Donington Park has passed the final FIM safety checks, and been fully approved to host the second round of the World Superbike Championship at the end of this month, the first time the circuit has held a major event since 2009. The inspection occurred while much of the racing press watched the season-opening races at Phillip Island, though Donington has been part of the official WSBK calendar since late last year.
The fame British track has been embroiled in a bit of drama over the past two years, having been taken over by Simon Gillett and partners, who hoped Donington would take the place of Silverstone as the British Grand Prix on the Formula1 calendar. When Gillett’s company fell apart, as did the F1 venture, Donington was left with its extensive redevelopment only partially completed. Kevin Wheatcroft stepped in as chairman to restore the shambles his father’s circuit had been left in, and worked to gain Britain its second WSBK race of the season, with the traditional round held at Silverstone in July.
Phillip Island proved a smashingly good weekend for Aprilia, as Max Biaggi began to defend his #1 plate by qualifying and finishing second in both races, one nearly as uncontested as Carlos Checa’s wins, and one a ray of hope for close fighting all season. Though teammate Leon Camier did not fare nearly as well, his thirteenth and sixth place finishes were remarkable for someone contending with a nasty fever.
Overall, the opening round of the 2011 World Superbike season seems to belie the suspicions that all of Aprilia’s 2010 success came down to its “unfair” gear-driven camshaft, and that Ducatis could not be competitive in WSBK’s oppressive technical formula.
Sunday dawned a damp Phillip Island for the opening round of World Superbike racing, after a clear week of testing and practices which were all dominated by Carlos Checa. The Spaniard won pole on Saturday, though reigning champion Max Biaggi’s improvement through the weekend brought his qualifying time to within .013s of Checa’s. Sylvain Guintoli and Leon Haslam were next to the veterans on the front row.
Both were also fast in the damp morning warm-up, though Australian Troy Corser was fastest in the changed conditions, with Checa was tenth fastest. It was dry and sunny by race time rolled around for Race 1, though the sky had turned grey for Sunday’s second race. To see how the riders adapted to the changed weather for Race 2, continue reading after the jump.
Carlos Checa started the season-opening round of World Superbike racing at Phillip Island on pole, having dominated testing and the weekend. Reigning champion Max Biaggi started alongside him, finally bearing his #1 championship plate, having posted a qualifying time just .013s slower than Checa’s. Completing the front row were Sylvain Guintoli and Leon Haslam, both quick in the dry times from Saturday’s qualifying.
Conditions on Sunday led to some shake-ups in the order for the morning warm-up, as overnight rain dampened the track. Australian Troy Corser led those times, followed by Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Haslam, and the injured Jonathan Rea. Chris Vermeulen was unable to race at Phillip Island after failing to pass the physical due to a slow recovery from knee surgery. To find out who dominated Phillip Island Race 1, continue reading after the jump.
Lapping by a very narrow margin over reigning World Champion Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa won the pole position for the 2011 World Superbike season opener at Phillip Island today. Though the Spaniard dominated the testing and practice sessions this week, Biaggi continued to improve his times, and was only .013s slower at the end of qualifying session. Also showing strong results were Sylvain Guintoli and Leon Haslam, who complete the front row for Sunday’s races.
Jonathan Rea rallied after a severe testing crash and his second crash of the day to qualify twelfth, while Leon Camier, suffering from glandular fever, qualified sixteenth and did not make Superpole, a blow for the Aprilia factory team even as teammate Biaggi unveiled his #1 plate.
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.
Jonathan Rea has been cleared to race by doctors at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne after a test crash on Tuesday left his race weekend in question. Rea crashed at Turn 3 on the Phillip Island circuit after his Honda caught fire. Though he said he felt “a bit like a FMXer that just f**ked up a record attempt at the longest distance double backflip. Pretty much look like that guy too!” Rea’s doctors have discharged him with clearance to race. “He’s on his way back to Phillip Island with an all-clear from the hospital docs,” Castrol Honda announced, adding a picture of Rea eating dinner for good measure.
Jonathan Rea could miss the season opening World Superbike race at Phillip Island this weekend after crashing there during testing Tuesday. Rea went off at Turn 3 when his Castrol Honda caught fire from an oil leak. Though Rea has not sustained major injuries, he has broken and dislocated the ring finger on his left hand, and was flown to Alfred Hospital in Melbourne for tests. When combined with the general soreness from getting off the bike at 130 mph and the lingering issues from his fall last week at the Honda private test at Phillip Island, Rea is questionable for the race this weekend.
Carlos Checa was fastest overall, with a lap time of 1:30.578, as the final World Superbike winter test ended Tuesday at Phillip Island. That time was also nearly a half second faster than the existing lap record set by Regis Laconi in 2009, and almost 1.3 sec faster than Troy Corser’s race lap record from 2007. In addition to Checa, Sylvain Guintoli, Jonathan Rea, Jakub Smrz, and Joan Lascorz completed the fastest five. Rea’s time from Tuesday morning kept him third fastest despite a crash at Turn 3 in the afternoon that resulted in an injured hand. No word is available yet on the specifics of his injury.
Carlos Checa was fastest overall during World Superbike testing Monday at Phillip Island, nearly a second faster than anyone else during the dry running in the afternoon. Monday was a quick day for Ducatis, as Sylvain Guintoli led the morning session and was second fastest overall, while Jakub Smrz was third fastest of the day. Reigning champion Max Biaggi was fourth fastest, with Michel Fabrizio fifth overall. Notably absent was Christopher Vermeulen who will not ride during the test or his home race this weekend, and has been replaced by Akira Yanagawa at the factory Kawasaki team.
After failing to pass a fitness test, Chris Vermeulen’s knee injury continues to hobble his racing, as the Australian will miss both the test and opening round of the World Superbike Championship series this week/weekend at Phillip Island. Vermeulen coincidentally injured his knee last year while racing at PI, missing most of the 2010 season as a result. The Australian’s recovery has taken longer than expected, with just recently his injury forcing him to return home after just one day’s worth of riding with his Paul Bird Kawasaki teammates Joan Lascorz and Tom Sykes at Sepang.