WSBK Phillip Island race day report
Checa the irresistible force takes two Phillip Island race wins
Phillip Island (Australia), Sunday 27 February 2011 - Ever since his first sessions in the official IMS tests at Phillip Island earlier this week Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) made himself a force to be reckoned with in front of 63,200 spectators at Phillip Island. On the opening day of the new season the Superpole winner made himself a convincing double race winner. Checa hit the front early in each 22-lap race, and enjoyed clear air almost throughout in the dry track conditions. Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia), Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad) and new SBK force Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team) all joined Checa on the podium at some stage, but it was a day to remember for all in Althea. Carlos now leaves Australia with 50 points in the bag, Biaggi has 40 for his two second place finishes, and Melandri and Haslam share 27 points, as they swapped third and fifth place places.
Checa's winning margin over Biaggi in Phillip Island race 1 was clear evidence of the Althea man's domination. Checa took the lead from Laverty on lap 3 and steadily pulled out to an unchallenged 4-second gap at the flag. Biaggi soon realized it was not possible to keep the pace of Checa and settled for second. The podium was completed by Haslam who held off both Yamaha riders, Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri, who exchanged places right at the flag in a sprint finish. Sixth was Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare), who made a great recovery that saw him finish ahead of Jakub Smrz (Ducati Effenbert - Liberty Racing) and Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing). Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda) was running in the top 6 but slipped down to 12th after an off-track excursion, while front row man Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati Effenbert - Liberty Racing) crashed out and did not take part in race 2, after picking up a series of injuries to his right hand, knee and shoulder-blade.
Carlos Checa: "Here we have something extra, maybe the bike works really well at this track and I like it as well. We did a great job in testing, practice and qualifying but you never know, conditions can change. I started well and made a gap, controlled the race, went fast lap by lap, but it's a fantastic winning start for me and the team."
Max Biaggi: "A very good result because the last two years at Phillip Island we were struggling and far behind. The twins are always a bit better on this track but I don't want to take anything away from Checa, he did a fantastic race. We did our best, I came close at some stage but my wheel was spinning so I couldn't go faster."
Leon Haslam: "A third place is like a win for me at this stage, we've come on a lot this last week and the boys have worked fantastic. I'm looking forward to having a look at the data because we had a few issues and still managed to get on the podium. Hopefully the team can work its magic in race 2."
Again no one was able to run with Checa and he finished a clear distance ahead of Biaggi again, 1.118 seconds at the flag. The reigning world champion battled it out for the runner-up slot in the final stages with an impressive Melandri just getting the edge at the line after some very impressive close-quarter racing from each rider. Rea emerged from a battering and bruising weekend with a fourth place that partially repaid him for his testing misfortunes when he crashed heavily more than once, and then again twice yesterday. Rea finished ahead of the two Leons, Haslam and Camier (Aprilia Alitalia), the latter making a great charge through in race two, despite suffering with illness during race weekend.
Carlos Checa: "It wasn't easy at all. I went into first position as soon as I can, but Haslam was not easy to pass at all. From there I tried to make my place on the track, but I know they were fighting behind me and two seconds lead wasn't perfect. This is the best start for me, 50 points here in Australia."
Max Biaggi: "Two second places in Australia is a very good result. It's good to come back here after we struggled the last two years. Thanks to my team and crew, we've been working very well these days. It was good battling with Marco, the Yamaha has potential and I think they can do a good race, and Haslam as well. It makes it better for the competition."
Marco Melandri: "It's been an amazing day for me after not such a good race 1. I didn't have a good feeling with the bike so we sat down with our team and they made a good job on the bike for race 2. I could ride so much stronger, I started more aggressive, and it felt very good to be back on the podium after such a long time, I'm just a bit disappointed not to beat Max for second place."
On its return to World Supersport Yamaha scored a fantastic slipstreaming win as Luca Scassa took the chequered flag on the ParkinGO machine, by just 0.009 seconds from Broc Parkes (Kawasaki Motocard.com). Third over the stripe as the top 3 flashed across the line was Sam Lowes (Parkalgar Honda), who scored a great podium in the debut race of his first full championship season. He had led out of the final turn but was overhauled by the two lead riders, and Sam was only 0.033 seconds from the winner's time. Fourth was pole man David Salom on the second Motocard.com Kawasaki, posting an impressive result in a race in which he was frequently the leader. Fifth went to top true privateer Robbin Harms, on his Harms Benjan Honda, while a rider who had an operation on his left knee only a few days ago, James Ellison (Bogdanka PTR Honda), was a fighting sixth. New boy Florian Marino (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) made a good recovery from a terrible start to record a top seven placing, while Vittorio Iannuzzo recovered from the disadvantage of a fifth row grid spot to take eighth. Alex Lundh and Danilo Dell'Omo rounded out the top ten. Chaz Davies and Fabien Foret failed to finish with deflated rear tyres, and Foret was riding with finger and back injuries suffered in a warm-up crash.
Official Tyre Supplier
"A very valuable way to start off the 8th season as official tyre supplier to WSBK, Pirelli brought 2000 tyres to perform two days of testing earlier in the week, with riders testing 2 fronts and 3 rears, some of which were also made available for the race weekend. Another lot of 3000 Diablo Superbike and Diablo Supercorsa tyres were made available for racing, which included mid-soft (SC1), medium (SC2) and hard (SC3) compound choices for the front and SC0 (soft) and SC1 (mid-soft) tyres for the rear, including a newly developed wider and taller profile. Conditions on track changed radically over the week, starting from 50% humidity and 24-30o.C on track, to the 55% humidity and 49o.C found during Friday practice and Superpole. With Sunday morning rain, the SBK and SSP teams prepared for Race 1, having to make setup adjustments for the new conditions: 23o.C track temps and 75% humidity. Checa (Ducati) proved strongest all week, having dipped below the 1'31 mark in testing and repeating this feat in Superpole, setting a new best lap of 1'30.882 and took pole position. The "B" medium compound front and "B" mid-soft compound rear were the 1-2 finishers' tyre selection, although podium finishers Haslam (BMW) and Melandri (Yamaha) opted for the "D" soft compound rear designed just for the Phillip Island, helping Haslam record BMW's 2nd podium and Melandri's first for SBK. Four riders opted to make tyre changes for Race 2: Xaus (BMW), Haga (Aprilia) and Corser (BMW) mounted the "A" soft compound rear, and Checa chose the "B" medium front tyre. In SSP, Fabien Foret set a lap record and Yamaha returned to the Supersport podium with Luca Scassa's victory, who was in turn followed by Parkes (Kawasaki) and Lowes (Honda). Tyre difficulties encountered in SSP and also changes from Race 1 to Race 2 in SBK indicate that work needs to continue towards solutions for the humid track conditions endured during the weekend." - Giorgio Barbier, Racing Director, Pirelli Moto
Pirelli Best Lap Awards:
SBK Race 1 -- Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia Racing), 1'32.034 (Lap 2) SBK Race 2 - Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia Racing), 1'32.012 (Lap 3) Total BEST LAP (SBK): Biaggi M. (Aprilia Alitalia Racing): 2
World Supersport -- Fabien Foret (HANNspree Ten Kate Honda), 1'34.941 (Lap 2) Total BEST LAP (WSS): Foret F. (HANNspree Ten Kate Honda): 1