WSBK: Battle Between Teammates Livens Up Race 2 at Portimao Season Finale

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Jonathan Rea (1:41.712) won his second pole of the 2011 World Superbike season to start the season finale at Portimao on pole. He beat newly minted champion Carlos Checa to pole by more than two tenths in Saturday’s Superpole session, despite the riders having traded fast laps in Friday’s sessions. Joining them on the front row are soon-to-be-former Yamaha teammates Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri. Sylvain Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Joan Lascorz, and Noriyuki Haga complete the second row. 2010 champion Max Biaggi returned for the final race weekend after missing three race meetings due to a foot injury sustained at Nurburgring. Though he was quick on Friday and in the practice session, Biaggi managed only to qualify seventeenth.

Chris Vermeulen and Roberto Rolfo, along with Ruben Xaus did not participate on the weekend, all suffering from injuries that kept them home. Vermeulen was not replaced, though Rolfo was by his satellite Kawasaki team. The Italian had broken his left kneecap in a bicycle accident near his home earlier in the week, leaving room for Santiago Barragan to fill in for him. Karl Muggerridge again filled in for Xaus, as the Spainiard’s earlier neck and back injuries also kept him from racing. Though Rea and Checa each held a fat lap on Friday, it was Rea who held provisional pole going into the Superpole sessions. He would not relinquish pole, winning his second of the season. Race 1 was a sunny and bright affair, with a surprising early leader, decisive battles, and a a bit of icing on the cake of the 2011 season.

Race 2 began on a hot afternoon and a nearly shaded front straight. Rea got another great start, leading into the first turn, with Melandri taking second. Haslam went well wide, as the pack swept through the first few turns. Laverty slid into second around Melandri, then then came alongside Rea on the straight. He crossed the line barely behind him but took the lead into the first turn. Behind them at the end of L1, Melandri, Checa, Guintoli, Haga, Camier, Sykes, Badovini, and Smrz completed the top ten.

Melandri was not too happy to stay third, diving under Rea for second in a close maneuver on the second lap. By that point, the top five had separated themselves from Haga and the rest of the field. Guintoli was drifting back, but still a half second ahead of Haga. The battle waged heavily amongst the mid-field, with Camier taking seventh from Haga and multiple riders fanning out across the straight. A bit further back, Biaggi was up to tenth around Sykes, hoping to regain third in the championship. At the front, Laverty had six tenths on Rea, five laps into the race. Melandri, Checa, Guintoli, Badovini, Camier, Lascorz, Biaggi, and Haga completed the top ten on that lap.

Into Turn 1, Melandri tried again on Rea, pushing the pole sitter wide and out of second position. Rea had run wide again, barely holding on to third from Checa, who seemed quietly unassuming in fourth. Both Yamahas had gained time and space on Rea, with Laverty four tenths ahead of Melandri. Meanwhile, Guintoli had dropped back from the lead pack by a second. Otherwise, the riders seemed to have settled in for the mid-section of the race.

The front pack of Laverty, Melandri, Rea, and Checa looked to have closed up a bit, with all the riders equidistant apart. Guintoli still hung on near the back, four seconds ahead of the rest of the field. At halfway, Camier, Biaggi, Badovini, Lascorz, Sykes, Haga, Smrz, Corser, Berger, Haslam, Guigliano, Fabrizio, Aitchison, Muggeridge, Waters, and Fores were the riders still running after the top five, as Barragan had pulled into the garage. Rea began to look a bit more racing, settling in more tightly behind Melandri, as Checa dropped back just slightly. Still, the order of the top five remained unchanged. Rea looked to be pushing, regularly going a bit wide and reminding the Italin that he was close behind.

When five laps remained, Laverty still led his teammate, by just two tenths. Rea was another two tenths back, as the podium remained unchanged. Melandri, though, had a serious look but did not attempt to take the lead. It was on the next lap that Melandro took advantage of his teammate and the lead. Laverty continued to remain behind, as his teammate quickly pulled out a six tenths gap with two laps to go. Rea looked to take second from Laverty, and did, only for the latter to regain the position as Rea ran wide. Melandri’s lead was nearly a second over the dueling Laverty and Rea as the final lap began. Rea again took second, but Laverty was back in front across the line on that last lap. In the end, Melandri won with his teammate standing next to him on the podium, and Rea the third place finisher.

World Superbike Race Results from Race 2 at Portimao:

Pos. No. Rider Team Diff.
1 33 Marco Melandri Yamaha WSBK Team
2 58 Eugene Laverty Yamaha WSBK Team 1.075
3 4 Jonathan Rea Castrol Honda 1.363
4 7 Carlos Checa Althea Racing Ducati 2.648
5 50 Sylvain Guintoli Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 3.355
6 2 Leon Camier Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 4.709
7 1 Max Biaggi Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 6.514
8 17 Joan Lascorz Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki 14.441
9 86 Ayrton Badovini BMW Motorrad Italia 19.128
10 121 Maxime Berger Supersonic Racing Ducati 25.527
11 41 Noriyuki Haga PATA Racing Team Aprilia 26.400
12 34 Davide Giugliano Althea Racing Ducati 26.646
13 96 Jakub Smrz Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 26.963
14 84 Michel Fabrizio Team Suzuki Alstare 30.209
15 91 Leon Haslam BMW Motorrad 30.951
16 11 Troy Corser BMW Motorrad 31.057
17 31 Karl Muggeridge Castrol Honda 57.941
18 12 Josh Waters Yoshimura Suzuki 58.577
19 112 Javier Fores BMW Motorrad 1:04.011
20 8 Mark Aitchison Team Pedericini Kawaski 1:04.397
Not Classified
66 Tom Sykes Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki 5 Laps
51 Santiago Barragan Team Pedericini Kawaski 13 Laps

Source: WSBK; Photo: Pirelli (Facebook)