WSBK: Early Battles Make a Masterful Race 1 Win at Misano

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Tom Sykes (1:55.197) was the surprising pole sitter for the 2011 World Superbike round at Misano, with Carlos Checa, Jakub Smrz, and Marco Melandri also on the front row. Saturday’s damp Superpole session made for a crash-fest, with Checa, Smrz, Eugene Laverty, Ruben Xaus, and Leon Camier, among others, all crashing. Neither Xaus nor Camier managed a time in S1 and qualified fifteenth and sixteenth, respectively. Sykes’ time was inspired, with the next-fastest Kawasaki of Joan Lascorz qualifying twelfth.

Third factory Kawasaki rider Chris Vermeulen was knocked out after the final qualifying practice, which is surprisingly good news for a rider that has yet to complete race distance in the 2011 season. Also recovering James Toseland was replaced for this weekend and next by Italian rider Lorenzo Lanzi, as his testing injury re-flared after the previous round in the United States. On Sunday morning, Checa was back into his top spot on the timesheets, leading Badovini, Fabrizio, Haga, and Smrz as the fastest five for the warm-up. Rea was taken to a local hospital after a heavy crash at Turn 11 in the warm-up, after being quite uncooperative in the medical center.

On the start, Sykes got a good start, leading into the first turn. Haslam, though, was into second from fifth around the oustide of Checa, with Biaggi fourth. Haslam went up the inside of Sykes for the lead, as Checa attempted to take second from the Brit a turn later. Instead, it was Biaggi who went second. At just the end of the first lap, Haslam led Biaggi, Sykes, Checa, Melandri, Smrz, Guintoli, Corser, Laverty, and Lascorz as the top ten.

Biaggi did not remain second for long, taking the lead from Haslam as Checa also moved around Sykes. Soon thereafter, Melandri took fourth from Sykes, with the Kawasaki rider seemingly going backwards. Soon, Biaggi had more than six tenths on Checa, with Haslam, Melandri, and Sykes the top five. Just before crossing the line, Smrz spun and fell down in front of much of the field on the straight to end his race.

Biaggi still led the same top five at the end of the fifth lap, with Checa slowing closing on the Italian. Melandri slid through on Haslam for third, and a lap or so later teammate Laverty took fifth from Sykes, only to lose it, then make the pass stick. Checa had closed right up on Biaggi eight laps into the race while Melandri was four seconds behind the pair in third. Laverty was all over the rear of Haslam, looking for a way past for fourth, only for  Haslam to crash.

Back at the front, Checa aggressively went under Biaggi when the Italian went a bit wide at about the halfway point of the race. Biaggi kept close to the Spaniard while Melandri was nearly five and a half seconds behind them. The two leaders settled in for a bit, staying close together but without any dicing over the lead. Soon, Biaggi began to make a few small mistakes and allowed Checa to gain a second on him.

The field was well spread out when five laps remained, Checa leading Biaggi by two seconds, Melandri well adrift in third, Laverty three seconds behind his teammate, and Sykes holding station in fifth. Checa remained consistently quick and smooth through the final laps, though the real drama came from pole-sitter Sykes. He caught up Laverty in fourth with two laps to go and was just a tenth behind him as they crossed the line to start the final lap. In the end, Checa won the first race at Misano, with Biaggi second, Melandri third, and Sykes pushing through on Laverty nearly at the line. Camier completed the top five. Despite his masterful race form, Checa stalled his bike just before starting his celebrations and was forced to get a lift with Xaus (who finished eleventh) to the podium.

World Superbike Race Results from Race 1 at Misano:

Pos. No. Rider Team Diff.
1 7 Carlos Checa Althea Racing Ducati
2 1 Max Biaggi Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 0.984
3 33 Marco Melandri Yamaha WSBK Team 17.124
4 66 Tom Sykes Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki 18.652
5 58 Eugene Laverty Yamaha WSBK Team 18.929
6 2 Leon Camier Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 21.003
7 50 Sylvain Guintoli Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 22.942
8 86 Ayrton Badovini BMW Motorrad Italia 23.117
9 17 Joan Lascorz Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki 31.729
10 121 Maxime Berger Supersonic Racing Ducati 31.729
11 111 Ruben Xaus Castrol Honda 34.466
12 15 Matteo Baiocco Barni Ducati Racing Team S.N.C. 36.683
13 53 Alessandro Polita Barni Ducati Racing Team S.N.C. 37.984
14 77 Chris Vermeulen Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki 41.016
15 57 Lorenzo Lanzi BMW Motorrad Italia 43.514
Not Classified
8 Mark Aitchison Team Pedericini Kawasaki 4 Laps
44 Roberto Rolfo Team Pedericini Kawasaki 10 Laps
91 Leon Haslam BMW Motorrad 15 Laps
11 Troy Corser BMW Motorrad 19 Laps
41 Noriyuki Haga PATA Racing Team Aprilia 20 Laps
84 Michel Fabrizio Team Suzuki Alstare 21 Laps
96 Jakub Smrz Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 23 Laps

Source: WSBK; Photo: Althea Ducati