Adding to Max Biaggi’s World Superbike title from the penultimate event at Imola two weeks ago, the Italian brought his Alitalia-sponsored Aprilia home fourth and first in the season’s final weekend to take the manufacturer’s title as well.
The interesting Magny-Cours track in central France has a bit of everything; a couple of long straights that work to the Aprilia’s strength; fast corners that suited Cal Crutchlow’s Yamaha; and some heavy stop-and-go stuff that displayed braking and stability strengths for the Suzukis.
And the Ducatis work well everywhere.
Cal Crutchlow and the Sterilgarda Yamaha were the hot numbers in this last WSB race for Crutchlow, who’s headed for the Tech 3 Moto GP team in 2011. He took another Superpole, won the first race going away, then harried Biaggi unmercifully in the second race to take the runner-up spot – a bad start and some time lost catching up probably cost him the double win.
In the first race the action behind him was serious WSB world wrestling type stuff, with Suzuki Alstare team-mates Leon Haslam and Sylvain Guintoli hammering each other as well as Aprilia’s Max Biaggi and Althea Ducati’s Carlos Checa. At the last corner of the race, Haslam barged past Biaggi (the guy who beat him to the title, which must have felt good), and upset Biaggi’s line enough that Checa also beat the Italian to the line.
Unfortunately for Guintoli, he got a seriously cheap penalty from the organizers – he’d inadvertently cut the course at one point, but didn’t get any advantage so shouldn’t have been penalized – and was disqualified.
The second race was even better, Crutchlow getting a relatively poor start and having to battle his way back up toward the front. Meanwhile, Guintoli, in certainly his best performance of the year, was hammer-and-tongs with Biaggi, leading as often as following for more than half the race.
His bad luck on the day continued, however, as first Crutchlow got by to harry Biaggi, then on the last lap Michel Fabrizio (rumoured to be taking Guintoli’s Alstare Suzuki ride in 2011) barged past hard enough to knock Guintoli nearly off the track to grab the third podium spot.
That echoed Fabrizios’ early-race activities with Xerox Ducati team-mate Noriyuki Haga, the two of them battering on one another for several laps until Fabrizio managed to eke out a small lead.
Next season is really going to be one of musical chairs in WSB. Leon Haslam has hopped to the BMW team from Alstare Suzuki, leaving Ruben Xaus out of work. Alstare plans to run only one rider, and Guintoli hopes to keep the ride.
But the factory Xerox Ducati team is closing down, and Michel Fabrizio has been talking to Alstare.
Meanwhile, Nori Haga, the other Xerox Ducati rider, has announced he’ll be going to a new Aprilia Team PATA. The provenance is a little confusing, but basically it’s the privateer Aprilia team that Jacob Smrz briefly rode for this season, merged with the former Ducati satellite group of DFX Corse.
The Yamaha team is losing both riders, with Crutchlow off to Moto GP and James Toseland not being invited back after a horrible season. He’s rumoured to be headed for a satellite BMW team. Meanwhile, Sterilgarda Yamaha has picked up Eugene Laverty from World Supersport.
Lots of new faces for 2011.
Final World Championship Point Standings (after 26 of 26 races):
1. Max Biaggi, Italy, Alitalia Aprilia, 451 points; 2. Leon Haslam, U.K., Alstare Suzuki, 376; 3. Carlos Checa, Spain, Althea Ducati, 297; 4. Jonathon Rea, U.K., Hannspree Ten Kate Honda, 292; 5. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., Sterilgarda Yamaha, 284;
6. Noriyuki Haga, Japan, Xerox Ducati, 258; 7. Sylvain Guintoli, France, Alstare Suzuki, 197; 8. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Xerox Ducati, 195; 9. James Toseland, U.K., Sterilgarda Yamaha, 187; 10. Shane Byrne, U.K., Althea Ducati, 169.