Biaggi, Checa and Sofuoglu victorious at Phillip Island WSBK //
POSTED: 26 Feb 2012 | SECTION: WSBK News | POSTED BY:Alex Gobert
After mustering every ounce of his skill and bravado, Italy’s Max Biaggi claimed overall honours in the 2012 Superbike World Championship (WSBK) opener at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit this afternoon.
The 2010 WSBK champion, riding an Aprilia, scored first and second places in the two races, sharing victories with reigning world champion Carlos Checa (Ducati), but it was the path he followed which was quite extraordinary.
Race one was certainly routine as he cantered to the finish line with a massive seven-second cushion over fellow Italian Marco Melandri (BMW), but then race two threw a curve ball at the veteran when he ran off the track at high-speed while battling for top spot with Kawasaki polesitter Tom Sykes.
From last position, the 40-year-old then began picking off riders with skill and precision, eventually moving into the top 10 by mid-race distance.
Biaggi then found the next bunch of riders harder to overcome, but he still slotted into second place by lap 19 after bulldozing past Jonathan Rea (Honda) at turn 10.
“It was a fantastic race and I am very happy,” said Biaggi of his vintage performance. “There was so much work to do make the top five.
“To come from so far back is just so satisfying, and I am happy for my team for the first and second places we have achieved today. I am just so motivated to do well in 2012, and my bike is just so good.”
Bryan Staring (Kawasaki) was the best of the Aussie WSBK riders at Phillip Island, finishing with 10-16 results. Josh Brookes (Suzuki, 16-15) also finished both races, while Mark Aitchison (BMW, 18-DNF) and David Johnson (BMW, 19-DNF) endured mixed fortunes.
“We had a bit of luck when I finished 10th in race one, as there were a few crashes in front of me,” said Staring. “But it was unbelievable and I want to thank the people who have backed me all the way.”
The best local result at Phillip Island today came from Broc Parkes (Honda), who was a fast-finishing third in the World Supersport (WSS) race.
In the WSBK opener, Checa was violently spat over the bars at turn 12 on lap four, leaving Biaggi to totally dictate terms. The win saw the Italian become the first rider to win both WSBK and MotoGP races on the 4.445km circuit.
Biaggi also set a new lap record (1:31.785) in race one, as well as recording the highest top speed of the day – 325km/h.
Meanwhile, Melandri fended off stubborn Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) for third, followed by Sykes, Jakub Smrz (Ducati), a slow-starting Michel Fabrizio (BMW), Rea and Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda).
Checa then bounced back in spectacular fashion to easily win the second race, joining Australian Anthony Gobert on four WSBK wins at Phillip Island. Only Troy Corser (seven) and Troy Bayliss (six) have better Island credentials.
After a cautious start, Checa decided enough was enough on lap five, passing Rea to move into the lead, which he held for the balance of the 22-lap race.
“I am very satisfied with that performance and it’s good to have that winning feeling again, especially after the disappointing crash,” said Checa. “I was still pushing hard in race two as I did not know where Biaggi was. It’s great to at least win one race in Australia, and now we look ahead to round two at Imola.”
Sykes nailed Rea on the last lap for the final spot on the dais, while the injured Leon Haslam (BMW) picked up his pace to nail fifth – a seven-spot improvement on race one. Positions 6-8 were taken by Melandri, Maxime Berger (Ducati) and Eugene Laverty (Aprilia).
After round one of 14, Biaggi leads the WSBK title on 45pts, ahead of Melandri (30), Sykes (29), Checa (25) and Rea (22).
Turkey’s Kenan Sofuoglu made a fairytale return to the WSS ranks at Phillip Island, after spending 2011 in Moto2 racing.
Sofuoglu, the two-time WSS champion, methodically worked his to the front of a gripping five-way battle, and then held off dogged Frenchman Fabien Foret to make it a 1-2 for Kawasaki. It was also Sofuoglu’s second WSS win at Phillip Island, the first coming on a Honda in 2009.
Parkes, who started from pole position, spent most of the 15-lap race in fifth position, attempting to preserve his tyres. But he was perhaps playing it too conservatively, but the consolation was pinching third sport from Jules Cluzel (Honda) on the final run down Gardner Straight.
“I left my charge a little too late in that one,” said Parkes. “But when I started to ramp it up, I cooked my tyres a little too much.
“So the race was really for third, and I was glad to pip Cluzel at the post. But we’ll be back, as it’s a long season.”
Briton Sam Lowes (Honda) faded in the last few laps to finish in fifth, ahead of Sheridan Morais (Kawasaki), Ronan Quarmby (Honda) and Alex Baldolini (Triumph).
Melbourne rider Jed Metcher made an excellent WSS debut, and was on track for a top 10 finish on his Russian-backed Yamaha before his rear tyre lost all grip. He still completed the event in 11th, ahead of a number of seasoned WSS competitors.
Phillip Island’s round one attracted a three day crowd of 64.500 which was a slight increase on 2011. Today’s crowd was well up on last year (rain affected in 2011).
Round two of the Superbike and Supersport titles will be held at Imola, Italy on April 1.
2012 Superbike World Championship
Round One – Phillip Island, VIC
Superbike Race One:
1. Max Biaggi
2. Marco Melandri
3. Sylvain Guintoli
4. Tom Sykes
5. Jakub Smrz
6. Michel Fabrizio
7. Jonathan Rea
8. Hiroshi Aoyama
9. Davide Giugliano
10. Bryan Staring
Superbike Race Two Results:
1. Carlos Checa
2. Max Biaggi
3. Tom Sykes
4. Jonathan Rea
5. Leon Haslam
6. Marco Melandri
7. Maxime Berger
8. Eugene Laverty
9. Hiroshi Aoyama
10. Niccolò Canepa
1. Kenan Sofuoglu
2. Fabien Foret
3. Broc Parkes
4. Jules Cluzel
5. Sam Lowes
6. Sheridan Morais
7. Ronan Quarmby
8. Alex Baldolini
9. Vittorio Iannuzzo
10. Lucas Pesek