Jonathan Rea (1:41.712) took the final pole of the 2011 World Superbike season at Portimao, beating off championship winner Carlos Checa with a lap set early in the final Superpole session. Rea and Checa had traded session fast times on Friday, with the younger rider coming out on top and leading a starting front row also including current Yamaha teammates Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri. Superpole was relatively uneventful, with leading fast laps coming early in the three sessions and only riders pulling themselves out of the knockout zone in the final seconds after the flag. Sylvain Guintoli, Jakub Smrz, Joan Lascorz, and Noriyuki Haga complete the second row for tomorrow’s two races.
There was plenty of news before the racing began on Friday, with word that Biaggi would return for the season finale, as would Josh Waters and Yoshimura Suzuki. Meanwhile, Roberto Rolfo had to be replaced at Pedercini Kawasaki by Santiago Barragan, as the Italian rider had broken his left kneecap earlier in the week in a bicycle accident near his home. Chris Vermeulen was again out, missing the final race weekend of a season that saw him compete in only seven races. On Friday morning, recent pole winner and recipient of bad luck, Rea (1:43.945) led the timesheets over Checa, Badovini, Sykes, and Guintoli as the fastest five. Meanwhile, Leon Camier tweeted, “just had front row seat to max an Marco having another punch up but on the slow down lap after first sess! Shoving each other all sorts.”Checa (1:43.579) was not one to relinquish control after winning the championship, taking provisional pole in the afternoon qualifying session under sunny Portuguese skies. Laverty, Guintoli, and Rea were also on the provisional front starting row.
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.
Carlos Checa (1:54.144) again stormed to pole, commanding each Superpole qualifying session for the 2011 World Superbike round at the Nurburgring and setting a new track fast lap. He will be joined on the front row by Eugene Laverty, the injured Max Biaggi, and Marco Melandri. Though the day was occasionally overcast, the track conditions were hot, as Checa refused to reliquish control of the weekend, having led every session but one. There were no major incidents in Superpole, though Michel Fabrizio did crash on his first lap in S1. He was uninjured and qualified twelfth.
Action was hot as the summer break wrapped up at the German circuit, with championship leader Checa (1:57.296) taking command in the first, wet, practice session. Lascorz, Smrz, Fabrizio, and Camier completed the fastest five, all within a second of Checa’s time. In the completely dry afternoon, though, Biaggi (1:55.524) led Checa, with the top thirteen covered by just a second. Melandri, Fabrizio, and Laverty completed the top five, despite Laverty’s brush with the wall during the session. Rea was back in at Castrol Honda, managing seventh fastest in the afternoon qualifying practice. Teammate Ruben Xaus has not yet returned to fitness and was replaced at Nurburgring by Makoto Tamada. Chris Vermeulen did not participate and was not replaced at Paul Bird Kawasaki.
Marco Melandri (1:57.634) took his first World Superbike pole at Motorland Aragon, holding off Max Biaggi, Leon Camier, and Carlos Checa in the Spanish heat. Though the Saturday Superpole sessions were moderately uneventful, they were not without drama as riders jostled to move forward and fight over pole. Melandri’s Yamaha teammate, Eugene Laverty, will start sixth as Kawasaki undergoes something of a resurgence. Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz will join him on the second row in fifth and seventh, respectively.
Somewhat shockingly, both factory BMWs were knocked out in Superpole 1, leaving Leon Haslam and Troy Corser to start from fourteenth and sixteenth. However, satelitte rider Ayrton Badovini qualified on the second row in eighth. Jonathan Rea did not compete, having had surgery Monday for the injuries he sustained during a warm-up crash last weekend at Misano.
Melandri took an early lead at Aragon, leading both the first free practice and the first qualifying practice. Though the Italian has a small advantage in having raced at the circuit last year in MotoGP, WSBK uses a slightly longer circuit that includes a hairpin at the end of the back straight. Melandri led Checa, Badovini, Camier, and Sykes in the morning practice and Checa, Haga, Camier, and Sykes as the top five in the first qualifying session in the heat Friday afternoon.
Photo: © 2010 Jason Yu / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0
MotoGP returns to the USA for the second time this year, this time trading in the heat and surf of Laguna Seca for the rain of Indianapolis. Riders battled a wet then dry track this week, and a shrinking number of spots for rides next year. With that pressure starting to ramp up, it comes as no surprise that we see some lurkers making their move on the grid. The end result thus far: one broken pole record.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that’s been visiting A&R for the past few days when you read that Casey Stoner has won the pole position for the Qatar GP tomorrow. The Australian has been dominating the week and holds nearly half a second over second place rider, Valentino Rossi, who with Stoner, Lorenzo, and Dovizioso are the only riders to break into the 1:55’s this week.