WSBK: Wet Conditions & Heavy Attrition Force a Red Flagged, Shortened Race 2 at Nurburgring

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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.

After a change of mind from race direction, and some falling rain, Race 2 was declared wet and the start was delayed. As there had been time for Biaggi to get word to race direction, the riders closed ranks and Haga joined the front row of starters. Even on the warm-up lap, the track was very wet and spray flew wildly, though the rain had begun to lighten. As the lights went out, Laverty went for the lead off a great start, but Haga and Rea were also fighting for the position. Rea led into the first turn, running very wide and into Sykes. That left Haga in the lead and Checa bogged down through the field. At the end of L1, Haga led Rea by seven tenths, with Sykes, Laverty, Guintoli, Haslam, Melandri, Camier, Smrz, and Berger the top ten. Checa was down in twelfth.

Rea again ran very wide into the first turn losing second to Sykes, ahead of Laverty. Guintoli then gave Laverty a hard time to take fourth. Melandri was the next to take Laverty, with Camier very close behind, then ahead of Laverty. He then fought back to retake sixth from Camier. Meanwhile, Checa had dropped down to fourteenth. Haslam, while closing up on Guintoli, ran off the track and crashed in the final turn, though he got back on the bike and attempted to continue. As the rain continued to fall heavily, the fight for fifth continued as well. Camier led Laverty, Melandri, and Smrz, only for Smrz to take Melandri’s position.

While Haga continued to set pace at the front, Rea ran wide for at least the first time into the first turn. He lost second to Sykes, with Guintoli, Camier, Laverty, Smrz, Melandri, Berger, and Aitchison the top ten with five laps gone. Guintoli was the next to take Rea, moving up to third. Conditions continued to worsen as the rain fell. Laverty attempted to indicate that they should not be racing as he crossed the start line, just having passed his teammate for seventh. Fabrizio had already come into the garage and retired for an unidentified reason. Haga had five seconds on the rest of the field with just six laps elapsed.

Soon, the field had mainly settled in to ride out the rain, though Smrz was fighting Camier to take fifth. Haga was riding very smoothly, as required in the terribly wet conditions. Still, the Yamaha teammates continued to trade position as Melandri looked to make up points on Checa, then in twelfth and looking to take eleventh from Berger, which he did soon thereafter. Toseland did not make the halfway point of race, sitting and crawling in the runoff area. Melandri finally made the pass for seventh in a very close pass on L9. Aitchison remained very close behind the two Yamaha riders.

At the halfway point, Haga had more than eight and a half seconds on Sykes, with Guintoli, Rea, Camier, Smrz, Melandri, Laverty, Aitchison, Badovini, and Checa as the top eleven. Soon, though, Aitchison’s pushing ride came to a close as he slid out from behind Laverty. He was unhurt and ran after the bike, but could not continue. Soon thereafter, the battle for second heated up, as Guintoli caught Sykes and began pushing him. Rea was just a second behind, with Camier just behind him. However, Camier was the next rider to go down.

Guintoli made his way around Sykes for second, only to go wide into Turn 1, as Camier had slid off and across the gravel, adding to those falling out of the race. It was a terrible moment for Haga on L8, as he also crashed, handing the lead to Sykes. He was also indicating that the race ought not be continued. At some point, Rolfo and Tamada also went down, as more riders attempted to indicate that race control should stop the race. The race was red flagged with six laps to go, after two-thirds distance and leaving Sykes in charge of a shortened race. The final positions were taken back to the last lap completed by the field, L13, which put Sykes, Guintoli, and Smrz on the podium. After the race, Castrol Honda tweeted an explanation, “Clutch prob was running JR wide at turn 1.” It was Sykes’ first win and second podium in WSBK, and the best result for the factory Kawasaki team on the season.

World Superbike Race Results from Race 2 at Nurburgring:

Pos. No. Rider Team Diff.
1 66 Tom Sykes Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki
2 50 Sylvain Guintoli Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 4.063
3 96 Jakub Smrz Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 22.759
4 4 Jonathan Rea Castrol Honda 28.497
5 58 Eugene Laverty Yamaha WSBK Team 38.374
6 33 Marco Melandri Yamaha WSBK Team 45.326
7 86 Ayrton Badovini BMW Motorrad Italia 47.030
8 7 Carlos Checa Althea Racing Ducati 50.032
9 91 Leon Haslam BMW Motorrad 53.586
10 121 Maxime Berger Supersonic Racing Ducati 55.261
11 17 Joan Lascorz Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki 1:12.805
12 11 Troy Corser BMW Motorrad 1:15.468
13 44 Roberto Rolfo Team Pedericini Kawaski 1:40.323
Not Classified
41 Noriyuki Haga PATA Racing Team Aprilia 1 Lap
100 Makado Tamada Castrol Honda 1 Lap
2 Leon Camier Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 2 Laps
8 Mark Aitchison Team Pedericini Kawaski 3 Laps
52 James Toseland BMW Motorrad Italia 5 Laps
84 Michel Fabrizio Team Suzuki Alstare 8 Laps

Source: WSBK; Photo: Pirelli (Facebook)