Imola: Suzuki Sunday report

LEON'S TITLE HOPES END WITH A BANG! The second race of this year's Superbike World Championship saw the end of Suzuki Alstare rider Leon Haslam's hopes of taking the title fight to the last round in Magny-Cours next weekend. Leon started race...


The second race of this year's Superbike World Championship saw the end of Suzuki Alstare rider Leon Haslam's hopes of taking the title fight to the last round in Magny-Cours next weekend.

Leon started race two in second place, behind fellow countryman Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) and was battling with the lead group after seven laps, but then went in a bit too hot at the final chicane and had to go across the gravel trap. He rejoined the track in sixth place and was fighting his way up again, when suddenly the rear of his bike was enveloped in a cloud of smoke. As soon as it happened, Leon knew his race was over and also his hopes of taking the title fight to the last round next weekend. It was the first time a Suzuki Alstare engine had blown up in seven years and a shame that it happened today!

In race one, Leon was just behind leader Carlos Checa (Ducat) on the last lap and lining up a passing manoeuvre, when the smallest of mistakes made him run wide. He recovered, but three other riders had taken advantage and passed him in the process. But with series leader Max Biaggi (Aprilia) only finishing 11th, Leon still had hopes of beating Max in race two and making the fight go all the way down to the wire next weekend and those hopes carried on until lap 10 of race two.

Leon's team mate Sylvain Guintoli ended ninth in race one and eighth in race two, not bad considering that he had started from the fourth row of the grid, but the Frenchman was frustrated because he knew it could've been so much better.

Carlos Checa (Ducati) won both races today, taking race one by over a second and race two by a more comfortable two seconds. It was an all-Ducati podium in race one, with Lorenzo Lanzi in second and Noriyuki Haga in third. In the second race, Haga finished runner up, with Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha).

Max Biaggi (Aprilia) became this year's Superbike World Champion when Leon's Suzuki DNF'd up in race two. Leon was the only rider who could've stopped Max from taking the title, but the DNF left Max with a lead of 63 points, with just 50 points left to play for. It is the first time that an Italian has been crowned World Champion and Aprilia's first title in the series.

Leon - Race 1: 5th, Race 1: DNF

It is frustrating that it has ended the way it has because I was hoping to take the fight to Magny-Cours, but that's racing. We always knew it was going to be hard ask because Max's lead in the points was so great, but while there was hope we kept fighting. I should've won the first race and I would've won it if I hadn't made a mistake on the last lap. I was chasing Carlos and confident that I could pass him and take the win. I had a bit of a lunge, but lost the front a bit and that was that. I managed not to crash, but lost some positions. I saw that Max had only finished 11th, so at least the fight would carry on and maybe I could get a podium and Max would have another low finish.

I was chasing Tom (Sykes) in race two. He was fast on the straights, but holding me up in the turns, so I thought I'd have a go at him in the final chicane. I went for it, but got in a bit too hot and had to straighten up and go across the gravel. I rejoined the track and probably let too many people pass before getting back up to speed. I was using the same bike as race one and it had been OK at the end of the race, so there were no thoughts of changing it for race two. The set-up was the same, but the bike felt different and I knew something was up, but my first thought was that it was a tyre problem. When the engine went, I knew about it straightaway and pulled off the track as soon as I could.

Obviously, I hadn't wanted the title fight to end this way, but I knew that this weekend was all about having to go for it - and that's what I did. I am a bit ticked off because this is only the second race weekend when I have not been on the podium. So, I better make up for it in Magny-Cours by winning both races!

Sylvain - Race 1: 9th, Race 2: 8th

Generally I feel a bit frustrated because I know that the results should've been so much better if I hadn't had to start from so far down the grid. Also, I never really got into my good rhythm and never felt completely comfortable. We had a bit of a problem with the electronics in wet qualifying and that contributed to my low grid place. Today, I felt I was missing half a second and, at this level, that's a lot!

It has been a bit of a difficult weekend, not terrible, but not as good as it could've been. I haven't felt well all weekend and got a load of cramps in the races and that's strange because I never usually get cramps at all. I need to be fully fit and get back to competing at the sharp end and fighting the leaders, not the guys in the middle of the pack.

I was a bit pleased with my fight with the BMW boys in the second race and happy to beat both of them. My target now in the championship is seventh place. Toseland is only three points ahead of me and I feel that I can beat him in Magny-Cours and take that seventh place. I don't need the incentive of a 'home' track to beat him next weekend, but it would be good to end the season with a couple of good results in front of all my fans and friends.

-source: alstare suzuki

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About this article
Series World Superbike
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Tom Sykes , Leon Haslam , Sylvain Guintoli , Lorenzo Lanzi