WSB opens on full burner


Haslam leads Fabrizio; Haga trails.

If you decided
to watch a bunch of spoiled millionaires play hockey on Sunday instead of
watching the opening round of the World Superbike series from Philip Island in
Australia, you made a mistake.

 Okay, so I surfed back and forth …

To borrow a
classic phrase, the event was a barn-burner. Both races were excellent, the
second being more entertaining; often looking more like a bar-room brawl than a

Leon Haslam (Alstare Suzuki) won his first-ever WSB race in a 0.004-second
photo finish over Michel Fabrizio (Xerox Ducati), with Fabrizio’s team-mate
Nori Haga a mere half a second farther back.

In race two, Haslam and fellow
Alstare rider Sylvain Guintoli slugged it out between themselves and with the
Ducati boys again, until Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati) snuck up from nowhere and
put a fabulous last-lap pass on Haslam to take the victory, with Fabrizio
taking third to give Ducati three podiums.

Philip Island
always produces good Superbike racing, but this was exceptional. In Race 2
especially, there were five riders in contention for the win up to the last few
laps, and not far behind them was a dog-fight of another half-dozen racers. It
bodes very well indeed for the 2010 season.

There were a few surprises, as you’d expect. Checa may have finally left his "Careless Chucker" nickname behind,
having been at the top of the sheets during practice and qualifying and looking
very much in control during the race. Having a customer rather than a factory
Ducati certainly didn’t seem to affect him much, even on the fearsomely fast
front straight, where many bikes were touching 300 km/h and Max Biaggi’s
Aprilia was caught at an unbelievable 319!

The Sterilgarda Yamaha team struggled. Both riders
had complained of front-end chatter in the practice sessions, and both binned
it in the first race. They managed to finish ninth and 10th in the
second go-around, but neither twice world champ James Toseland nor Superbike
rookie Cal Crutchlow were happy with their bikes.

BMW only had one
factory rider, local hero Troy Corser carding excellent finishes of ninth and
seventh. His Spanish team-mate Ruben Xaus sat out the race after four huge
crashes over the weekend, including one in the morning warm-up in which he took
out Nori Haga at nearly 300 km/h; fortunately and amazingly neither man was
seriously hurt. Depending on which source you believe, Xaus didn’t race
because: 1) he had no confidence in the bike, 2) BMW had run out of spare
parts, or 3) new team manager Davide Tardozzi was out of patience.

Haga injured his
right arm and needed pain-killing injections and a massage to reduce the
swelling before riding. Collecting a third and a fifth was a remarkable result
considering his condition and the fact that the bike had to be rebuilt between
practice and the race.

Kawasaki’s new
boy Moto GP exile Chris Vermeulen, another local favourite, showed that perhaps
the Green Team really is serious about this year. He got great starts in both
races and was running in the top 10, as high as fourth in race 2. A minor error
crashed him out in the first race and then in the second he had a huge accident
when he lost the front end at Honda Curve (which caught out many riders over
the weekend) and cartwheeled into a tire wall. He was pronounced okay albeit
with heavy bruising to his right leg, but was heading for the hospital for an
MRI to be on the safe side.

The Hannspree
Honda team looked a bit lacklustre all weekend, at least compared to pre-race
expectations. Neither Irishman Jonathon Rea, an early favourite in betting on
the season, nor his new team-mate Max Neukirchner looked comfortable in
practice or qualifying. Rea got going in the races, though, and a fourth and a
sixth weren’t bad results — if not what the team had hoped for based on
early-season testing.

The Aprilias
were as unbelievably fast in a straight line as ever, but seemed to have gone
backwards in handling. Max Biaggi and new team-mate Leon Camier both ran off
the track more than once, and even though both were exploiting the Aprilia’s
awesome front straight speed, they definitely were losing out braking and
turning into the terrifying 240 km/h first turn. Biaggi still managed two top
10 placings.

It’s going to be
hard to wait a month before the next race.

Standings after
Round 1 (2 of 26 races)

1. Leon Haslam,
U.K. Alstare Suzuki, 45 points;
2. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Xerox Ducati, 36;
Carlos Checa, Spain, Althea Ducati, 34;
4. Noriyuki Haga, Japan, Xerox Ducati,
5. (tie) Sylvain Guintoli, France, Alstare Suzuki and Jonathon Rea,
Ireland, Hannspree Ten Kate Honda,23;
7. Max Biaggi,
Italy, Aprilia, 19;
8. Troy Corser, Australia, BMW, 16;
9. Leon Camier, U.K.,
10; Lorenzo Lanzi, Italy, DFX Ducati, 9.

Next event: March 28, Portimao Circuit, Portugal.


  1. Spoiled millionaires? … doesn’t stop me from cheering for Rossi.
    This anti hockey mindset must be ‘arris and his limey imperialist weak kneed friends who seek to curry favour in the court of the previously mentioned Limey Mad Bastard King … shameful at best. :grin

  2. I went for the WSB over the NHL play off and am glad I did as it was amazingly great stuff to watch. The Salt lake race is always looking for helpers so I may go go down this year and get a closer look.

  3. Fantastic racing,hockey at the time a close second,hope Yamaha gets the boys going,but large kudos for Haslam,great racing

  4. The opening races were great. I opted out of watching the first 2 periods of the Canada / U.S. game to watch these and I’m glad I did. Looks like there are a number of riders that could take the title this year.

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