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A&R reader and photographer extraordinaire Ben Davies is at Silverstone this weekend, shooting World Superbike’s stop at the British venue. Crashing during Superpole 1, Max Biaggi certainly has had better days of qualifying, especially during the Italian’s one and a half seasons in WSBK. Catching The Emperors’ fall, Davies sent us this photo of Biaggi on his back, swimming towards the gravel trap. Biaggi would go on and get through Superpole 1 elimination round, though Superpole 2 is an entirely different story. Thanks for the photo Ben! Photo: Ben Davies / www.SMARTFotos.co.uk

The weather gods were appeased this Memorial Day weekend, as not a single drop of water rained down from the heavens on the World Superbike Race 1 and Race 2 that were being held at Miller Motorsports Park. This statement is of course only true if you’re not watching WSBK according to Oregon Trail rules, as riders still had to ford the river at the “Black Rock Hairpin” in Turn 5 of the Outer Course. While no oxen were lost in the attempt to cross the water feature, a bull was on the loose in the form of Carlos Checa. Would 2011 be redemption or disappointment for the Spaniard? Find out after the jump.

Facing a non-factory Ducati that seemingly rides like a factory bike, Biaggi is 43 points behind Carlos Checa, while the devilishly quick WSBK rookie and former MotoGP contender Marco Melandri is only four points behind his fellow Italian. Likely feeling the pressure to bring honor to the #1 plate, we’ve already seen Biaggi revert back to some of his old antics of the past. With the “slap” incident from Donington Park still fresh in peoples’ minds, more accusations come from riders that the Roman Emperor has been blocking and in the way during the Superpole qualifying event, and this time those accusations come from inside the Aprilia garage.

Sunday dawned a damp Phillip Island for the opening round of World Superbike racing, after a clear week of testing and practices which were all dominated by Carlos Checa. The Spaniard won pole on Saturday, though reigning champion Max Biaggi’s improvement through the weekend brought his qualifying time to within .013s of Checa’s. Sylvain Guintoli and Leon Haslam were next to the veterans on the front row.

Both were also fast in the damp morning warm-up, though Australian Troy Corser was fastest in the changed conditions, with Checa was tenth fastest. It was dry and sunny by race time rolled around for Race 1, though the sky had turned grey for Sunday’s second race. To see how the riders adapted to the changed weather for Race 2, continue reading after the jump.

Carlos Checa started the season-opening round of World Superbike racing at Phillip Island on pole, having dominated testing and the weekend. Reigning champion Max Biaggi started alongside him, finally bearing his #1 championship plate, having posted a qualifying time just .013s slower than Checa’s. Completing the front row were Sylvain Guintoli and Leon Haslam, both quick in the dry times from Saturday’s qualifying.

Conditions on Sunday led to some shake-ups in the order for the morning warm-up, as overnight rain dampened the track. Australian Troy Corser led those times, followed by Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Haslam, and the injured Jonathan Rea. Chris Vermeulen was unable to race at Phillip Island after failing to pass the physical due to a slow recovery from knee surgery. To find out who dominated Phillip Island Race 1, continue reading after the jump.

There’s been a bit of hemming and hawing regarding whether Max Biaggi would take the Champion’s Honor and wear the number one on his Alitalia Aprilia RSV4 Factory race bike in this season’s World Superbike Championship. But that speculation has seemingly come to an end now, as during the WSBK “class photo” today, Biaggi’s Aprilia RSV4 wheeled-out of the garage with the #1 plate blazing. Reports from the World Superbike paddock suggest that Aprilia is keen to make a showing of its success last season with the #1 plate, while Biaggi would prefer to retain his venerable #3 logo, which is his current official listing with World Superbike.

Without giving too much away about this weekend’s WSBK race, Max Biaggi clinched the World Superbike Championship at Imola this weekend. For fans in Italy, this moment is being celebrated heavily, as an Italian rider, on an Italian bike, during an Italian race, has clinched a major championship title. For Biaggi fans, this title has been a long-time in the making, as The Emperor hasn’t won a championship title since his 250GP days.

Aprilia is either confident or cocky, because according to MCN, the Italian manufacturer’s racing department has halted development on the 2010 World Superbike spec RSV4 Factory race bike. Comfortable with Max Biaggi’s 58 point lead over Leon Haslam and his Alstare Suzuki, Aprilia wants Biaggi to focus on racing with his current setup, rather than risk having a prototype part breaking, and costing the team and Biaggi the World Superbike Championship.