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Ruben Xaus

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The Barcelona Superprestigio has proven to be a popular staple of the winter break. The indoor flat track race, which takes place at the Palau Sant Jordi, is returning for its fourth edition on December 17th.

Once again, the stars of the MotoGP, World Superbikes and Endurance will take on the cream of dirt track and off-road disciplines. Former winners Marc Marquez and Brad Baker face off for the fourth time.

The event follows the formula which has been so successful in the past. The field is divided into two classes: the Superprestigio class, which features some of the best asphalt riders in the world; and the Open class, in which the best of the off-road world will compete.

It is good to see that if this motorcycle racing thing doesn’t pan out, Nicky Hayden has at least a more promising future on the big screen than say….John McGuinness.

Helping Ducati hock its now water-cooled Ducati Hypermotard, Hayden earns his paycheck with wheelies, enduos, and a little bit of drifting for good measure in this James Bond-esque commercial.

Our thoughts? Exactly how long was that woman in the bathroom (i.e. did she fall in)? And, Ruben Xaus makes a cameo as the security guard? Awesome.

Aside from one or two suspiciously similar motorcycles a year, we don’t often hear from the Italian brand of Bimota. Known for building exotic motorcycles that feature custom frames around production motors (now, what does that sound like?), Bimota used to sample the best engines from all the manufacturers, but lately the motorcycle company seems to favor almost exclusively another certain Italian company in Bologna.

There was also a point in time where Bimota raced its designs, helping the small firm earn a reputation not only for its aesthetic graces, but also for its technical prowess. Hoping to return to its roots with that latter element, Bimota was caught on the track in Spain recently. Testing at the Almeria track, Ruben Xaus (yes, that Ruben Xaus) has settled into his new job as Bimota’s Sporting Director quite nicely.

Xaus is helping the small Italian company improve upon its Bimota HB4 Moto2 bike and Bimota DB8 Superbike. With this testing, Bimota is teasing the possibility of the Ducati 1198-powered Bimota DB8 making a World Superbike wild card appearance for the 2012 season.

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.

Max Biaggi started the first World Superbike race of the Brno round on pole after no one could touch him in the final Superpole session on Saturday. He was joined by Marco Melandri, Carlos Checa, and Eugene Laverty on the front row. Though Biaggi led at the end, Jakub Smrz, Checa, and Laverty all took a turn at leading a session in the Czech Republic. Much further back, neither Castrol Honda rider managed to move on to the Superpole sessions and will start on the fifth and sixth rows. Checa led the morning warm-up on Sunday, with Smrz, Sylvain Guintoli, Biaggi, and Michel Fabrizio the fastest five.

Though James Toseland did ride for Friday morning’s free practice, he was forced to sit out the rest of the race weekend, hoping to heal for the next round at Silverstone. He was replaced by Lorenzo Lanzi at BMW Motorrad Italia. Also sitting out the weekend is injured factory BMW rider Tory Corser and Jonathan Rea at Castrol Honda. Though Corser has not been replaced at this round, Rea’s recovery might be long-term, leading to his replacement by Alex Lowes.

Jonathan Rea underwent surgery today to repair a broken right radius, and will miss this weekend’s World Superbike round at Motorland Aragon. The Castrol Honda rider suffered the injury, along with a now-ubiquitous broken collarbone and some injuries to his right foot during a warm-up crash at last weekend’s Misano round. Rea will not be replaced this weekend, leaving only teammate Ruben Xaus to ride for the team at Aragon.

Rea fractured his right radius and left clavicle in the crash at Misano’s Turn 11 on Sunday. That day he explained, “I had a crash yesterday which needed some stitches in my arm and then a 230kph crash this morning at one of the fastest corners on the calendar.” Rea continued, “Of course, I’m frustrated and I have some injuries that I want to take time to heal properly. We’ll have to miss Aragon next week, unfortunately, but Brno is a month off and the doctors tell me that the break in my arm would normally keep someone off work for three weeks.”

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.

Ruben Xaus will start his 200th World Superbike race at Phillip Island, making him the third rider in this season’s field to start such a large number of races. He will join the ranks of Carl Fogarty, Noriyuki Haga, Troy Corser, Aaron Slight, and Frankie Chili in numbers of starts by racing at the season opener later this month. Xaus began his WSBK career with two wildcard entries in 1998, after a rookie Supersport season in 1997.

He returned to World Supersport for 1999 and 2000, but began his full-time career as a World Superbike rider in 2001. He left WSBK for the 2004 and 2005 seasons to go racing in MotoGP, with a career high of third at Qatar in 2004 on a satellite Ducati. Xaus was named MotoGP Rookie of the Year for 2004 and moved to a satellite Yamaha for 2005, where he did not have the same luck.

The name “Castrol Honda” in motorcycle racing is something that spans several decades, and for this writer conjures up the days when v-twins ruled World Superbikes. The battle in 2002 between Colin Edwards and Troy Bayliss is a season talked about when referencing “the glory years of World Superbike”, and I can still remember watching The Showdown at Imola, the final race of 2002 season, when Colin Edwards clinched the World Championship (did you just get goose bumps too?)…in fact it’s that race that got me hooked on motorcycles in the first place.

Taking that legacy into 2011, the newly reformed Castrol Honda team, campainged by Ten Kate Racing with factory Honda support, has quite a legacy to live up to…and the team knows it. Talking about what it means to wear the green, white, and red livery, Castrol Honda team members talk about the name’s past, and what they plan to accomplish this season while wearing the oil company’s banner. Check out their video after the jump.