Leon Haslam (Alstare Suzuki) and
Noriyuki Haga (Xerox Ducati) split the wins in the World Superbike
third meeting of the season, held at Valencia in Spain.
With no fewer
than six different manufacturers in the top six positions in row six,
it continues to be a nail-biter series for both riders and builders.
Once again Kawasaki was the lone exception at the top, no doubt hurting
from the continued absence of Australian star Chris Vermeulen, whose
knee injury in the first event is proving more serious than originally
Surprisingly to everyone, including
Haslam (who said, "To make the break was a bit of a surprise!"),
the young Brit pretty much cleared off and won the first race with a
big margin once Carlos Checa (who continues to surprise with his speed
and consistency on the satellite Althea Ducati – we should probably
drop the "Careless Chucker" nickname he earned earlier in
his career) retired with a mechanical issue.
The second was more what
we’ve come to expect in WSB, with less than 0.3 seconds separating the
top three. That race was further complicated because of a red flag to
clear an accident after only three laps, so the scoring was done on
Max Biaggi (Alitalia Aprilia) and Checa were busy
away at each other up front for the win, but Noriyuki Haga came through
in the last half-dozen laps to surprise them both and take the top of
the podium from Biaggi by only 0.025 seconds on aggregate time. Haslam
was fourth to rack up more points in his lead.
Biaggi’s team-mate Leon Camier,
the 2009 British superbike champ, surprised everyone a bit by clearing
off in the lead in the second race, but made an unforced error and ended
up in the gravel trap. Biaggi later said, in classic
manner, "I follow Leon, too bad he crash, I think he’s trying too
As usual, Haga had handicapped
himself by a poor showing in qualifying; he said his second qualifying
tire for Superpole didn’t work well so he was relegated to the third
row. He still managed to claw back to a fifth in the first race, only
a 10th of a second behind Troy Corser’s factory BMW.
said later, "I like Valencia a lot. I am Mr. Valencia! … It was
not easy to catch and pass the top two riders [in the second race] but
in the last few laps I pushed hard and took the win. I was not thinking
about the time difference, I just knew I had to go at the front."
Corser’s fourth was the best result
for the BMW team yet, and he was only half a second off third-place
James Toseland (Sterilgarda Yamaha), the dual WSB champ making a welcome
return to the podium in his comeback season in this series. Surely a
BMW podium is coming soon.
The Yamahas still seem touchy to
set up; Toseland’s team-mate Cal Crutchlow took Superpole again, but
could only manage a seventh and a ninth in the races, while Toseland
grabbed a seventh to go with his first-race podium.
After six of 26 races (13
the WSB series couldn’t look more international. We have a Brit, an
Italian, a Spaniard, a Japanese, and an Irishman in the top five spots
for riders, and Suzuki, Aprilia, Ducati, and Honda ditto for
1. Leon Haslam, U.K., Alstare
123 points; 2. Max Biaggi, Italy, Alitalia Aprilia, 105; 3. Carlos
Spain, Althea Ducati, 80; 4. Noriyuki Haga, Japan, Xerox Ducati, 79;
5. Jonathon Rea, Ireland, Hannspree Ten Kate Honda, 60; 6. TIE, James Toseland, U.K.,
Yamaha and Sylvain Guintoli, France, Alstare Suzuki, 50; 8. TIE Michel
Fabrizio, Italy, Xerox Ducati and Troy Corser, Australia, BMW Motorrad,
46; 10. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., Sterilgarda Yamaha, 41.
Next event is at Assen in the