Italians invade Spain – WSBK

Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri
Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri swapped first and second places in the World Superbike finals in Spain.

Italians Marco Melandri (Yamaha Factory Racing) and Max Biaggi (Alitalia Aprilia) swapped first and second in the June 19 World Superbike event at Motorland Aragon in Spain.

Biaggi made a braking error in the first race and Melandri got by, while in the second race Melandri was the one to make a mistake, nearly crashing and letting Biaggi get clear.

Series leader and local hero Spaniard Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati) crashed out of the first race while chasing the leaders then settled for third in the second contest. Checa still holds a big lead in the series standings, but certainly lost a fair bit of ground to Biaggi and Melandri with his (very rare) DNF.

Leon Camier got on the podium in race 1 but was only capable of an eighth-place finish in race 2.

It was Biaggi’s first win of the year, after eight second-place finishes, and he led all but five laps of both races. In typically modest fashion, he said, “I am truly happy. This is the first victory with the number 1 on the fairing. I think it could have happened a lot sooner. Unfortunately there was always some circumstance that kept it from us, but we deserve it.”

The other podium went to Biaggi’s British team-mate Leon Camier, who copped third in the first race but wasn’t in contention in the second, only able to collect eighth.

The other Aprilia rider, popular veteran Noriyuki Haga on the PATA team, took part in his 300th World Superbike race, collecting a sixth and seventh to move him to ninth in the standings.

Spaniard Carlos Checa had done exceptionally well until he got on home turf. He still leads the championship.

“We are still looking for the best setting possible,” said the Samaurai of Slide, “especially for … the race’s finale. In race 1 I gained positions but at the end I lost a few due to my rear tire’s wearing. In race 2 we modified the setting and the wearing was more balanced and regular but I spent quite a lot of time overtaking and in the meanwhile the leading group managed to [get away].”

The Yamaha team was ecstatic with their performance, as not only was Melandri the only rider who could stay with Biaggi, he also got pole. Plus, Melandri’s team-mate Eugene Laverty collected a fourth and sixth despite awful starts in both races, showing that the bikes are riders are nearly on top of their game.

Kawasaki had a satisfactory weekend in Spain. Chris Vermeulen completed both legs, a first for the Aussie this year.

Kawasaki was also relatively pleased with the weekend, despite Tom Sykes crashing out of the second race while in the top five after finishing fifth in the first race. His team-mate Joan Lascorz collected a seventh and a fifth.

For the first time this year, ex-Moto GP star Chris Vermeulen managed to compete and finish both races. Still not healthy, the Aussie collected points, indicating his troubled knee may finally be on the mend

It was a weekend to forget for the Honda and BMW teams. Castrol Honda were already missing their star rider Jonathon Rea, out with a damaged wrist, while Spaniard Ruben Xaus had a horrid time at his “home” race, not finishing either contest thanks to set-up issues that made the bike practically unrideable.

Fortunately the rain did not fall in Spain.

Things weren’t a lot better for BMW; Leon Haslam and Troy Corser could only manage 14th and 16th in qualifying, embarrassingly far behind Ayrton Badovini on the BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team in eighth.

In the race, Corser tangled with Maxime Berger on the first lap and ended up breaking both lower bones in his left arm. The only minor consolation for the team was that Leon Haslam managed to beat Badovini in the second race, but that’s not much of a result for the effort and money that BMW is pouring into the program with so far, very inconsistent results.

“We have to forget this weekend as soon as possible,” said Bernhard Gobmeier (BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director), “From the first practice session on it did not work so well for us.”

Top 10 Positions after 14 of 26 races (seven of 13 events)

1. Carlos Checa, Spain, Althea Ducati, 261
2. Max Biaggi, Italy, Alitalia Aprilia, 218
3. Marco Melandri, Italy, Yamaha Factory Racing, 195
4. Eugene Laverty, U.K., Yamaha Factory Racing, 146
5. Leon Camier, U.K., Alitalia Aprilia, 125
6. Leon Haslam, U.K., BMW Mottorrad Motorsport, 120
7. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Alstare Suzuki, 108
8. Jonathon Rea, U.K., Castrol Honda, 94
9. Noriyuki Haga, Japan, PATA Aprilia, 89
10. Ayrton Badovini, Italy, BMW Motorrad Italia, 86

Next race, Brno, Czech Republic, July 10.

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