News 22 Jun 2009

WSBK: Rea and Honda score maiden World SBK win at Misano

Honda Racing: The Pelican Brief psp

Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) had to wait until the second race of the day to take his first win in World Superbike, but it was worth the wait as the young rider from Northern Ireland held off the two factory Ducati machines at their home circuit. It was also Honda’s first win this season in WSB.

The 22-year-old rider could well have had two podium visits today, but because of unseasonable local weather Rea ended up having a very dramatic first race, which was started in wet conditions. The track dried as the race went on, making this the first race ever in WSB history to see new flag-to-flag rules brought into play.

Rea, who had qualified a career best second, was forced to start from the back of the grid and face a ride-through after getting a lift back to the pitlane from Ryuichi Kiyonari (Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) when his machine developed a glitch and stopped on the track, as well as having a dispute with the officials when trying to exit pitlane. He took his ride through after fighting into the leading places in the wet, and then he had to come in once more to change to a machine with a dry set-up, losing more time.

Rea still finished a remarkable seventh, and was the first Honda rider home in race one, despite all his issues. Along with most of his team-mates, Rea has now swapped to Öhlins suspension, which he tested for the first time at Magny-Cours only a few days ago.

In race two Rea was in the mix from the start, and took the lead on lap four, relinquishing it in the latter stages and then probing the defences of Michel Fabrizio before making a decisive pass early in the final lap and holding on for an advantage of 0.063 seconds.

Rea’s team-mate Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) was not too disappointed with 11th in the opener, and was not helped by his machine stalling when changing bikes as the track dried out, an issue that also affected Rea on his changeover. Checa was much more effective in race two, finishing fifth after qualifying on row two. He was only 4.460 seconds from Rea.

Kiyonari was eighth on the grid but he did not finish the first race after a near highside in the damp conditions caused Rea to collide with him, bending his gear change lever. In the second 24-lap race he was14th.

Matthieu Lagrive (Honda Althea CBR1000RR) used all his knowledge of endurance racing to manage his race strategy well in race one and take a top ten. He finished 21st in race two, one place ahead of his qualifying position in his first Superbike race for his team.

Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) struggled to 12th and 10th in each race, not feeling as confident in this race as he had in other rounds. John Hopkins (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) qualified 26th, but only rode on Friday, due to his still-healing hip injury swelling up. He is expecting to ride with a greater level of fitness at the next round in Donington.

Vittorio Iannuzzo (Squadra Corse Italia Honda CBR1000RR) qualified 27th and finished 20th in race one, 24th in the dry race two.

After yet another dramatic day of racing, Rea consolidated fourth position in the championship on 167 points, with Noriyuki Haga on 292, race one winner Spies on 244 and Fabrizio on 237.

WSS Report

Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR) recovered from an eighth place grid start and a crash in the wet morning warm-up to finish second in the aggregate 22-lap World Supersport race at Misano.

The race was halted and restarted before half distance because of an oil spill, with Laverty already in the lead, thanks to an incredible display of speed in the early laps. He was not quite able to stick close enough to the eventual race winner Cal Crutchlow on the final lap to maintain his narrow advantage after the first leg. He lost out in another classic fight with his old British Supersport rival by only 0.263 seconds, having spun up the rear tyre on the final corner, spoiling his planned his pass down the straight.

Mark Aitchison (Althea Honda CBR600RR) was seventh in practice but rode well in each leg to finish fifth and hold off the resurgent Anthony West (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR600RR), who ended his two-part race seventh, having qualified 6th.

Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) was leading the first leg of the race when he fell at high speed, while his fellow third row qualifier and team-mate Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) fell shortly afterwards, and was unable to join the re-started race because he did not get back to pitlane with his fallen bike in time.

Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR) had a positive day, after qualifying 16th on Saturday and then falling in the wet morning warm-up, taking his first career top ten in a good day for the Parkalgar squad. Gianluca Vizziello (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR600RR) improved his practice performance to go 11th, equalling his best result of 2009 so far. New rider Flavio Gentile (Althea Honda CBR600RR) made a vast improvement on his 21st place in qualifying by finishing 12th in his home race.

In the overall championship fifth, Laverty lost five points to Crutchlow, but with Sofuoglu’s bad luck striking, Laverty is now 38 points ahead of the 2007 Champion. In the Manufacturers’ Standings, Honda leads by 18 points.

The ninth round of the 14-round series takes place at Donington Park, in the UK, between 26 and 28 June.

Rider Comments
Jonathan Rea: “In race two I got into a good rhythm at the start and when the Ducatis came past I realised they could not clear off, so I settle behind them and found out where they were strong. With five or six laps to go I figured out where I could make some passes, and I got right onto Michel, and it was easy following him. I thought he pace of the race would be faster than it was. We have only had our new suspension for five days. I really want thank the rest of the team because they have worked really well and the motivation of the team is good, so it seems to be that anything that we need to find a way forward we get it. In race one, to start from the back of the grid, have a ride through penalty, stall the bike on the changeover and eventually finished seventh? If I look at the times I did without all the other things happening we would have won race one as well, which is a testament to how hard the team has been working. Donington next and I can’t wait.”

Leon Haslam: “I had an issue with the front end in the first race. I stayed out quite long on the wet tyres, got into fourth position, and then obviously stayed out for too long. When I went into the pit I only had four laps remaining, so I should have returned to pit four or five laps earlier. That was my own mistake. In the second race there was something wrong when the engine kept pushing me in and I kept losing the front. When the engine was good and the electronics were good, the lap times were as quick as anyone, but for seventy percent of the race the engine was just pushing me into the corners, so I really struggled.”

Carlos Checa: “I am actually quite positive, even though we did not have the perfect set-up and had some problems with movement in the rear of the bike. With those problems, I was struggling to match the pace of Jonathan and the two Ducatis.
It’s been a very busy weekend with new suspension in the bike and we had a few things that we wanted to test this morning. However, the wet conditions made that impossible. The considering the big changes we have been working with this weekend, I think we can take a lot of positives to Donington next weekend.”

Ryuichi Kiyonari: “The first race was difficult with the first lap crash. I had a big high-side but stayed on the bike and Jonathan hit me, although it was not his fault. My gearshift was broken and there was some engine damage so I could not continue past the first lap. In race two, things were OK, but I did not have the same feeling that I had on Saturday and could not keep the lap times. The setting is definitely coming better though and with small steps we are improving. I hope at Donington, things will be even better because I like it there. After that, we have a test in Imola with more improvement I hope.”

John Hopkins: “After yesterday’s session I am feeling really sore. I got some painkillers before the session, but I think I just pushed it a bit too much. I am breaking away the scar tissue at the moment. It is just better for me to take it easy today and concentrate on tomorrow. I will be doing the warm up and then see what we can do for the race. This weekend for me is important to get the strength in my leg back up and to get ready for the next race at Donington.”

Matthieu Lagrive: “I’m very happy for my first race today. It was tough because in the first curve I went out on the gravel and I rejoined the race in the last position. Starting from the first few laps I pushed very hard and I found a very good pace. I was able to overtake a lot of riders and only when the track became dry I decided to re-enter the box to change the bike and to use the second one, and my team decided to use intermediate tyres. I took a few laps to understand how my second bike was working but I gained a lot of confidence very quickly and it was very nice to overtake riders like Biaggi and Checa and to reach tenth position in my first Superbike race. Unfortunately my second race was difficult because my bike setting was not perfect for a race on a track completely dry.”

WSS Rider Comments

Eugene Laverty: “I am still reasonably happy with second. In the first half of the race I sliced through from a bad start and 13th to the lead in just three laps. Then in the delay, we made a small change to my bike and it worked very well.
In the second half it was much easier to follow Cal Crutchlow, so much so that when sitting behind him I thought I was being held up but when I took the lead I couldn’t get away. He passed me again and I thought I’d go for plan ‘B’ which was to get into the final corner and drive out to challenge Cal at the line. I had deliberately held back at that corner in previous laps because I was quicker than him there. Then on the last corner I got in well but got on the gas very early, I may have been too eager, and the rear wheel simply spun up.”

Kenan Sofuoglu: “It’s been a bad weekend for us and our championship. We needed to test these new suspension components but there has just been too much rain this weekend. We had to guess at the dry set-up for the race but I knew quite early that it was not quite right. The rear was spinning way too much on the corner exit and I had some problems getting past Fujiwara. When I finally got through, I had to push hard to reach the others and I crashed.”

Andrew Pitt: “There is simply no point running around for fifth and sixth place finishes, which we’ve had for the last few races. I need to start winning again and that was all that was in my mind today. The problem is that we’ve been testing new suspension and had very little dry track time. Yesterday’s qualifying was difficult but my start was pretty good and I was just pushing for the win and we know what happened. It was fast enough and my neck and shoulder are a little sore but I’ll be OK again by next weekend.”

Anthony West: “It has been a strange weekend for me. I crashed twice trying to do the best I can with the bike, and I am not really happy with the race results. I did the best I could with the package I had this weekend, but it just wasn’t good enough. I need to be at the front. We have made some small improvements over the last race, but still have a lot of work to do. I hope we can improve the bike for Donington and get some better results there.”

Gianluca Vizziello:
“I had a good start, but had some problems with the acceleration of my bike. Halfway through the race I got into problems with my front tyre. It was not possible to push myself forward on that tyre. I am disappointed, even though my result is not that bad. We just need to concentrate improving the front end of the machine.”

Mark Aitchison: “Today the race was a little bit difficult for me because we struggled a lot with grip. Unfortunately I lost the front group a bit in the first sector of the race and in the second sector it was almost the similar story with the grip of the tyres. We could not understand how to solve this problem to give me a good feeling on the tyres and as a consequence I could not push very hard.”

Miguel Praia: “Finally we have got into the top 10, this is my best ever race result since joining the World Championship and I am very happy. My Parkalgar Honda is fantastic and the team did a mega job to get me out in the race with such a good set-up after a crash in warm-up.”

Gianluca Vizziello: “I had a good start, but had some problems with the acceleration of my bike. Halfway through the race I got into problems with my front tyre. It was not possible to push myself forward on that tyre. I am disappointed, even though my result is not that bad. We just need to concentrate improving the front end of the machine.”

Flavio Gentile: “I’m quite happy with today’s race. My first start was very bad and so I was forced to push extremely hard from the beginning to reach the riders in front of me. My second start was better and I found a good race pace very quickly.”