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Maxime Berger

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As feared, the World Superbike grid seems likely to shrink for the 2013 Championship season, with only 19 riders listed on the provisional list by the FIM. Down from the 23 bikes on the grid at Phillip Island in 2012, the euro-centric series is still dealing with the economic downturn in Europe, which continues to linger in the important markets of Spain and Italy. However though, it is of note that the difference in machines can be attributed to the absence of the Liberty Racing Team, which ran four riders in the early part of the 2012, before falling to pieces by the conclusion of the season.

The financial woes of Liberty Racing seemingly continue, as the World Superbike team is absent from the entry list for the upcoming WSBK round in Moscow, Russia. It is being reported that all three of Liberty’s riders are missing on the entry list, as well as Team Grillini’s Norino Brignola.

It is not clear at this time why the four riders are not entered in this weekend’s race, though since it is the first time World Superbike has run at Moscow, one cannot rule out logistical issues. However, considering the type of season Liberty Racing has had this year, not to mention the rumors of the team’s financial difficulties, the non-entry at Moscow could signal a much bigger problem.

After the debacle of a round at Monza, the Effenbert-Liberty Racing Team had some choice words regarding how the World Superbike Championship was being handled last weekend. Surely having something to do with the fact that Effenbert racer Sylvain Guintoli qualified on the pole position, the Czech squad had to watch as the French rider’s bike died on the sighting lap for Race 2. Gaining momentum from its win at Assen, the guys at Effenbert-Liberty Racing were surely frustrated by the events in Italy, though things have seemingly escalated from there.

First stating that the team would only minimally participate at the Donington Park round, i.e. not bring a full hospitality service, and would reconsider its involvement in the rest of the WSBK season, the words from the Ducati squad have cooled to some degree, but continue to be rather ominous. With Infront Sports & Media, the rights holder to World Superbike, publicly saying it has deferred the matter to its legal council, Liberty Racing released another statement, noticeably absent of its title sponsor’s name, that confirmed its previous statements about Donington Park.

Troy Corser will miss the next Word Superbike round at Brno after surgery to repair injuries he sustained this past weekend while racing in Spain. The former world champion, already suffering a cracked rib, crashed in the second race at Motorland Aragon in a collision with Maxime Berger. He sustained a broken ulna and radius, injuries that were suspected after examinations at the circuit.

Corser explained, “I braked late at the end of the back straight and passed two other riders but I overshot the corner and turned in late. I saw Maxime Berger coming. I could see that his rear wheel was off the ground when he was braking and he just went straight into me.” He continued, “I am not blaming him. It was just unlucky.” The incident occurred on the first lap of Aragon Race 2, after Corser finished Race 1 in tenth position.

Believe it or not, but Maxime Berger is thanking his lucky stars that his OZ wheel failed when it did, as the French rider could easily have been at a faster turn at Donington Park, or worse, barreling down the straightaway at maximum speed during. It’s rare that you see a roadracing wheel brake away from its hub, especially since these parts are cast/forged as a single unit. It’s even rarer that we catch that moment occurring in a photograph as spectacular as this. It was a tough break (pun intended) for this World Superbike rider, but kudos to the photographer.

Lapping by a very narrow margin over reigning World Champion Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa won the pole position for the 2011 World Superbike season opener at Phillip Island today. Though the Spaniard dominated the testing and practice sessions this week, Biaggi continued to improve his times, and was only .013s slower at the end of qualifying session. Also showing strong results were Sylvain Guintoli and Leon Haslam, who complete the front row for Sunday’s races.

Jonathan Rea rallied after a severe testing crash and his second crash of the day to qualify twelfth, while Leon Camier, suffering from glandular fever, qualified sixteenth and did not make Superpole, a blow for the Aprilia factory team even as teammate Biaggi unveiled his #1 plate.

Carlos Checa was fastest overall, with a lap time of 1:30.578, as the final World Superbike winter test ended Tuesday at Phillip Island. That time was also nearly a half second faster than the existing lap record set by Regis Laconi in 2009, and almost 1.3 sec faster than Troy Corser’s race lap record from 2007. In addition to Checa, Sylvain Guintoli, Jonathan Rea, Jakub Smrz, and Joan Lascorz completed the fastest five. Rea’s time from Tuesday morning kept him third fastest despite a crash at Turn 3 in the afternoon that resulted in an injured hand. No word is available yet on the specifics of his injury.

Carlos Checa was fastest overall during World Superbike testing Monday at Phillip Island, nearly a second faster than anyone else during the dry running in the afternoon. Monday was a quick day for Ducatis, as Sylvain Guintoli led the morning session and was second fastest overall, while Jakub Smrz was third fastest of the day. Reigning champion Max Biaggi was fourth fastest, with Michel Fabrizio fifth overall. Notably absent was Christopher Vermeulen who will not ride during the test or his home race this weekend, and has been replaced by Akira Yanagawa at the factory Kawasaki team.