgring. Though he was quick on Friday and in the practice session, Biaggi managed only to qualify seventeenth.
Chris Vermeulen and Roberto Rolfo, along with Ruben Xaus did not participate on the weekend, all suffering from injuries that kept them home. Vermeulen was not replaced, though Rolfo was by his satellite Kawasaki team. The Italian had broken his left kneecap in a bicycle accident near his home earlier in the week, leaving room for Santiago Barragan to fill in for him. Karl Muggerridge again filled in for Xaus, as the Spainiard’s earlier neck and back injuries also kept him from racing. Though Rea and Checa each held a fat lap on Friday, it was Rea who held provisional pole going into the Superpole sessions. He would not relinquish pole, winning his second of the season. Race 1 was a sunny and bright affair, with a surprising early leader, decisive battles, and a a bit of icing on the cake of the 2011 season.
Jonathan Rea (1:41.712) won pole during Saturday’s Superpole sessions at Portimao with a new lap record time. He held off second place starter Carlos Checa with that fast lap set early in the final S3 session. The two riders had dominated the times on Friday, with Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri completing the front row of Starters for Sunday’s races. Though Rea’s fast lap came early in S3, there was plenty of nail biting for riders further back the pack. Multiple riders hauled themselves out of the knockout zone on final flying laps after the flag. Sylvain Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Joan Lascorz, and Noriyuki Haga complete the second row.
Max Biaggi returned for this final round of the 2011 World Superbike season after injury kept him from contesting the championship. Fellow Italian Roberto Rolfo did not compete, having broken his left kneecap in a bicycle accident near his home earlier in the week. Santiago Barragan replaced him at Pedericini Kawasaki. Fellow Kawasaki rider Chris Vermeulen ended this season as he began it, attempting to recover fully from a knee injury sustained in 2010. He did not participate in the weekend. However, Portimao saw Josh Waters and Yoshimura Suzuki again at a WSBK round, though the Australian was knocked out in the final qualifying practice and started only 21st. Finally, word came from Troy Corser that he would not be returning to WSBK racing after this final weekend of the season.
World Superbike riders have begun establishing a safety commission to have a stronger voice in providing safer conditions for racers in the series. Though other top-tier racing series have long had a body specifically to promote the safety of riders and drivers, it seems that the timing of the race at Donington Park this season has moved the riders to join forces. They met first during the official test in Portimao a month ago and met again this week during the testing at Phillip Island.
Posting the fastest time of the official World Superbike test in Portugal, Jakub Smrz was the fastest man at Portimao. A feat in its own right, Smrz’s accomplishment is compounded by the fact that the Portuguese track saw three days of continuously changing weather. In a climate that kept the bikes off the track, and the riders bored in the garages, Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty rounded out the fastest three riders at Portimao, with times set also on Wednesday afternoon. The first day was fair, though conditions worsened greatly overnight, making Thursday morning entirely unappealing for test laps. Luckily, Friday dried out through the afternoon, but no one was able to best Smrz’s early mark of 1:43.503 during the testing sessions.
All too often winter testing provides plenty of data for the teams and riders, but not nearly enough for journalists and fans who wish to prognosticate. While teams might focus on a certain sector during one lap and another the next, they hide their own flaws and keep their best performances to themselves. Combined with poor weather conditions, a rider sitting out to recover from surgery (Chris Vermeulen), and an entire team testing at another location, the WSBK winter test leaves very little actual story to tell before the start of the racing season.