WSBK: Duel Ends in Decisive Victory for Monza Race 1

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Max Biaggi proved a point to start the first 2011 World Superbike race at home at Monza by being on the pole, breaking speed records and blowing away his own times along the way. The reigning Champion dominated Saturday’s Superpole sessions, going so far as to flog his Aprilia around the circuit whilst the rest of the riders sat in the garages, comfortable with Biaggi’s position. Eugene Laverty, Jonathan Rea, and Troy Corser joined him in starting on the front row, with Laverty’s lap time more than six tenths slower than Biaggi’s.

Even after dominating qualifying through the first three rounds, Carlos Checa had to settle for an eleventh starting position. Meanwhile, those who have not had such good fortune through the early season continued with their bad luck. James Toseland, set to make his return after a testing injury kept him from Donington Park and Assen, participated in Friday’s sessions, but not the final qualifying practice. Nor did he race, though he was busy signing autographs with that injured wrist through the weekend.

The also injured Chris Vermeulen sat out Saturday after a crash in practice opened a hole in the skin of his elbow. He was unable to race as well, since the injury could only be partially stitched up in an effort to allow it to drain properly. Sunday morning, Haslam led Biaggi by just four hundredths in the warmup session, with Laverty, Corser, and Camier the fastest five.

Race 1 got underway under a sunny Italian sky, with a brilliant start from Corser to take the lead into and through the first turn. Melandri slotted into third, with Laverty close behind. Within a few turns, Laverty took third from his teammate. At the end of the first lap, Corser led Biaggi, Laverty, Melandri, and Haslam as the top five. The order would not remain, as Biaggi took the lead onto the straight, only to lose it to Laverty into the first turn. The duel continued, as Biaggi took his incredibly fast Aprilia back into the lead along the straight. Quickly, Biaggi, Laverty, and Melandri had a small gap over Haslam and Corser.

Laverty went around the outside of Biaggi to take the lead again, beginning a long series of back-and-forths between the two. It was three, actually, as Melandri also stuck his nose in. Soon, they began to spread out a bit, with Laverty pulling just enough of a gap to keep Biaggi behind him on the straight. Though Laverty led at the end of L5, Biaggi took the lead into the first turn, only to lose it again. Behind them, Haslam, Corser, Fabrizio, Rea, Haga, Checa, and Camier completed the top ten.

The leaders would continue to trade positions along the straight and through many of the corners on the circuit. Laverty continued to lead across the line at the halfway point of the eighteen lap race, taking lines just wide enough to force Biaggi behind. Haslam, despite making use of an escape road, was still third, with Melandri, Fabrizio, Corser, Rea, Checa, Haga, and Camier the top ten. Haga would not remain in ninth, with a ride-through penalty.

Soon thereafter, Biaggi made a mistake, running wide and allowing both Haslam and Melandri through. Biaggi immediately attacked to regain third and was back around Haslam on the straight. Those positions would not remain, with both Haslam and Melandri attacking Biaggi en masse. However, neither were able to keep Biaggi behind on the straight. Ahead, Laverty had more than a second on the battle over second. Melandri shut Haslam out of third, forcing Haslam down another escape road, though the Briton fought back and retook the position with five laps to go.

At that point, Laverty had nearly two seconds on the field, with Biaggi second, Haslam, Melandri, Fabrizio, Corser, Rea, Checa, Camier, and Smrz the top ten. Further back, Rea and Corser were having a fair tussle over sixth, with Rea usually taking the position through the lap, but Corser in front on the straight. In the end, Laverty led Biaggi, Haslam, Melandri, and Fabrizio as the top five with one lap remaining. They would remain in those positions for Laverty, who nearly won the World Supersport championship last season, to take his first WSBK win in his rookie season.

World Superbike Race Results from Race 1 at Monza, Italy:

Pos. No. Rider Team Diff.
1 58 Eugene Laverty Yamaha WSBK Team
2 1 Max Biaggi Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 1.575
3 91 Leon Haslam BMW Motorrad 3.078
4 33 Marco Melandri Yamaha WSBK Team 3.255
5 84 Michel Fabrizio Team Suzuki Alstare 11.812
6 4 Jonathan Rea Castrol Honda 12.371
7 11 Troy Corser BMW Motorrad 13.280
8 2 Leon Camier Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 17.419
9 7 Carlos Checa Althea Racing Ducati 17.569
10 96 Jakub Smrz Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 18.420
11 86 Ayrton Badovini BMW Motorrad Italia 20.031
12 50 Sylvain Guintoli Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 20.405
13 66 Tom Sykes Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing 26.693
14 121 Maxime Berger Supersonic Racing Ducati 38.429
15 111 Ruben Xaus Castrol Honda 40.164
16 41 Noriyuki Haga PATA Racing Team Aprilia 49.081
17 8 Mark Aitchison Team Pedercini Kawasaki 57.930
18 32 Fabrizio Lai Echo Sport Racing Co. Honda 1:03.039
Not Classified
17 Joan Lascorz Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing 9 Laps
44 Roberto Rolfo Team Pedercini Kawasaki 12 Laps

Source: WSBK; Photo: Yamaha Racing