WSBK: Another Track Record Drops in a Duel Over Pole in Superpole at Imola

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Carlos Checa (1:47.196) won pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Imola on a sunny and clear day, after dueling his way through Superpole with second place starter Jonathan Rea. Checa set a new track record early in the final session and looked confident in the garage until Rea came within hundredths of his lap time. Checa returned to the track, though Rea was unable to best his time and had to settle for second on the starting grid for Sunday. Noriyuki Haga, who led S2, will start third while Tom Sykes will complete the front row of the grid.

Before the on-track action even got underway, the championship hunt was shaken up as Biaggi, with his injury from the Nurburgring weekend not healing as quickly as required, is sitting out the entire Imola weekend,  “It is a bad split fracture which – fortunately – is progressing well. But it has not healed and the X-ray today shows that,” said Dr. Claudio Costa. He continued, “Max – summoning up reason – was forced to acknowledge the situation.” This is the second race weekend in a row Biaggi has been forced to miss due to the injury, which occurred during practice three weeks ago. Also missing from the field is Chris Vermeulen and the newly-retired James Toseland, who has been replaced by Javier Fores at BMW Motorrad Italia.

On Friday, Checa (1:49.234) led the first practice session in typical style, over Haslam, Melandri, the other last man standing in the championship, and Smrz. However, it was Jonathan Rea with the newly implemented by Castol Honda ride-by-wire throttle control who led the field during the first qualifying session Friday afternoon. He was joined on the provisional front row by Checa, Haslam, and Fabrizio, with less than a half second covering the top four.

Saturday morning, it was Sykes (1:47.799) on the provisional pole, leading the front row of Rea, Fabrizio, and Checa. It was a relatively uneventful session, with Sykes’s time four tenths faster than Checa’s record from last year. Checa (1:47.785) led the charge in the final practice, just minutes before Superpole, setting another new record. He was followed by a fastest five of Rea, Haslam, Sykes, and Fabrizio. Knocked Out in Qualifying Practice: 17. Mark Aitchison, 18. Joan Lascorz, 19. Matteo Baiocco, 20. Ruben Xaus, 21. Roberto Rolfo, 22. Javier Flores.

Superpole 1:
Rea took the early lead when eleven minutes remained under the sunny skies at Imola, while Haga was next to lead in the first Superpole session. Rea, Melandri, and Haslam completed the provisional front row when nine minutes remained in the session. Soon, though, Checa had moved up to second fastest. Meanwhile, Corser, Badovini, Smrz, and Polita were in the knockout zone with seven minutes to go.

The top and bottom order remained the same with five mintues to go as most of the riders had gone back to the garage for the final minutes of the first session. Badovini moved up to sixth fastest, dropping Sandi into the knockout zone, while the top five simply stayed safely in the garage. Guintoli went faster to break into the provisional front row as the checkered flag flew, but it was Laverty (1:47.756) who ended S1 in provisional pole with a flying lap. He was joined by Haga, Checa, and Guintoli on the provisional front row with Fabrizio, Rea, Sykes, and Berger the second row. Knocked Out in Superpole 1: 13. Jakub Smrz, 14. Federico Sandi, 15. Troy Corser, 16. Alex Polita.

Superpole 2:
Rea was the first onto the track in the second Superpole session, with a first time just a tenth off Laverty’s from S1. He was followed both on track and in times by Melandri and Fabrizio with eight minutes remaining. Quickly Laverty and Sykes bettered the Honda rider’s time, but Rea responded to go fastest again. Meanwhile, Berger, Guintoli, Fabrizio, and Haslam had drifted down to the the knockout zone with six minutes to go.

However, Sykes was not to be deterred and was the next to go fastest. He led Rea, Laverty, and Badovini with four minutes to go while Berger, Guintoli, Fabrizio, and Haslam languished in the knockout zone. The top four pitted with two minutes to go, allowing those in the relegation zone to attempt to claw their way out. Haslam did so, moving up to fourth fastest and, with Guintoli’s help,  dropping Camier and Melandri out as the final seconds ticked away. At the end, Haga (1:47.403) was the provisional pole man on a last lap, with Skyes, Checa, and Rea the provisional front row. Laverty, Haslam, Guintoli, and Badovini also moved on to the final session. Knocked Out in Superpole 2: 9. Marco Melandri, 10. Leon Camier, 11. Michel Fabrizio, 12. Maxime Berger.

Superpole 3:
Checa (1:47.196) took the early lead in the final Superpole session, over Rea, Haga, and Laverty, with five minutes to race for pole. His time for over two tenths faster than Rea’s, and an even lower new track record. However, Rea was not to be put off too easily and improved his own time to within eight hundredths of Checa. The Spaniard remained in the garage with two minutes to go and Rea nibbling on his heels, but he returned to the track with time for one final flying lap. Haga was the first to cross over the line after the flag, remaining third. Rea was unable to better Checa, and the dominant pole man struck again in the 2011 season.

Superpole Results from World Superbike at Imola, Italy:

Pos. No. Rider Team Time Diff.
1. 7 Carlos Checa Althea Racing Ducati 1:47.196
2. 4 Jonathan Rea Castrol Honda 1:47.274 0.078
3. 41 Noriyuki Haga PATA Racing Team Aprilia 1:47.442 0.246
4. 66 Tom Sykes Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki 1:47.468 0.272
5. 58 Eugene Laverty Yamaha WSBK Team 1:47.929 0.733
6. 91 Leon Haslam BMW Motorrad 1:48.081 0.855
7. 86 Ayrton Badovini BMW Motorrad Italia 1:48.234 1.038
8. 50 Sylvain Guintoli Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 1:48.416 1.220
Out After Superpole 2
9. 33 Marco Melandri Yamaha WSBK Team 1:47.781 0.378
10. 2 Leon Camier Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 1:47.858 0.455
11. 84 Michel Fabrizio Team Suzuki Alstare 1:48.126 0.723
12. 121 Maxime Berger Supersonic Racing Ducati 1:48.334 0.931
Out After Superpole 1
13. 96 Jakub Smrz Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 1:48.741 0.985
14. 23 Federico Sandi Althea Racing Ducati 1:48.812 1.056
15. 11 Troy Corser BMW Motorrad 1:48.894 1.138
16. 53 Alex Polita Barni Ducati Racing Team S.N.C. 1:49.091 1.335
Not qualified for Superpole
17. 8 Mark Aitchison Team Pedericini Kawaski 1:49.159 1.360
18. 17 Joan Lascorz Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki 1:49.185 1.386
19. 15 Matteo Baiocco Barni Racing Ducati 1:49.378 1.579
20. 111 Ruben Xaus Castrol Honda 1:49.595 1.796
21. 44 Robert Rolfo Team Pedericini Kawaski 1:49.668 1.869
22. 112 Javier Flores BMW Motorrad Italia 1:50.888 3.089

Source: WSBK; Photo: Pirelli (Facebook)