The return of the FIM World Superbike Championship to the United States of America was a success, not only for the host track Miller Motorsports Park or the series, but for the Ten Kate Honda team and rider Carlos Checa, it was more than just a ...
The return of the FIM World Superbike Championship to the United States of America was a success, not only for the host track Miller Motorsports Park or the series, but for the Ten Kate Honda team and rider Carlos Checa, it was more than just a "success". Checa earned his maiden victory in the Superbike world series in the first of the two races on Sunday (June 1) early afternoon.
"This is a fantastic moment," said Checa. "We've been looking for it for so long. It was not easy because when I went out with the first bike, there was some problem; then I changed to the other bike, which worked well, and I'm completely satisfied. I've felt quite comfortable with this track all weekend, the bike and the tires have worked well, but we've improved overall and that helped me to win this race."
Checa followed up his first race win later in the day and had to work his way back to the front from sixth. Holding the top slot on the grid, Checa did not have a great start but the Spaniard never gave up the battle to take the checkered flag, slamming home the double and handing Honda its 100th victory.
Both races today did not disappoint the 50,000 plus spectators at the venue outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. The unique layout of the road course allowed great viewing areas to take in the sights and sounds of the racing action on the MMP's 3.048-mile Outer Course.
Race one has an aborted start after the sighting lap when Michel Fabrizio put his hands in the air to get the attention of the officials and his Ducati Xerox Team. Alongside his teammate Troy Bayliss on the front row, Fabrizio was fourth on the grid. Checa was first, having earned his first Superpole contest on Saturday. Second belonged to Max Neukirchner.
After the delay which saw the usual mad rush by the teams to attend to their rider and their bikes, the field took what is then termed a warm-up lap before again lining up, four to a row, in their grid positions for the standing start.
What was seen heading into the first turn can only be described as 'awesome' as the riders were using every inch of the front straight and then some, at one point they were at least ten wide on the approach to the Sunset Bend corner that sweeps to the left. The circuit used for the first time by the world's top superbike riders has ten left turns and five right turns with elevation changes which many of the international riders found challenging with a degree of difficulty and yet exciting.
Checa must have felt right at home on circuit. The Spaniard was one of the fastest from Friday's first practice up to today's races. He did not lead from start to finish, sharing the top spot in the race with Bayliss and Neukirchner in the opening laps. Bayliss grabbed the early led but lost in to the German on the second lap, Checa took it on lap four and never looked back but to keep his competitors at bay.
"Well, I didn't have to wait ten years for another win; it was just two hours! After the first one we had to concentrate on the second, but now I'm free and can celebrate. For sure it's a special day today, but after all the tough work we did until now, the two victories came and this is one of the happiest days for me in this moment," Checa said. "For sure I was less laps alone in the second race, but in the end it was the same feeling. Two victories in America is fantastic."
Troy Corser came from fifth to finish second in race one. The Aussie had a bit of help when Max Biaggi went wide onto the gravel and lost position at the start.
The crashes came into play, changing the outcome of the first race. First out was Regis Laconi on lap four on his Kawasaki PSG-1 Corse. Minutes later, Bayliss went up in the air when the rear of his Ducati game up high, tumbling him onto the track. The Aussie had moments of concern as the rest of the field were coming into the corner, just missing him as he ran for safety. On the next lap, Noriyuki Haga crashed out on his Yamaha Motor Italia WSB bike, causing further pain to his broken collarbone sustained in Saturday's morning qualifying.
The field settled down with Checa storming to the victory, setting the fastest lap at 1:50.091 for the race track record. Checa owned the series' circuit record after his flying lap during the Superpole competition yesterday at 1:48.193.
The contest for second built between Corser and Neukirchner, coming to a climax with four laps remaining. Once the Aussie sailed his Yamaha Motor Italia WSB bike past the German, it appeared that Neukirchner lost his momentum. Having scored his maiden series victory at Monza, Team Alstare Suzuki's racer had hoped to take a podium in Utah.
Fabrizio had other ideas and mounted a final charge to grasp third away from Neukirchner on the 18th lap of the 20 lap race.
Race two saw the second celebration at the end of the race by the Ten Kate Honda team as they leave America with fond memories. The team's rider Checa swept the event with the Superpole, race one and race two wins. The team was all smiles and their rider was on top of the world. Even though he slipped from the top grid spot to sixth, Checa clawed his way to be where it counted at the end of the 20 lap contest, at the top!
Checa took over the lead on the eighth working lap, sailing past Neukirchner after a five lap contest between the two. The German held off all other challenges including the final spurt that again came from Fabrizio.
The final top three on the podium were Checa, Neukirchner and Fabrizio. Thus far this year, the World Superbike series has had tight contest with only Bayliss having the edge with four race wins. However, today Bayliss retired from the first race due to the crash and ended up with a similar clutch problem he had in Monza's second race. Ducati looked over the bike in pit lane after Bayliss slowed down, indicating to his competitors with his hand that he was in trouble, allowing them to take over the leaderboard.
Bayliss was checking his bike while slowing moving along the circuit, the Aussie was mainly concerned viewing the left side of his Ducati. He did a few tests getting up to speed before entering pit lane. Bayliss returned to the track, mainly so he and the team could discover if they had found the problem. In the end, the points leader was listed 22nd.
Adding to the woes of the Australians was the crash by Troy Corser. The early race leader before slipping down the lap charts to fourth overall, was close to completing the 17th lap when the front-end of his Yamaha slid out from under him, tumbling him onto the ground.
Earlier in the race, with five laps completed, Ruben Xaus had a hard crash on his Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati. His teammate Biaggi finished fourth followed across the line by Team Alstare Suzuki's Yukio Kagayama.
The story over the past two days has been Haga and his decision, with medical attention at all times, to compete after his accident Saturday morning. With a broken collarbone, the Japanese rider, got back on his Yamaha for a few runs during the final practice prior to the Superpole challenge. Haga was the first of the top 16 qualifiers to make his attempt, he ended with the 10th best time.
Haga went down in the first race but rested after back in the team area to prepare for the final challenge he had to take before the required surgery. The second race saw him move steadily move up from 10th to finish sixth.
Quite a remarkable performance which we all have seen this year is a bit normal for the best of the best. In MotoGP, Jorge Lorenzo has ridden in pain. This weekend, while Haga in the World Superbike Championship did the same, continued on despite the injuries he sustained in two falls.