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 Also missing from the field is Chris Vermeulen and the newly-retired James Toseland, who has been replaced by Javier Fores at BMW Motorrad Italia.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.
Kawasaki will not renew its World Superbike contract with Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM) for 2012, instead focusing on bringing the race team further under the control of the Japanese manufacturer. Kawasaki had invited bids for teams interested in the 2012 and beyond contract, and received as many as six offers. Just days ago though, Kawasaki European Race Planning Manager Steve Gutteridge indicated that a decision between PBM and current Kawasaki factory World Supersport team Provec would be forthcoming.
Now stating that is has made the decision not to renew PBM’s contract, Kawasaki’s announcement is also devoid of naming the Provec team as the bid winner. “We have enjoyed three valuable years alongside the Paul Bird Motorsport team and would like to put on record our sincere thanks for the time, effort and dedication they have shown to the Kawasaki World Superbike racing programme,” said Race Manager Ichiro Yoda, as he indicated that there would be no contract renewal.
James Toseland announced his immediate retirement from racing today, citing irreprable damage to his wrist after an early 2011 testing injury at Aragon. The two-time World Superbike champion had been riding for BMW Motorrad Italia in the 2011 season, but had sat out a number of races after an intricate and difficult injury left him with pins and a reduced range of motion in his right wrist. Toseland competed in MotoGP in 2008 and 2009, never finishing on the podium or winning pole.
On his Facebook page, Toseland wrote, “Difficult day today. Another visit to the Consultant about my wrist has brought bad news. It’s with sadness that I tell you I’ve been forced to retire from racing and I wanted you to be the first to know.” He continued, “I’ve been fortunate to enjoy a successful career in racing and one of the highlights has been the support from all of you. Thank you, I am truly grateful.”
Carlos Checa (1:54.144) won pole during Saturday’s Superpole sessions after leading every session but one through the 2011 Nurburgring round of the World Superbike championship. He would have been joined on the front row by Eugene Laverty, Max Biaggi, and Marco Melandri, but Biaggi’s injuries from a stone hitting his foot during practice kept the Italian from participating in either Race 1 earlier in the day or Race 2. With Biaggi missing the chance for the fifty points possible for a double race win, Checa’s lead over him in the championship could easily grow over the three remaining race weekends.
Throughout the weekend, only Checa and Biaggi led the practice and qualifying sessions. The Italian held provisional pole after the first qualifying practice on Friday, but no one else could catch Checa in Germany. Biaggi’s did qualify with his injured foot, but the nerve and tendon damage, along with a broken bone and the resultant swelling and cast kept him out of the action on Sunday. The order had a shake-up in the final warm-up, with Haslam leading Guintoli, Corser, Sykes, and Berger as the fastest five while Checa was only thirteenth fastest.
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.
Carlos Checa (1:54.144) again stormed to pole, commanding each Superpole qualifying session for the 2011 World Superbike round at the Nurburgring and setting a new track fast lap. He will be joined on the front row by Eugene Laverty, the injured Max Biaggi, and Marco Melandri. Though the day was occasionally overcast, the track conditions were hot, as Checa refused to reliquish control of the weekend, having led every session but one. There were no major incidents in Superpole, though Michel Fabrizio did crash on his first lap in S1. He was uninjured and qualified twelfth.
Action was hot as the summer break wrapped up at the German circuit, with championship leader Checa (1:57.296) taking command in the first, wet, practice session. Lascorz, Smrz, Fabrizio, and Camier completed the fastest five, all within a second of Checa’s time. In the completely dry afternoon, though, Biaggi (1:55.524) led Checa, with the top thirteen covered by just a second. Melandri, Fabrizio, and Laverty completed the top five, despite Laverty’s brush with the wall during the session. Rea was back in at Castrol Honda, managing seventh fastest in the afternoon qualifying practice. Teammate Ruben Xaus has not yet returned to fitness and was replaced at Nurburgring by Makoto Tamada. Chris Vermeulen did not participate and was not replaced at Paul Bird Kawasaki.
After taking bids from teams to obtain factory backing for the 2012 World Superbike season, Kawasaki has narrowed the choices down to two teams, and will likely announce its decision next week. This season the embattled Paul Bird Motorsports team has had factory backing for riders Chris Vermeulen, Joan Lascorz, and Tom Sykes, though the results have not been spectacular, and Vermeulen has spent much of the season recovering from injuries.
With Kawasaki second to last in the Championship, the factory entertained bids from satellite Team Pedericini, the current Alstare Suzuki squad, the Supersonic Ducati team, British Superbike team MSS Colchester, and Kawasaki factory World Supersport’s Provec Motocard team. Now, the process has been narrowed down to two of those bids.
Alstare Suzuki team manager Francis Batta has announced that should Suzuki decide to follow Yamaha’s footsteps, and withdraw from World Superbike competition as a factory, his Championship winning team would also withdraw, instead of pursuing a different manufacturer for its backing. The team announced, “If Suzuki decides not to take part in the World Superbike Championship next year, Francis will also stop rather than continue with another manufacturer.”
After Yamaha announced its withdrawal from WSBK competition at the end of the 2011 season, Batta felt the need to “clarify his position regarding current speculation about 2012.” Rather than continue with a different manufacturer such as Kawasaki, which was rumored, as Team Green is currently accepting bids for the 2012 factory team, Batta “would like to continue with them [Suzuki] alone in the future.”
Former MotoGP, current British Superbike, and this weekend’s wild card rider John Hopkins (2:04.041) started the 2011 World Superbike round at Silverstone on pole after dominating multiple sessions throughout the weekend, including setting a new track fast lap. The American rider led the first practice, the second qualifying practice, and ended the final Superpole session on Saturday on top of the timesheets and on track whilst much of the rest of the field resignedly remained in their garages. He was joined on the front row by Eugene Laverty, Leon Camier, and Carlos Checa. Max Biaggi crashed in Superpole 1, hurried through to Superpole 2, and was unable to qualify higher than eleventh on the starting grid.
For Silverstone, home rider James Toseland was back and barely squeaking through to Superpole, though he would only qualify fourteenth. Over at Castrol Honda, it was a bad weekend with both official riders out with injury. Alex Lowes continued to replace Jonathan Rea, but could not make it to Superpole. The worse drama came with Ruben Xaus’ newly-diagnosed L3 vertebrae fracture. Karl Muggeridge was to replace the Spaniard, but he injured his wrist in a mountain biking accident, leaving Fabrizio Lai to take the place of the replacement. Tom Sykes also had trouble in Saturday’s free practice, in the form of a crash that left him with a sprained ankle and minor concussion. He did not participate in Superpole, but started sixteenth. In the morning warm-up, Biaggi as fastest, leading a top five of Berger, Camier, Haslam, and Hopkins.
John Hopkins (2:04.041) provided a stunning show to win pole as a wild card for the 2011 World Superbike round at Silverstone. He set a new fast lap at the circuit, a particular feat when classed against current British Superbike teammate and fellow wild card John Kirkham, who qualified last. Eugene Laverty, Leon Camier, and Carlos Checa will be joining the American rider on the front row on Sunday. Reigning champion Max Biaggi had an early crash but managed to make it through to Superpole 2, where his day ended with an eleventh-place qualifying run.
Hopkins has been having a good weekend, as the first man to go fastest (2:06.667) in the first practice session Friday. He led Camier, Smrz, a recovering Toseland at his home round, and Checa as the fastest five. Hopkins did not fare quite so well in the second session, finishing the first qualifying practice fifth fastest on his British Superbike Cresent Suzuki. His teammate Kirkham was eighteenth and twenty-second fastest in the Friday sessions. Checa (2:05.477) was back on top to take the provisional pole Friday afternoon, leading fellow Ducati rider Berger, Sykes, Camier, and the aforementioned Hopkins as the top five.