The 2013 World Superbike season kicked off the way it finished last year – great competition between teams and riders, terrific racing, and an atmosphere (aside from the usual professional tensions) more akin to club racing than world-level Pro stuff.
And more power to it. To my mind, still by far the best racing series in the world.
Aprilia, defending series champs from retired 2012 champ Max Biaggi, couldn’t have had a better start, taking five of the six podiums available. Factory team riders Eugene Laverty (returning) and Sylvain Guintoli (new hire) swapped first and second, while in the first go-around Michel Fabrizio took third on the Red Devils Roma Aprilia RSV-4.
Third in the second race went to Marco Melandri on the Gold Bet-sponsored factory BMW S1000R, recovering from a scary crash in the first race after, in a rare mistake, Ducati factory ace Carlos Checa crashed into him in a braking area.
Checa had just been passed by Melandri, was following closely, and either had a mechanical issue or just braked too late. On-bike cameras clearly showed that he stood the bike up and tried to run off, but clipped the BMW on the way by, knocking Melandri out and putting himself into a nasty fall. He was knocked out; it looked scary, but he came to before transport to hospital, and initial indications are that he had a mild concussion and nothing more.
The racing was notable for young guys and series rookies doing extremely well, not to mention some heroics from the veterans. Checa, on the first-year Ducati Panigale, shocked everyone (including himself and his team) by taking Superpole. Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes, who lost out to the series title by ½ point in 2012, rode despite a broken radius just above his left wrist – it hurts just to type that.
A pair of fifth-place finishes, in spite of a spun tire in the second race, puts him fourth in the title after one race, a very impressive result. “In race one, honestly, I was very happy with that top five … Race two was completely different but I am happy to have left Phillip Island in fourth position. Our rear tire appears to have been spinning on the rim and I had vibration and chatter, so that sacrificed corner entry. It was a shame because I could not use the bike to its full potential. I am happy considering that last week I was lying at the side of the track, 80% certain I would not be able to ride today.”
Among the impressive rookies were Jules Cluzel on one of the Fixi Suzukis; an 11th in the first race was bloody good for a first-time WSB entrant, but a seventh in the second after running as high as fifth was even more impressive.
The young French rider said, “I am really happy with both races, even though the first one was very difficult, but I finished and learned a lot. We chose the wrong tire in the first race, which was not a big problem because I need to learn and understand everything.”
Chaz Davies, hardly a rookie racer but new to a factory WSB team, collected an excellent fourth in race one, beating Sykes to the line by a couple of 10ths. His second race was a disaster, as in the first lap he collided with young Loris Baz on the Kawasaki team; Baz was carried off in a stretcher, while Davies limped back to the pits with a flat rear tire, then was called in for a ride-through for exceeding the pit lane speed limit.
His pace showed he’s going to be a threat this year, however.
By and large, an excellent start to the 2013 racing season. Things for 2014 are still a bit cloudy with the new management of the series dropping into Dorna, which also runs Moto GP – which, and some Canadian content, is now 30% owned by the Canada Pension Plan, believe it or not. You’d think the CPP could arrange for reasonable TV coverage in Canada, wouldn’t you? There’s a good case for writing some letters; go for it, race fans.
In the World Supersport (600 cc) race, Turkish ace Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki) won his 32nd WSS race over regular top-finisher Sam Lowes (Yamaha), while rooke Michael van der Mark (Honda) took third in his first race at the WSS level.
Next race, April 14, Spain, Aragon circuit.
Championship standings after two of 30 races:
1. TIE, Eugene Laverty, U.K. and Sylvain Guintoli, France, Aprilia, 45 points
3. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Red Devils Roma Aprilia, 29;
4. Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing, 22;
5. TIE, Marco Melandri, Italy, Gold Bet BMW/Jonathon Rea, U.K., Pata Honda, 16;
7. Leon Haslam, U.K., Pata Honda, 15’
8. TIE, Jules Cluzel, France, Fixi Suzuki/Leon Camier, U.K., Fixi Suzuki, 14;
10. Chaz Davies, U.K., Gold Bet BMW, 13.