WSBK: Close Racing Shakes Up the Order in Race 1 at Assen

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Carlos Checa started on his third straight pole of the 2011 World Superbike season at Assen, with Jakub Smrz, Eugene Laverty, and Noriyuki Haga sitting beside him on the front row after Saturday’s qualifying. Despite similar cool temperatures and a grey sky, considerably less drama surrounded the paddock Saturday in Assen than three weeks previously at Donington Park.

A contrite Max Biaggi started sixth, while rival Marco Melandri crashed on his final run in Q3 and qualified eighth. Melandri was unhurt, though teammate Laverty’s position on the front row showed the sort of pace their Yamahas were capable of for qualifying.

Second place starter Smrz had led most of the early practice and qualifying sessions, only to be beaten by tire management, as Checa was the only rider with a fresh qualifying tire for the final Q3 session. Chris Vermeulen did not make Superpole, but did start the race, after spending most of his time between Donington and this race testing his recovering knee across Europe.

The also-injured James Toseland was replaced by Dutch rider Barry Veneman after a testing crash left him unable to compete. Sunday morning was sunny, with Camier taking the lead during the morning warm-up. Haslam, Checa, Rea, and Melandri completed the fastest five, while Smrz was fourteenth, Laverty eighteenth, and Vermeulen nineteenth.

The race got underway in the sunshine and in front of a large crowd, with a great start for Checa and Biaggi into second. Rea took second only to have Biaggi fight back and set off after Checa. Corser had an excellent start, ending the first lap in fourth, with Laverty, Sykes, Smrz, Haslam, and Lascorz completing the top ten. Meanwhile, Camier did not start until later, having been pushed onto the grass after the formation lap. Another Leon, this time Haslam, went down on the third lap, only to jump back on the bike and continue on, well down the order. At the front, the top five were quite close, with Checa having regained the lead. Soon, Rea came after Biaggi for second, then took the lead off Checa as well.

Checa was moving backward, as Biaggi also passed him for second, only to run wide and have to fight back for the position against the Spaniard. Sykes, Corser, and Laverty were close behind the top three. They fought over fourth, with Corser drifting back to sixth by the end of the fifth lap. At that point, less than a second covered the top five. Sykes soon made his presence felt, taking third from Checa, then Laverty slid into fourth under the championship leader.

The fighting continued, as Laverty passed Sykes to return to his third place starting position. Behind him, four riders were fighting over fourth, all of them attempting to enter Turn 1 at the same time on the eighth lap. Soon thereafter, Vermeulen reached the limits of his injured knee, and returned to the garage. At the halfway point, Rea still led Biaggi, with Laverty, Checa, Fabrizio, Melandri, Corser, Guintoli, Sykes, and Smrz the top ten.

Checa soon made his way back forward, getting around Laverty, and back into third. Laverty was soon under attack from his teammate, with Melandri setting up his fellow WSBK rookie to take the position on L14. Meanwhile, Checa was attempting to chase down the leaders. Though he would post quicker lap times, Rea would also match them. With three laps to go, Rea was a second in the lead, his largest margin over Biaggi of the race. In what had become a race of attrition, Smrz took out teammate Guintoli by having a highshide directly in front of him. Though Biaggi would push hard in the final laps, Rea maintained his solid lead to take his third consecutive race win at Assen.

World Superbike Race Results from Race 1 at Assen:

Pos. No. Rider Team Diff.
1 4 Jonathon Rea Castrol Honda
2 1 Max Biaggi Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 0.739
3 7 Carlos Checa Althea Racing Ducati 3.572
4 33 Marco Melandri Yamaha WSBK Team 9.508
5 13 Michel Fabrizio Team Suzuki Alstare 9.892
6 10 Tory Corser BMW Motorrad Motorsport 11.120
7 3 Eugene Laverty Yamaha WSBK Team 15.235
8 111 Ruben Xaus Castrol Honda 30.081
9 16 Ayrton Badovini BMW Motorrad Italia 32.071
10 21 Mark Aitchison Team Pedercini Kawasaki 35.000
11 11 Joan Lascorz Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing 43.287
12 12 Leon Haslam BMW Motorrad Motorsport 45.289
13 19 Barry Veneman BMW Motorrad Italia 45.298
14 7 Tom Sykes Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing 50.764
Not Classified
96 Jakub Smrz Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 4 Laps
50 Sylvain Guintoli Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 4 Laps
2 Leon Camier Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 5 Laps
121 Maxime Berger Supersonic Racing Ducati 12 Laps
77 Chris Vermeulen Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing 14 Laps
2 Noriyuki Haga PATA Racing Team Aprilia 16 Laps
44 Roberto Rolfo Team Pedercini Kawasaki 19 Laps

Source: WSBK