Melandri and Checa share the biggest spoils at Donington
The two riders who won races at Donington today, Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri, are the two who leave at the head of the championship chase, with Checa now on 91 points and Melandri on 72. Superpole winner Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) used his experience to change his rear tyre choice for race two and improve from a third place to be a clear winner, while Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team) made two great recoveries from a third row start to post a win and a second place. Jakub Smrz (Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati) nearly won the first race, with the local fans having something to cheer about as Leon Camier (Aprilia Alitalia) went third in race two, to make up for a hard first round in Australia that was badly affected by illness. 2010 World Champion Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia) had his drama-laden weekend turn into a mini-crisis as he finished only seventh in race one, and was excluded from race two after jump starting and failing to come in for a ride-through penalty. In the overall championship third place belongs to Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) on 53 points after two fourths today, while Biaggi has 49 points in fourth overall.
New rider to WSBK racing Melandri took only three races to record his first win, finally overhauling long time leader Smrz to win by 2.455 seconds. The last podium place went to Checa after he passed local hero Haslam with two corners to go. Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda) scored fifth and Noriyuki Haga (Pata Racing Aprilia) was sixth, one place up on the factory bike of Biaggi. A potentially great finish for Tom Sykes and his Kawasaki Racing Team Superbike machine ended in a crash at the redesigned Esses section, but the home crowd were to have a podium star to cheer for in race two.
Marco Melandri: “It has been an awesome race for me, very tough and at the start many guys were very aggressive. I kept my rhythm and when I got on my own I caught Camier and some others then it took some time to get to Haslam. After that it was only a few laps to go and Kuba was pretty far ahead. I just kept the best pace I could and in the end Smrz’s pace was gone and I passed him. We missed a little bit of top speed but the package was very balanced, we won and I had a lot of fun.”
Jakub Smrz: “Of course I am disappointed to not win the race but it was really nice and I am back on the podium, which is important. The feeling all the race was very good and the bike was perfect, in the end my rear tyre was gone and I could not push any more. Marco passed me and I did not want to risk anything in the end.”
Carlos Checa: “I had some issues with the rear tyre grip at the beginning of the race, and I lost some positions, touched with other riders and it ended up as one of my most exciting races from the back to the front. Finally I arrived to Haslam after I had pushed to my maximum and I passed him when I had the opportunity. It was the last lap and I got third position.”
Checa controlled race two from the early laps and won by 3.397 seconds from race one victor Melandri. Camier was a contender for second for long periods, before Melandri upped the pace and left him behind. Another Leon, this time Haslam went fourth for the second time today, despite running off track at one point. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Racing Team) was a great fifth on the new ZX-10R machine, despite not yet being at full fitness. With Rea sixth for Honda and race one retiree Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare) seventh in race two there were seven different manufacturers represented in the top seven places, proving how competitive the 2011 season is after only two rounds.
Carlos Checa: “It is a fantastic beginning to the season, especially this victory in Donington, which is something special. Basically we decided to put on a different tyre with better grip at the beginning, so now I was stable and had good grip. At the end the tyre dropped down a little but it was good enough. Everybody knows what happened here to me many years ago, when I lost something so now I’m quite satisfied to win at Donington!”
Marco Melandri: “It was a pretty good race for me. Leon was very fast, about 50% of the race I was coughing in my helmet and finding it hard to breathe so I lost my concentration. After that I recovered, I did my best and passed Leon again but Carlos was just too fast for me.”
Leon Camier: “I can’t believe it’s happened. I started the year with glandular fever, which got me down a bit after all the hard work over the winter and to come here and get a podium at my home race is absolutely awesome. In the first race we had a few problems with the settings, so we changed it for the second one and it seemed to work well. It was a good battle with Marco, he was very strong, but to get third place is great.”
Yamaha ParkinGO riders Luca Scassa and Chaz Davies contested the win in the 22-lap Supersport race, with Davies 0.270 seconds down at the flag. Behind, Gino Rea took the final podium place for his Step Racing Honda team, as Robbin Harms (Harms Benjan Racing Honda) went fourth and Kawasaki Motocard.com rider Broc Parkes secured fifth place. Broc’s team-mate David Salom went sixth and the leading Kawasaki interest in the championship extended to a trio when Massimo Roccoli (Lorenzini by Leoni) went seventh. Rookie Florian Mario (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) was eighth, one place up on Roccoli’s team-mate Vittorio Iannuzzo. The top ten was rounded out by Swedish rider Alex Lundh (Cresto Guide Racing Team Honda).
“It was a fantastic day of competition for Pirelli all around the world. Pirelli Moto shone at the first European round of WSBK on the same day as its 4-wheeled side debuted as official tyre supplier for Formula 1 in Australia. Adapting to the very cold track and with no data from last years’ race, Pirelli’s effort to develop new compound solutions for an early spring race in the UK rang true when Checa (Ducati) set a new pole time of 1m28.099s on Diablo Superbike qualifying tyres new for this race. The majority of SBK riders in Race 1, including victor Melandri (Yamaha) selected the Soft (SC1) front and the new mid-soft rear tyre, whose warm-up was hindered slightly by the cold track (6°C), but still offered strong consistency having seeing Yamaha, Ducati and Aprilia bikes register mid 1m29s through lap 23. Second place finisher Smrz (Ducati) ran the softer (SC1) rear tyre in Race 1 in spite of the usual fact that low temperatures were not favorable to the soft compound. A 12°C rise in track temps for Race 2 and the softer tyre was confirmed by Checa, Fabrizio (Suzuki), Lascorz (Kawasaki), Laverty (Yamaha) and Xaus (Honda), with Checa’s race pace breaking into the 1m28s and leaving seven manufacturers in a row for the final result. For the cold weather and unpredictable track conditions, SBK riders were offered 4 front and 4 rear Diablo Superbike tyre options, two developed for this track, and similarly in SSP with an all-new lineup of 3 front and 3 rear Diablo Supercorsa tyre options, accounting for over 3700 tyres transported. The race action was incredible, with so many battles for position, but most importantly Pirelli now have strong data on the performance of these new cold solutions, a key improvement area for our technical team and a necessity for the organizer’s venue choice for a March race.” - Giorgio Barbier, Racing Director, Pirelli Moto
Pirelli Best Lap Awards:
SBK Race 1 – Noriyuki Haga (PATA Racing Team Aprilia), 1’29.137 (Lap 3)
SBK Race 2 – Carlos Checa (Althea Racing, 1'28.988 (Lap 8)
Total BEST LAP (SBK): Biaggi M. (Aprilia Alitalia Racing): 2, Haga N. (PATA Racing Team Aprilia): 1, Checa C. (Althea Racing): 1
WSS – Sam Lowes (Parkalgar Honda), 1’31.094 (Lap 6)
Total BEST LAP (WSS): Foret F. (HANNspree Ten Kate Honda): 1, Lowes S. (Parkalgar Honda): 1